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After the heights reached during the mid-to-late 80's, by the early 90's the thrash genre was in something of a rut. The "big four" had moved on to greener, more financially successful pastures (at least in the case of Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax - Slayer just kind of stagnated, at least until the abortion that was Diabolus in Musica) and many of the lower-tier bands just disappeared, either from breaking up or fleeing like rats from a sinking ship for the rising grunge scene, or alternatively, the death and black metal scenes, which, for many fans, replaced thrash as the genres of choice.
Almost certainly as a reaction to this, in 1992 Sodom released Tapping the Vein, an underrated album that is several times more heavy and aggressive than it's predecessors, especially in the wake of 1990's Better Off Dead, which displayed a cleaner, slightly more accessible Sodom. Tapping the Vein is certainly the band's most death metal album for a plethora of reasons. The lyrical themes have changed - the war themes are not so prevalent as before, although still present. Instead, we get treated to somewhat gorier tales of drug abuse, horrific plastic surgery and prostitution.
Tom Angelripper's vocals are a much deeper growl here, as opposed to the thrash metal snarl of before and quite frankly he's never sounded more confident. His basswork doesn't stand out anywhere near as much as previously, in keeping with the albums more death metal feel, but it is still perfectly competent. New guitarist Andy Brings is a great guitarist; technically he may not do anything outstanding, but he doesn't need to - his riffs and solos suit this style of deathy thrash well. Its a pity he didn't stay in Sodom. The late Chris Witchhunter makes his final appearance on a Sodom album (excluding 2007's In the Final Sign of Evil) and he still has his trademark drumming style, although he is a little more professional and not quite as sloppy as on some of the band's earlier efforts.
There is a definite savage feel to this album - Sodom have never sounded so ferocious as they do here; indeed, they sound completely furious and brutal. There is a constant feeling that they are about to really break loose and possibly overreach themselves; fortunately this never happens. The downside to all this extremity is that, aside from Wachturm, a fun, incredibly catchy number with German lyrics, there no punky songs present that Sodom are well known for. Really, there is no feeling here of either Motorhead or Venom; instead, they now take their influences from Floridian death metal. Its hard to believe that a band who wrote a song like "Ausgebombt" also wrote this album. The songwriting, though, is very consistent - therefore choosing a highlight is difficult, although the aforementioned Wachturm, the brutal Body Parts (which may well be the most brutal song of the album) and the album's sleeper pick, Hunting Season, are definite standouts. There are a couple of let-downs though - One Step Over the Line and Deadline don't do much of anything and Reincarnation is slightly strange, reminiscent of Resurrection from the previous album. However, these songs don't detract from the album as a whole.
It's a pity that Sodom dropped the ball after this with their next few albums. As it stands, this is a testament to one of the band's more interesting periods and is certainly their most brutal album. Recommended.