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"You dweller of the twilight void comes Sodom..."
By this time in '86, rumors of Sodom moving to Splitsville haven’t festered and Obsessed by Cruelty, the tentative title to their debut full-lengther, is rampant in zines around the globe, yet the sign of evil hasn't lit the night sky in nearly two years. Like I’ve said previously in other reviews i.e. Trouble, Omen, the lapse between releases, especially the initial two, played worrisome games with me. Is the shadow of disappointment lurking? Will they suddenly think they’d be better off sounding like Talas? Is Angel Ripper’s hair now fluffy blonde and he’s got the cheeks cut out of his spandex? Those images quickly die on the vine…the cover art, Angel Ripper all decked out trying to look menacing, the song titles…yeah, Sodom’s back.
With one spin of “Deathlike Silence”, the difference between In the Sign of Evil and the lp is clear as a bell. As far as the mix goes, Angel Ripper’s once up-front vocals have been partially camouflaged by the production, plus his voice itself has deepened a notch, now more guttural than throaty snarl, and some echo does sinister wonders. The guitars wage a losing battle with the percussion for audible dominance. In addition, the songwriting has ascended to grander levels, showing off the three-piece’s penchant for epic structures and choruses that the ep, a more straightforward affair, didn’t showcase extensively. Blistering paces were never a problem for the band, but now plodding gaits find stretches of time, steamrolling with all the viciousness of the past. Stick-flying Witchhunter still bewilders with off-kilter timing while Destructor (and session guitarist Uthatoor) replace Grave Violator on guitar.
After the overlong, funeral-esque intro that’s as compelling as toast crust, we find out Sodom has either hired someone else to write their lyrics or took a crash course in English grammar and prose. The same guys who wrote “we are all suicide, without brain” and “where devils make a toy” are now quill-penning it with “delivered from the chains of subjection” and “patriotic society liberate from human rubbish”, but between misspellings and the flamboyant, almost unreadable font used to print the lyric sheet, it’s all pretty moot.
More positively, "Deathlike Silence" drives through without remorse, fearless in its introduction to the adjusted Sodom sound. Even though the guitar sound gasps for breath, the rhythms are found shifting with a timeliness that keeps the track from seeming more prolonged than it is. With "Brandish the Sceptre", "Proselytism Real", and "Obsessed by Cruelty", we see the 'softer' side of the trio as those aforementioned slow, pounding beats dwell long enough to grind bones to dust. Even with its unkempt drum intro, “Equinox” is dauntless as the lion-hearted main riff sweeps into motion on an undercarriage of rolling double bass.
Demonic laughter fills the groaning din commencing the title cut, a track that marvels with rhythmic changes, sound speed shifts, and a condemning chorus. A mid-pace is the starting tempo for “Fall of Majesty Town”, but lasts only as long as the three-piece can keep from exploding with near-perpetual purebred speed that carries right over into chaos-induced “Nuctemeron”, an unstoppable, cool-riffed blaster. “Witchhammer” and “Volcanic Slut” do absolutely nothing to quell the effort’s severity, the latter track the imposing and frightful end to an lp that has mustered much molten aggression.
Top tracks could be a toss up as fist-whitening "Equinox" and orgasmic "Volcanic Slut" are both exceptionally ambitious, but I would have to go with either the title cut or imperious "Pretenders to the Throne" with its somewhat unassuming start breaking free to be overpowered by heavy-duty riffs and a chorus most intrepid.
The ’88 Steamhammer two-on-one cd of the debut ep and this lp is all screwed up, listing 19 songs when there are only 16 (the intros to “Deathlike Silence”, “Burst Command ‘til War”, and “Outbreak of Evil” are accounted for separately), meanwhile “Volcanic Slut” is listed last on the disc, but shows as track 14 in place of “After the Deluge”, which is nowhere to be found, much like the North American pressing (Metal Blade) of the lp. Good job guys.
In any case, heaving their second anchor overboard was Sodom and with these eleven tracks redoubled the devotion of their fans and most thrash fanatics, German or otherwise.