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Here's a situation for you: Legendary black/thrash metal band re-record their first EP, the release that originally put them on the metal map, with the original line-up that featured in that early recording. Not only this, but they also write 7 new songs in the primitive style of said EP. What is your reaction? Bearing in mind these reunions can be either hit (Killing Joke's self-titled - phwoar!) or miss (Exodus's "Let There Be Blood" - oh dear), are you anticipating the release of Sodom's "The Final Sign of Evil"? Or will you ignore the entire endeavour?
I'll admit, in the case of these German thrashers, I was very excited. One of my favourite thrash acts were sprucing up their blackened mini-masterpiece "In The Sign of Evil", and adding new material to boot! Whilst glancing upon this album, a gleeful smile was brought to my face; the brilliant artwork harkens back to the band's satanic early days, and all the song titles ("Where Angels Die", "Sons of Hell", "Hatred of the Gods") heartily reflect this evil theme.
Before I start slating the music contained within, let me just quickly state that I LIKE THIS ALBUM. It's worth mentioning that I frequently enjoy bands/albums/songs that are technically worthless, but seem to push a certain 'fun button' on me (*Cough*Limp Bizkit*Cough*). But I'm rating this by the quality of the product, not by how much I personally enjoy it.
"The Final Sign of Evil" does exactly what it says on the tin. It brings the 5 tracks from the original EP to life in a truly hellish way, along with 7 brand new songs all written with the same chaotic vibe. Unfortunately, this time round, the 'hellish chaos' isn't due to the atmosphere, songwriting or attitude of the band members - it's due to a poor performance from Angelripper and co. and the worst production that has ever been bestowed upon a Sodom album. The production is a huge part of why this is a bad album; it's not the same proto-black metal chaos that enlivens the original EP and gives it bags of character. It sounds far more like genuine inexperience. The guitar tone is weak, the bass sounds...meaty...but oddly misplaced, and the drums...oh dear GOD the drums. They deserve their own paragraph...
Now, I mean no disrespect to a man who was actually dying of liver failure - and kudos to the band for reuniting the original line-up, despite Chris Witchhunter's condition. But without knowing the story behind Chris's illness, the drums just come across as awful...fucking horrific as a matter of fact. Even the simplest of rhythms sound like they're played by a novice. The double-bass is constantly uneven, there are far too many fills that are badly executed, and the drum production is unbelievably weak. It's so bad, that you can hear the guitars, bass and vocals fluctuating in tempo, trying to stay with Witchhunter. Take a listen to the verses of "Hatred of the Gods" or "Where Angels Die" for an example of the worst of this.
The songs themselves are fairly decent. The 5 re-recordings are faithful to the original style, with "Blasphemer" being a particular highlight, as I believe this version to be superior to the 1984 version - mainly due to the variety in Angelripper's voice (BlaspheMOOOOOAAARRR!). "Burst Command Til War", "Sepulchral Voice" and "Outbreak of Evil" sound almost identical, right down to the boomy bass intros. And finally, "Witching Metal" has far more control over it than the original version, which ironically detracts from an interesting aspect of the music.
The new tracks are also generally decent (bear in mind that's 'decent', not 'great'). Opener "The Sin of Sodom" engulfs the listener in an evil atmosphere, and contains one fantastic chugging, marching riff at the end - annoyingly ruined by Chris's overuse of badly-executed fills. "Bloody Corpse" is a catchy mid-paced thrash affair which oozes fun (what more fun is there than shouting "BLOODY CORPSE" over and over again?). "Hatred of the Gods" and "Defloration" score many points for being well-structured blackened thrash songs with plenty of great hooks. All of these highlights are made so because of Angelripper's fantastically menacing vocal effort. His slightly high-pitched rasp has been perfected on "The Final Sign of Evil", and in my opinion, is the best vocal performance of his career.
It's perfectly acceptable to write off the rest of the album as 'fodder'. "Where Angels Die" is almost completely ruined by Witchhunter's mediocre drumming. "Sons of Hell" is a schizophrenic groove machine that becomes forgettable far too quickly. But the unholy stamp of shit goes to "Ashes To Ashes". Not only is that the most cliché song title ever - but the whole track plods along at a turd's pace, with no thought whatsoever going towards structure, and the most hilariously boring chromatic riffs ever composed by the German trio. (I'm not kidding, "Ashes to Ashes" is so bad, it's funny).
As a massive fan of Sodom, I bought this album to complete my collection - but ended up enjoying it for its own innocent charms. If you don't mind the quality being very slack, and you don't mind headbanging out of time to try and keep up with Witchhunter - then pick it up by all means. Just don't expect "Agent Orange - Part 2".
