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Sodom were, early on, one of the most notorious bands in the death metal underground. Their demos were poorly recorded, but full of vicious Satanic metal that was moe intense than anything yet heard. Even Hellhammer seemed refined and tame by comparison. Not much changed with IN THE SIGN OF EVIL, the band's debut EP, except for the inclusion of a far better production job. But with OBSESSED BY CRUELTY things became downright strange.
First off all the production, as others have mentioned, is wrong for this sort of death metal.The guitars sound buried and the whole album is washed out with too much studio ambience. But what happened is that the odd emphasis on elements like the echoing vocals and overly loud drum tracks gave the album a unique and odd presence. Also, Angelripper's voice itself wasn't truly a death metal growl, nor was it really clear or intelligible, adding another weird layer. But most of all, it seems that Sodom attempted to write material that was too complex and/or technically demanding for their own abilities. Thus songs like "Deathlike Silence," "Nuctermeron," "Witchhammer" and "Brandish The Sceptre" sound wildly out of control at times, as Sodom can barely keep pace with fury of their own songs. When they do slow down to more controlled tempos as in the title track or "Prosleytism Real" they create some very mean and formidable riffing. The lyrics are also weird, not being fully occult-driven but are nevertheless full of evil proclamations and forboding ideas.
It's also been noted that the guitarist on this album (Destructor) was thrown out of Kreator before he could record with them (his picture is on the back of the PLEASURE TO KILL album), and Sodom was equally umimpressed with his abilities. Sadly he is no longer with us to defend himself, but bear in mind that death metal was a very new form of music when this album was recorded, and few guitarists had mastered it's quirks at the time.
Sodom was very displeased in general with the album, and it seems they've always been hesitant to perform songs from it in concert (even during the time shortly after it's release). But it's strange presence and interesting material have gained it a real cult following, and I've really loved it ever since it was first issued. I've always thought a re-recorded or remixed version could be a revelation, as I feel this album was way ahead of it's time, despite being held back by the poor production and odd touches that it has. But even in it's good old raw form, OBSESSED BY CRUELTY is a unique album not only for Sodom but for death metal in general. Maybe someday Angelripper and company will give in to fan requests to perform the whole album live! If they ever do, I pray a recording of that show will be released!