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Their cruelty knows no end. - 80%

hells_unicorn, May 4th, 2012

The early days of thrash metal antiquity were an auspicious yet confusing time, one that birthed the most vicious version of metal upon the unsuspecting world. In retrospect, the early works of Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer, and the often neglected 4th forefather of black metal Sodom (mostly due to their closer association with the German thrash scene) come off as crude, under-produced fits of unfocused rage, but in their day they appalled the masses to a point often taken for granted today. The first LP out of Sodom in “Obsessed By Cruelty” is an oddity in this respect, as it showcases Angelripper and company abandoning much of their early pioneering sound for something a bit more common, but it does so in a way that makes it quite distinctive nonetheless.

This is an intense excursion into the upper reaches of speed and villainy, rivaling the 1986 releases of what has since been dubbed by some the unholy trinity (“Reign In Blood”, “Darkness Descends” and “Pleasure To Kill) but falling just a tiny bit short of them in quality and memorable moments. While it cuts through the speed of sound with similar fervor, it does so in a much sloppier manner, as if not fully leaving the blackened realm of “In The Sign Of Evil” entirely. The guitar work features a similar smattering of punk and Motorhead influences, often times blending together in redundancy, but still slicing through the listener’s soul with enough intensity to make it a worthwhile experience. The drum mix is basically where this little demon’s Persian flaw is exposed, as the snare drum blasts like a thudding golem’s stomp with rusty feet and drowns out much of the arrangement during the blasting sections.

Ironically, part of what makes this album good is its blunt candor and seeming irreverence for established musical practices. Even though Kreator and Possessed had already put noticeable death metal-like twists on the thrash vocal shout a year prior to this, Angelripper has essentially upped the ante here with something that is guttural and nasty enough to conform to said style, but also haunting and sepulchral to the point of mirroring Quorthon’s approach. In a sense, barring a greater prevalence of slower sections brought in by more orthodox Motorhead and Venom emulations on here, this album brilliantly captures the ambiguity between the three extreme metal styles that was common during the early to mid 80s, embodying that sort of primordial stew of proteins from which the infusion of differing sub-species would come about.

The biggest hurdle in approaching this album, particularly for those who come from a more mainline American thrash background, is the extremely low-fi production. Many members of the Norwegian 2nd wave of black metal have rightly pointed to Sodom as being a principle influence in the development of the grim, frostbitten, fuzzy mayhem that characterizes much said scene, and this album still has a good amount of those trappings left over from their more influential demo and “In The Sign Of Evil” era. This would change a year later when their output started to resemble the more polished yet still quite dangerous sound of Slayer, Kreator and Dark Angel.