R.I.P Chris Witchhunter
Highlights - "The Sin of Sodom", "Bloody Corpse", "Hatred of the Gods, "Defloration"
For fans of - Venom, Toxic Holocaust, Kreator
In 1984, Sodom was set to record their first full-length album. Unfortunately, as the story goes, their label could not afford to pay for the necessary studio time and only a handful of songs ended up being recorded. Those tracks were released as the legendary In the Sign of Evil E.P. In the years that followed, the band moved away from its black metal origins and developed into one of the elite among the Teutonic thrash bands. With the passage of over two decades, however, Tom Angelripper saw the need to revisit the band's dark past. For whatever reason, the leftover material was never recorded for any of the band's subsequent albums. In time, the original line-up entered the studio and brought to life those forgotten songs, as well as new versions of the ones from the E.P. In September 2007, The Final Sign of Evil was released, thus Sodom was finally able to share the morbid vision that possessed them so many years earlier.
The first thing that one notices is the incredible production. This possesses the same ugly and raw sound that was present on their debut E.P. For decades, bands have tried attaining an older sound and the best they could manage was to use poor equipment or to simply do everything in their power to make their releases sound as if they were recorded in a garage. With The Final Sign of Evil, Sodom reaches back into the past but manages to get an old school sound and still retain some level of quality. This really seems like it could have been vomited forth back in 1984, and that is one of the most positive things that can be said of this album.
Regarding the music, it is purely old school black metal, hearkening back to the glory days of the First Wave. One thing that really helps is that the members of Sodom really tried to keep things authentic; i.e. instead of giving these old songs a modern spin, they remained true to the spirit of the old days. Angelripper's vocals are more demonic and raw than in many years. Witchhunter's lack of drumming for about fifteen years also helped him sound as unpolished and primitive as the material called for. The same can be said for the length of time since Grave Violator had picked up a guitar. One really has to commend Tom for looking to his old bandmates for this project, which just goes to show how serious he was about presenting the old material as it should have been.
The unreleased songs seem to pale in comparison to the classics that we have all known for so many years. Some of that may be nostalgia, while part of it may be that they chose the very best songs to record, upon finding out that they would not be able to make a full-length album back in '84. While my personal preferences lean toward the original recordings, there really is nothing negative that can be said of the re-recorded versions. The are possessed by the same evil spirit as the originals and uphold the same sort of savage and primitive feeling. The previously unheard tracks hold their own well enough, but they certainly would not have been able to carry their weight without the classics there with them. The one standout, among the 'new' tracks is "Hatred of the Gods", which would have fit in well on In the Sign of Evil, or even Persecution Mania, for that matter. It is interesting to note that most of the songs chosen for the original E.P. were the faster ones (with the exception of "Sepulchral Voice"), while the majority of the leftover songs were more mid-paced. It says something for the identity that the band wanted to project, seeing which ones they kept and which ones were shelved.
The Final Sign of Evil is a great album and highly recommended to fans of the band's early work. With so many groups going back and re-recording old songs in order to give them an updated feel and make them more modern, it is amazing to see one of the forefathers of black metal embracing their roots and remaining true to the underground spirit that spawned them in the first place. The only bad thing about this is that they did not stick with their old sound for the next album.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
Not to be outdone by their fellows Destruction, Germans Sodom also decided that 2007 was the right time to rehash and re-release some of their raw, early material to both their younger audience and original fans. However, there are some clear distinctions between The Final Sign of Evil and Thrash Anthems. Where Schmier and company merely wanted to basque some of their earlier glories in the fresh studio sound of the current age, Sodom had a more serious intention, to give the In the Sign of Evil EP the full-length release it was originally intended for. As a result, the majority of the tracks recorded for this were never released before, so most are hearing them for the first time with the new incarnations of the EP material.
Sadly, not many of these tracks are that great, so I can sort of understand why they might have been left out in the first place. "The Sin of Sodom" is a Slayer-like piece with average riffing circa Hell Awaits. "Bloody Corpse" is slower, plodding, and not so potent. "Where Angels Die" begins like a death march, then pummels forward into some less than explosive, faster riffs and shoddy drums. "Ashes to Ashes" is probably the crappiest, with some generic riffs that were predictable even by the early 80s. "Defloration" also carries the burden of little enthusiasm, though some of the guitars feel blistering and fresh. No, the only real survivors here are the bruising "Hatred of the Gods", and the vulgar and raw "Sons of Hell", neither of which is a stylistic departure from the rest, but the components of loud bass, solid punk/thrash riffs and Tom's return to the blacker, rasped vocals all seem to come together to create a rough charm.
