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For people like me, who love semi-sloppy, primal old school metal, it doesn’t get much better then ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’. Some complain about the shitty production and mixing, others complain about the band’s at-the-time lack of musical efficiency, but both of which are things that I welcome with open arms. In my eyes, I would not want this LP any other way. The guitar could be louder, but I think its lowness in the mix actually adds to the chaotic, thrashing cacophony the band was going for. Over the years, it has really grown on me, and I’m very glad it finally did and it now sits as my favorite Sodom release (with the EP coming in not too far from behind).
The complaints regarding the production mostly come from the mixing department, as the recording itself actually has a pretty clear sounds that could have been indubitably put to full use given the proper mixing job. This has grown to really not bother me though, as the music more then makes up for it, and to me, the rawness and primitive nature of it works to the band’s advantage. The vocals, although not as buried as some people may have you believe, are still fairly low in the mix, but are definitely loud enough to remain audible, no matter what was going on with the music. The guitar has only one track, which is panned to the right, while the bass is on the left. Both have pretty warm tones and aren’t as crunchy as on the preceding EP, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, as both are powerful enough to do the riffs justice. The drums hold the most power and prominence in the mix, which is actually something that tends to bother me as well as most others in a lot cases, as you may have gathered. However, here, I do not find this to be an issue, and in fact, I like it this way. So if your ears have been tainted and pussified by today’s digital, crystal clarity, then this album’s production will without a doubt irritate you to no end, but I’m perfectly okay with that, because in that case, you probably shouldn’t be listening to classics like this anyway (though I think Behemoth may suit you well).
‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ marks the band’s transition from pure, early black metal to a more relentless and ripping black/thrash-oriented sound (emphasis on the thrash part). But this new sound didn’t necessarily mean the band had completely outgrown the messy, blackened slop that helped make the ‘In The Sign of Evil’ so great. While their writing skills had developed far beyond the basic three or four riff songs that the EP saw, their playing skills had not quite caught up with that level development, making ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’ a well-written yet sloppy affair. The balance between the two works out well enough to make it one of those albums where when you think about it, it just would not be the same if it were being played with high musical prowess. This comes out the most during the faster sections, where at times the drums and bass may be a tad bit ahead of the guitar, or the other way around. The guitar never ventures too far off though, as it does always find its way back home quickly after getting off track. In this sense, the guitar being low in the mix is not necessarily a bad thing, and in the end probably saves more irritation for the modern-metal kiddies who can’t handle a little sloppiness then the production already does for those who need everything polished, pristine, and squeaky clean.
By the time Sodom began recording this album, Tom Angelripper’s vocals had shifted from a much raspier, high-pitched, croak-like shriek, which was just radiating with menacing evil, to a more mid-range, semi-growled-yet-intelligible recitation that a lot of the time didn’t follow any particular rhythm. Not a bad way, though, he just sort of demonically rambles over vicious, ripping blackened thrash metal, and it works very, very well.
The riffing had certainly gone through some modifications over the two-year span between the EP and this, setting the Hellhamemer-like simplicity to the side and replacing it with, a more thrash-oriented and varied style riffing, ultimately giving it the thrashier sheen the band was going for. That is not to say the occasional ‘In the Sign’-type black metal riff doesn’t pop up every once in a while, because it does, and they actually do a great job of carrying some of that into their newfound thrash riffing. The guitar tone is relatively thin, but not overly so, and its punch is still felt through the excellent riffing. The bass is thick and ugly, and has a very deep tone, which sounds especially awesome during the slow sections (the beginning of the title track is a perfect example). I’d say Mr. Chris Witchhunter, the drummer, did a damn fine job on here. I mean, at this point he was no virtuoso by any means, but sloppily yet surely, he kept it together as he pounded and pummeled away on those poor skins of his. Like the rest of the band, he really was at his best during the slower sections, where he could add texture with well-placed fills and different snare patterns.
In my eyes, Sodom’s first LP, the almighty ‘Obsessed by Cruelty’, is a damn fine piece of black/thrash. I’d go as far as to say it’s easily one of the best albums of its kind from that era, ranking it up there with Necrodeath’s ‘Into the Macabre’ and NME’s ‘Unholy Death’. Everything from the sleeve artwork, to the broken English lyrics, to the music itself, and yes, even the production, is awesome, and all live up to the standards it takes to deem an old 80’s black/death/thrash recording a classic.
Recommended. Vinyl especially.