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Future became truly uncertain for thrash by 1992, it was no longer a popular subgenre and most bands were trying to push its standards away by playing pop like Metallica, experimenting with industrial sounds like Kreator or embracing the groove formulas Pantera made so trendy. On the contrary, death metal exploded in Florida and Europe, offering the alternative to the reigning cheesiness and stupidity on other metal subgenres. Mr. Angelripper & co. still delivered pure and simple Teutonic raging thrash with certain death metal reminiscence fortunately, instead of playing ballads. The addition of Andy Brings was essential to crystallize that death/thrash sound, the proper replacement for former Assassin guitar player Micha, whose technical fragility and absence of ideas nearly ruined the previous relative failure album Better Off Dead. Chris recalled back then:
“On Better Off Dead everyone wanted to implement their own musical taste. It was a bit of an experiment and not typical of Sodom”.
With the adequate production, equipment, personnel and stronger songs, in 1992 Sodom did the heaviest record on their career, as Tom says:
“We were pretty surprised of how a sound can change, he (Andy) brought a fresh breeze into the band and was very dedicated to the whole thing. The complete material for Tapping The Vein was done in no time. It was something very special to work in Dierks Studio, especially for a young heavy metal rock band like us. We had sold a lot of records and had the budget to record there but we were so naive to think that everything would be paid by the manager or the tax payer. In the end we had a first class production and we were happy with the sound. Well, it's an experience worth having”.
“Body Parts” and “Skinned Alive” are completely devastating, a spectacular opening for the album including the sharpest riffs, most accelerated beats and harshest vocals these guys ever conceived – discovering real aggression and terminal velocity, playing more violently and ferociously than ever before. The influence of contemporary Tampa acts is obvious, yet Sodom still delivers loose, energetic riffs that avoid low-tuning and bigger weight of death metal lines and tempos – it’s basically Tom’s voice which is guttural and harsh. Intensity remains uninterrupted on following tracks like “Hunting Season” and “Deadline” too, introducing more lethal riffage, frenetic double-bass kicks and ever raspier vocals, again configured without much difficulty or pretention but cohesive and properly-focused, adding proficient instrumental sequences and lengthier pickin’ parts that might not be immaculate but provide the music of certain humble level of complexity. The immense title-number and “The Crippler” increase the variety of structures and distinct rhythms – arrangements are slightly scruffy and technically imprecise at times, yet the pulse and punch of those incendiary, crushing lower-tuned riffs and hooks is creating a huge wall of sound, along with more guttural vocals, darker verses and Witchhunter’s hammering drumming. Straighter tunes like “Back To War” and “Bullet In The Head” feature simpler, uniform song-bodies and minimalist lines, still competently-executed despite their spontaneous composition. Among all the predominant roughness and speed, “Resurrection” incorporates slower beats, some slamming quiet riffs and lower-range lyrics, not particularly well-arranged but discovering an unnerving climax with those stratospheric synth-guitar effects and abstract words. On the contrary, “Wachturm” features a more casual feel, sense of humor, punkish riffs and catchy choruses.
Tapping The Vein is a much heavier attempt, much better produced than its predecessor, including musically stronger and better arranged songs – executed with greater precision and passion. Tom admitted back then:
“With the last LP we tried to get into a better light, not go full throttle. We got good feedback for the LP but the kids want the heavy stuff. The harder and the fastest the better - this time we did it like we wanted to”.
Brings undoubtedly brought freshness to the group, possessing the adequate skills to make Sodom’s music challenging and convincing again. His bigger technical capability and ideas made these songs more professional and complex, in contrast with the poor contribution and scandalous incompetence of his predecessor, Micha. Of course, Angelripper & co. never intended to be a progressive thrash band, they elude intricate schemes intentionally with a punkish, raw attitude that emphasizes aggression and velocity that never required superior arrangements or perfectionist performances. Simplicity had always worked for these Germans and this album is no exception, even though certain riffs here present surprisingly skilled, rich variations and decent progression with Andy completely inspired. So now Sodom are embracing some death metal’s principles, specially Tom’s vocals are substantially harsher and lower-tuned, focused on more serious, gory, bloody, disturbing lyrical issues - singing about drugs, sex tourism and human organ trafficking as well, even though Tom said:
“Most people don’t know what the lyrics are about. No one bothers to translate them to be able to understand them. It’s important to us. If I write lyrics it’s important to me that I just don’t write crap”.
The atmosphere is different from previous efforts; riffs are still quick and punkish but sometimes getting notably weightier, combined with Angelripper’s growling creating a darker climax than ever before. These cuts are however much more polished and sophisticated than mid-80’s German death/thrash stuff. Now that Sodom had gained considerable experience and musicianship, technically music ain’t so rudimentary and vulnerable as it was in the beginning – arrangements are more rigorous as well. Surprisingly, all those imaginative riffs, alternative structures and instrumental shifts came out effortlessly and fluidly – the chemistry between the members of this new incarnation made it possible, not only stunning on the execution of the music, also on its design and configuration on the preceding song-writing stage.
The 90’s meant the beginning of the end for thrash and the beginning of a brilliant period for death metal – Holy Moses and these guys were clever and took inspiration from both Swedish and Tampa scenes instead of emulating American groove, doing ballads or getting cheesy and melodic like power/thrash acts. Tapping The Vein is still a strictly thrash record, though Angelripper’s vocals bring back the intensity and guttural tone of those Teutonic mid-80’s death/thrash records, reminiscent however of 90’s death metal lyrical themes. The album was absolutely refreshing, denying contemporary fashions, honest and talented – the thrashiest stuff you could find in 1992 besides Demolition Hammer. The lack of inspiration, dullness and flatness on Better Off Dead was gone with Micha and Sodom were once again a solid band.