Naturally, the In the Sign of Evil songs fare better, because they are simply better songs, and these versions are pretty fun. Sodom have not pulled a Thrash Anthems here. This shit is incredibly rugged and violent, not made to burst out of your speakers, but made to frighten your mom and pop just like they did 30 years ago. "Blasphemer" cruises along, ever the alternative to Slayer's "Chemical Warfare", while "Witching Metal" and "Burst Command 'Til War" are just as poseur crushing as they ever were. Likewise, "Outbreak of Evil" and "Sepulchral Voice" sound solid and spiteful.
In order to pull this off, Tom Angelripper united the original lineup of Grave Violator and Chris Witchhunter for the recording. This was apt to cause mixed reactions, because there can be no question that Bernd Kost and Markus Freiwald are technically more seasoned players. In fact, I'd almost be curious to hear what the same album might have sounded like with the current lineup of the band. However, as an act of loyalty its commendable. Those two were a part of this to begin with, and they remain so, and Angelripper doesn't want us to forget it. That said, the playing might seem a little sloppy here or there, which some will love, and some will loathe. It's pretty cool to have this at long last, but I'm not sure I'd bother with it were I not a fan who was interested in the history behind it. If you're accustomed to the more modern sounds of Sodom, M-16 or Code Red, or simply the Frank Blackfire records in the late 80s, then you might be taken aback by how uncouth it feels. If you're more enamored of the band's black/thrash mess roots, then feast away.
Sodom was always known for making brutal, blasphemic and anger-filled albums, some more, some less, but this has to be their most evil record ever.
"The final Sign of Evil" is basically Sodom's first album. The songs were written in 1984, but only five of them ("Outbreak of Evil", Sepulchral Voice", "Blasphemer", "Witching Metal" and "Burst Command 'til War") made it onto vinyl, because Devil's Game, their record label at the time, wouldn't give them the opportunity to record all twelve songs. However, here they are, in super high recording quality and with the original line-up from back then: Tom Angelripper: bass/vocals, Grave Violator: guitar and Chris Witchhunter: drums, a little extra and a fact that is very special (for me as a huge Sodom fan).
The album starts off with "The final Sign of Evil". After a short spoken intro, there's some sweet double bass drumming and a very cool guitar riff. The vocals are in the typical roaring Angelripper-voice and support the rawness of the songs.
"Blasphemer" is a song we already know from the 1984 EP, which is followed by "Bloody Corpse" (one of my favorites), "Witching Metal", another already known song and "Sons of Hell", a "new" previously unreleased song, that is nothing too special from the musical point of view. Track 6 is "Burst Command 'til War", and I must say it's awesome to hear it re-recorded in better sound quality.
"Where Angels Die" is a very dark and fast song; the chorus is killer!
"Sepulchral Voice" is the only re-recording of the 1984 songs that I don't like on this CD. The original version, in my opinion, sounds better all in all, but give it a listen and judge for yourself. Track number 9 is called "Hatred of the Gods" and delivers lyrics that remind of the "The Rebirth..." intro on "Obsessed by Cruelty".
"The soul that pines for eternity
Coming from the dark
Dweller of the twilight void
Ripping off my heart"
We then come to "Ashes to Ashes", another very dark but slower number with some speedier sections. This one leads into "Outbreak of Evil", by far Sodom's most-known song, recorded for the third time on a studio release. The riff is much more audible than on the 1984 version while retaining the intro that was lacking on the 1987 version. So this is my favorite version of the song, and also my favorite track on the album. The outro song of "The final Sign of Evil" is "Defloration". This is another killer song, and it's surprising it didn't find its way to an album earlier. The vocals are in Black-Metal-style mixed with the Angelripper style, the guitar riff blends in with the rhythm, short: it rules! This makes our journey through the album complete.
Conclusion: Worth buying. And more. This is a must-have for the old-school Sodom fan, and also for the Black Thrash fan. The album combines catchiness with forgotten songs, evilness and speed with atmosphere. It includes the original line-up from '84. It contains all five songs from the "In the Sign of Evil" EP plus seven "new" songs, of which many still don't sound dusty after all those years.
It also reveals that Sodom can still pull off the old, original sound, influenced first by Venom and Hellhammer. So my recommendation, after all: Get it!
