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Well, isn’t this a curious piece of Sodom history; their most rock-ish tendencies pronounced in the highest order by all sorts of Michael Hoffman guitar caterwauling, in ways that go beyond even that of the formidable Better Off Dead album. This is perhaps indicative of the direction that Sodom would have gone in if Hoffman had stuck around and, ahem, not gone to Brazil.
Sodom was band that was defined by their guitarists; in the early days they were scrappy, fierce, and barbaric – wielding a sceptre but sometimes overpowered by its weight. Then came Blackfire, and with him I get these cold, stark images of nuclear winters and everything seemed very Cold War; arms races, the Vietnam War, and bleak prisons in some distant Soviet satellite were very much the order of the day – which came across in his militaristic, and clean playing. Andy Brings then came along a couple of years later and changed Sodom once again with his death-like riffs and noisy leads, Sodom turned into something more brutal but lacking in some of their former finesse. It was a scruffy sound for the no-thrash nineties. Hoffman, well, he was something completely different, he was like ‘Ausgetbombt’ times ten, and really brought out the band’s earliest influences, and for a time he - in places - made Sodom sound closer to Bomber than Obsessed by Cruelty whilst still retaining their signature sound, and he did it such stellar fashion that often I spend lonely nights wondering what would have happened if he’d stayed with them, when I’m not warning off vampires or Margaret Thatcher, that is. In fact it is only in recent years that a guitarist has ceased to be in control of Sodom’s sound (although I must stress it’s always had certain similar characteristics due to the inescapable charisma of Angelripper and Witchhunter, well you can’t exactly be meek and mild with those sort of names!) Angelripper himself acknowledges this, he is now fully in control of Sodom, and to me it is actually somewhat sad and the band have lost some of their personality.
So what do we have here? Well, it’s probably one of the oddest releases in the whole Sodom canon, which in itself is odd considering that it’s only got one new track and that’s a cover! Anyway, as if conveniently pre-empting my reviewing patterns, I didn’t cover ‘Tarred and Feathered’ earlier, how fitting! ‘Tarred and Feathered’, though perhaps musically typical of the Better Off Dead thrash sound is one of the stranger Sodom songs lyrically, it’s all about ‘beautiful red-haired ladies’ and the Inquisition…
…and no one expected that. It’s certainly a long way from masturbating to one's self; I’ll give them that. Although he had his earlier fumbles – which happen to be seminal metal moments – Angelripper is a classy lyricist and this song demonstrates it aptly. Notably, as the fastest song on this EP it shows Witchhunter at the height of his children -punching-cardboard-boxes powers, and what a joy it is to behold. Hoffman actually reiterates the vocal melody with his solo in this one, which is strange to say the least, or perhaps he doesn’t. But he’s typically vibrant and manic with his licks that sounded as if ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke was trying specifically hard to live up to his nickname.
Chainsaws rule, I can’t think of a bad song about them, or one that features them. ‘The Saw is the Law (Splatting Version)’ continues this and in fact I think this is the best chainsaw related song I’ve ever heard. Grinding at a slower than the Better Off Dead version it’s a fucking triumph of simplistic and anthemic metal; it really should have been a hit! But it turns out the general public don’t view Tom Angelripper wailing like the deranged killer he sung of as a major selling point, their loss, really. I actually read someone comparing Sodom’s Better Off Dead era to Megadeth around the time of Countdown to Extinction, this angered me, this song alone would probably be an okay line of comparison to, say, ‘Symphony of Destruction’, but still, no. You can’t compare Sodom being out-and-out awesome, violent yet still incredibly catchy to Muistane beginning his long, slow kowtow to the big flaccid cock of the mainstream music (I want to say disco here, but it isn’t wholly reflective of Countdown to Extinction, but rather a certain well known and reviled Megadeth number). So yes, simplicity is key, but none of that visceral feeling is lost. My only minor quibble with this song is that I’ve seen (saw, surely?) snippets of an even longer version from the Lords of Depravity DVD which incorporates a fairly well known horror theme (though its name isn’t so known by me) and sounds fucking fantastic! Hoffman plays a solo here, does it rule? In the famous words of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, and numerous other women who could be authors or novels, yes. Hoffman actually exceeds himself, and probably makes Mike Scaccia blush; Brian Robertson even doffs his cap. He crafts something really fucking memorable – that evil descending pedal note lick, stratospheric pentatonics that only a few people could pull off with that level of charisma, and all sorts of other flash stuff. But that wouldn’t matter because unless it sounded awesome, which encase you haven’t guessed yet, it does! Picture a chainsaw ripping through bodies sending deepest red blood splattering everywhere, now think of rainbows and that’s what this sounds like: violent and colourful.
‘The Kids Wanna Rock’, unfortunate really, “why?” you might ask. Well, this provides me with socially acceptable doses of Brian Adams, who I actually quite like. I know. Look, everyone else at parties and clubs when they are hammered will sing and shout when ‘Summer of ‘69’ comes on. I too, do this, it just so happens I’d probably still do it sober. Still, with a message that’s staunchly anti-disco, anti-Guido types doing press-ups on the dance floor, and anti-new wave it’s practically ‘All Men Play On Ten’. There, I feel better now. Interestingly enough, this features members of Die Ärzte on backing vocals (their singer Bela B also provided vocals to the German version of ‘Ausgetbombt’). But if you want to hear Angelripper sing it the whole way through there’s a live version from Japan taken from the Tapping the Vein era, Andy Brings gets through the solo without fucking up, which is rare for him. Go Andy, Go!
Final words? Er, Jethro Tull?