The trivia behind this album was familiar enough to fans of Sodom even before The Final Sign Of Evil was released - and if it isn't, it's included in the CD booklet anyway. The idea of In The Sign Of Evil not only being re-recorded but having previously unheard songs from that era included was too good for me to pass up on. Straight away this throws up the issue of whether old classics should be left alone, or maybe a re-recording can give them a new lease of life and ensure their significance isn't forgotten. More importantly to me, does the re-recording and presence of (as far as the listener is concerned) brand new songs mean this release can be considered totally independent from the original EP?
I can't think of any other band that has deliberately regressed in such a thorough manner. Sodom's style has stayed pretty consistent over their career, so this is no 'back to our roots' effort that many bigger bands have tried and failed to pull off (you know who I'm referring to). Instead of being an alternative to admitting that the band is out of interesting ideas, this is a band with a 25-year career intentionally throwing itself back into 1984 with the benefit of experience. This is apparent in the lineup and the sound.
As far as the lineup goes, what each player brings to the table seems to reflect what they've been doing (or not doing) since In The Sign Of Evil was released. Grave Violator's guitar playing is competent, but you'd have to be pretty shocking to mess up a Sodom song, especially in a studio environment. The solos are a nice extra touch and suit the album, but as they're standard 'just play fast' solos and there's only a few of them, Mr Violator won't be appearing on the cover of any guitar magazines and if you're not paying attention you might miss them entirely. It would have been nice if the guitar could have been a bit louder and crunchier, but it's still fine as it is - you should be playing this album loud anyway! I've heard some criticisms of Witchunter's supposedly sloppy drum playing on here, but honestly, if other people hadn't put the idea in my head the most I would have said is that there are points where his playing doesn't sound entirely confident - as in, was he meant to hit that cymbal harder or is it supposed to be like that? The playing isn't as intense as an album like Agent Orange, but still suits the music fine. At least I can hear all of what he's playing and pick out a variety of beats, which is more than what I came away from In The Sign Of Evil with. Most noticeably, Angelripper's vocals reflect the most strongly on what's going on here. The blackened, throaty style is the only way to do the vocals here, different to the more straightforward but intense style he uses these days, but they're delivered with surprising clarity. Occasionally a more hysterical, high-pitched yelping comes out, but not enough to throw the listener. Even his bass is a bit more prominent at times - nice touch, but off course there's no wizardry to listen out for. That's not why we listen to Sodom.
Of course, this means that it's even more obvious that the voice is singing lyrics written by teenagers who didn't speak English as a first language. I still say though, anyone who comes to an album such as this looking for deep, intelligent lyrics is far from deep and intelligent themselves. They're an idiot. At least the Engrish seems to have gone, in terms of accents at least...lyrically, we are still all suicide, without brain. While we're on Burst Command Til War (I'm still dying to know what that is), I do slightly miss the weird vocal effects from the original version...but it's still hard to beat as far as I'm concerned! Nyar!!!
I'm happy to say that the re-recording has generally been A Good Thing. It's not like we can't listen to the original versions any more, and it's nice to hear songs such as Sepulchral Voice leaping out of the speakers with all the heaviness they're capable of being fully delivered. Other things that come with the territory - new album intro, restyled Outbreak Of Evil intro and the aforementioned removal of effects from Burst Command Til War - help distance the album from the idea that it could replace what was originally recorded.
The new songs are generally pretty midpaced or a bit quicker, certainly there's nothing consistently breakneck that we could associate with early Sodom (not that they were always that fast in their early days, but never mind...). They're pretty standard Sodom - simplistic riffing that treads the lines between Thrash and traditional Metal, and punk. Not crappy three-chord punk either, proper nasty dirty style. The opening track The Sin Of Sodom goes into one of those cool, simple, palm-muted Thrash riffs at 3:16 which endeared me to the album from the word go. There's an open NWOBHM influence in tracks such as Sons Of Hell, with the power chords following a primitive melody - maybe too primitive, as this song is probably the weakest point of the album due to that 'melody' being so weak. At least now we can hear what Witching Metal was supposed to sound like - this will be a great relief to any of us n00bs who've found the demos we downloaded too much to handle!
At the end of the day, of course the old songs will evoke different feelings from how they originally sounded. But they're still good songs and they're still done justice. The 'new' songs compliment them well and together they all make an album that should generally satisfy fans of the old school sound, and make a good start for newcomers to Sodom or those who (god forbid) aren't familiar with their 80s output. Cheers for doing this for us, guys. Now write another great brand new album and tour the UK!
Originally written for http://www.metalmongrel.com
It’s nice to hear a band that doesn't forget what made them what they are. Or what they themselves made. And Sodom's "The Final Sign of Evil" is a piece of total thrash. Even though this was re-recorded it sounds almost as raw as the "In the Sign of Evil" EP from almost 25 years ago. But thankfully it's better.
Throughout the album, there are good riffs bursting with pure thrash, but are not too devastatingly orgasmic like previous albums, drums that are a little off, but even on the EP, Witchhunter was occasionally caught napping. Onkel Tom is doing what he does best, writing good lyrics, and violently belting them out, while ripping his bass apart. It is also nice to see that Grave Violator can carry a tune, while maintaining a thrashy, Sodom feel. The re-recordings of "Outbreak Of Evil", "Sepulchral Voice", "Blasphemer", "Witching Metal" and "Burst Command Til War" seem better then the originals, quality wise anyway, along with new songs basically saying "This is Sodom, this is evil."
Getting back to the part of Angelripper, although this is not his greatest lyrical performance, they are still good, but not the best. But I have to hand it to a man who has kept this band going single-handedly, and then managed to reunite the original line-up, to release a near 25 year follow up to the band's first EP. It is clear that Angelripper made this album with the idea of reconnecting with the fans of yesterday, who fell in love with Sodom, and then fell away through the 90's.
Personally, I find nothing wrong with this album in my mind it has all the elements of a solid album, but it is certainly not the most spine busting Sodom release, especially in recent memory, with the line up of Bernemann, Bobby, and Angelripper. But all in all it is a solid, solid thrash release, and it is one that should be heard by any good Sodom fan. And this is Sodom, this is evil.
'Sodom' seems to be very active band currently. After their last year's kickass thrashing piece the band decided to rerecord their old material from 1984's 'In the Sign of Evil' along with unreleased material which had to be included in that EP. It was predictable that the "new" material won't be as good as the released one, and that's the true.
Tracks like 'Sons Of Hell' or 'Bloody Corpse' are quite decent, but they just lacks the intensity of classics as 'Blasphemer' and 'Outbreak Of Evil'. Actually, the whole album lacks some necessary intensity. The "new" material has some good moments but overall it doesn't manages to seriously kick ass, the riffing isn't sharp and accurate enough to stand among Sodom's classics and it could be very nice if the overall tempo of this album would be in 30BPM faster. This type of thrash should be played a lot faster than how it's executed here. Even the versions of the older classics are a bit more mid paced than the 84 version and sounds quite tired. The drumming is also kind of sloppy and low in the mix, the bass is inaudible but the guitars however got a nice harsh tone, though a bit more treble gain could give it a more solid tone.
Sometimes I wonder if the unreleased material was really written back then in 1984, it sounds quite restrained compared to 'In The Sign Of Evil' and feels mostly like fillers in a 'tribute to the old fans' release. Some moments here just sounds dull and not really at the same level of the classic era of the band.
Overall, this isn't a real interesting release. If you've already heard 'In the Sign of Evil' ep don't expect for a better or refreshing performance of that ep. The unreleased material is pretty lackluster and tiresome and the overall mood of this album is quite paced. However it's still not that bad that you must avoid it, but if you are not a die hard fan of 'Sodom', you can simply skip this album as you skipping sloopy horror movie's remakes, it's not something you'll want to watch anyway while there is a better version of it nearby.
What we have here is a re-recording of the 1984 5 track EP ‘In The Sign Of Evil’ in the original line-up. Added to this are 7 songs (The Sin Of Sodom, Bloody Corpse, Sons Of Hell, Where Angels Die, Hatred Of The Gods, Ashes To Ashes, Defloration) which should have been released back in 1984, making this a full length album.
Sofar the idea is great! There’s only one big ‘but’ that ruins the whole concept for me. The drums. It sounds as if Chris Witchhunter hasn’t played drums for a long time and the tempi are rather pathetic at times. Whatever Angelripper and Grave Violator try and do, the slow version of for instance ‘Outbreak Of Evil’ is horribly harmless (especially when compared to the 1987 version found on the Persecution Mania CD).
Unfortunately there’s more wrong than just the slow tempo. Witchhunter just can’t keep the pace steady. The tempos fluctuate more than once in such amounts that it is really becoming painful. Even demo bands without triggering and quantising these days sound tighter than this.
To be honest it would have been better if this album was recorded with the current Sodom line-up or at least their current drummer Bobby Schottkowski.
The addition of those previously unreleased tracks is of course memorable but the best songs on this album are in fact the 5 songs that originally made it on the EP. Obviously these songs also have historical and sentimental value which gives them an extra impression of being the best songs.
So, even though we’re talking about the mighty Sodom here, I see no reason to spare them this review. The big ones can makes mistakes as well. This is one of them. I’ll give them 10 points for the effort and for releasing some obscure songs.