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United by more than just a death - 87%

slayrrr666, October 7th, 2013

The eighth effort from German thrash institution Sodom, “’Til Death Do Us Unite,” is certainly one of the more overlooked efforts in the bands’ history as they finally seem to get the devastating blend of punk and thrash together in a cohesive, competent package though there’s still a few disappointingly weak tracks to lower this.

For the third time in their career, the band decides to make their blazing, hyper-speed punk roots a major focal point of the album and it really succeeds nicely. Having been affectionately dubbed ‘War-Punk’ in the past for the previous attempt, which was describing the fact that the band employed simplistic punk riffs and a chaotic, off-the-rails intensity to their music played at the speeds more commonly associated with thrash, that really could be applied here as well. The music has a boundless energy and incessant urge to attack and maim with extreme ferocity as the guitars whip through their paces at an intense speed, with riffs that are just blazing through every note as fast as they can with the drumming one step behind, keeping the speed in-check so as to not become just a chaotic frenzy of speedy guitar riffs and barreling drumming. When matched with the simple patterns and riffing structures, it creates the feel of thrashy punk-rock that has long been a part of the band’s sound. However, one thing that’s cleverly abundant here is that the band hasn’t forgotten its traditional thrash roots and attempts to merge the two together, offering a sense of cross-pollination between the two big themes of the bands’ past in one spot. The riff-work here is quite a bit more technical and complex than what would be considered the norm for a punk-band as the type of technicality is usually reserved for thrash bands, despite the fact that the general energy and chaotic nature of the material is usually a punk concern. The drumming definitely helps this factor along as well, as the dexterous and highly in-your-face nature that they’re performed on here is almost strictly a punk concern as without the constant double-bass overlaid against the riffing it becomes a true thrash sound. Therefore, we have a best of both worlds’ scenarios here where we have the spirit of chaotic energy and catchiness of punk alongside the technical riffing and sense of dynamics that thrash brings to the table, offering up a highly enjoyable effort overall.

There’s not too much change here between the two halves here at all and it really depends on minor differences to tell the two halves here apart. The first half of the album does spend a bigger majority of time on the frantic, simplistic punk-rockers that really barrel forth at one constant pace without too many outside forces interfering with the bands’ mission to get in and do as much damage as possible, making this feel like it’s packed with fast, furious songs without too much let-up. While the riffing can at times get a slight need to throw together a rhythm with some variation to it, for the most part these songs don’t really experiment all that much or simply let the riff-pattern breathe. By comparison, the second half doesn’t really stick to one single point throughout and instead opts to merge the two styles together a little more, featuring tracks with more of an old-school riffing approach or simply some more complex patterns and variations that are combined with punk’s simple drumming and frantic energy to create some pretty interesting elements within the song. Whether it’s based on the more relaxed, laid-back paced tempos that don’t really get into the upper-range in terms of speed is concerned, a decided lack of straight-up punk/thrash hybrid songs or just a general focus on making the most interesting songs possible, these songs are generally more complex and diverse amongst themselves and whatever else was present on the album as a whole, so this becomes a decidedly more varied yet not as enjoyable segment of the album since these tracks aren’t as one-dimension as before but rather focus on a variety of different methods, tempos, and overall style choices that showcase the band’s experimental side that was always present, even if usually for a song or two, in the past and feels like it’s a natural part of their normal evolution.

The first half to this is quite enjoyable and has a lot of great songs, all within the style of the album’s mix of punk-like thrash and more traditional leanings. Opener ‘Frozen Screams’ contains heavy thrash riffing but some pulverizing punk-rock styled drumming that keeps things fast, vicious and up-tempo but the incessant riffing rarely gets any variation until the frantic solo section with vicious razor-wire rhythms that effectively mixes the two genres better than anticipated. Follow-up, and overall album highlight, ‘Fuck the Police’ has slightly more technical thrash riffing and an uproarious drumming pattern that’s with nasty punk energy and attitude that’s retained through the infectious and intense riffing and blasting performances, creating a heavy, intense and utterly fun blast that remains one of the better songs in their discography. The rocking ‘Gisela’ is another blasting punk-rocker with furious drumming and mid-section riffing that stays in up-tempo but lacks any sense of urgency due to lame vocals and feeling of repetition with the main riff before a double-bass blast for a finale brings it back to respectability. The album’s overall worst track, ‘That's What an Unknown Killer Diarized,’ is a simple, plodding effort with restrained tempo, lame drumming, weak riffs and lack of thrash atmosphere through song pattern designed to keep instrumentation back in the mix and overall ‘single’ feel that clashes with the whole album, leaving this one a mess overall. Thankfully, ‘Hanging Judge’ brings it back with heavy, vicious thrash riffs and frantic drumming with off-the-rails bass-work creates a chaotic vibe with the intense, desperate vocals with the punk-ish gang-backing choruses and furious pace, creating a real highlight. The short and vicious ‘No Way Out’ starts off with pounding drumming with a relaxed mid-tempo pace that works with enough riff variation to attempt an old-school thrash tone with the busy bass clanking in the background, technical patterns and exciting tempo variations as well as fiery solo and constant double-bass, making for the third straight solid track. The total punk-rocker ‘Polytoximaniac’ blasts off with simple drumming, simple riffing and tons of energy as there’s very little variation within beyond the drumming gaining speed and intensity but all other instruments kept in check, ending on a solid note.

The back half of the album really isn’t all that much different from the elements present on the first half and has a great enjoyment to them. Starting with the traditional flavors present in the title track with its’ rocking build-up intro with heavy riffs, thunderous bass and thudding drumming that stays in slow-range as the plodding drumming and low-key riffing never pick up any speed or urgency until a blasting double-bass fueled solo-section that returns to the mid-range chug that nevertheless features as close to an old-school feeling as anything else on the album. The cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’ is a fast, heavy and furious cover that makes it close to the original but never sounds close to their original works due to its happy and up-beat tone that clashes with their more violent, vicious works though sonically there’s some solid moments overall. ‘Suicidal Justice’ has some monstrously heavy chugging riffing with dexterous drumming that adds a blasting intensity to the punk-rock feel as the chaotic riffing takes a furious, off-the-rails approach to the thrashing that adds pure speed and anger to the whole affair. The decent-enough ‘Wander in the Valley’ contains some chugging riff-work that’s too low-key to the pounding drumming that keeps up the intensity before more technical riffing comes in that adds a more brutal dimension to the rest of the mid-tempo work. The vicious ‘Sow the Seeds of Discord’ gets things back to familiar territory with charging riffing and accompanying drumming that starts off quite intense as it thrashes away in terms of riffing quality but keeps the punk aesthetics of few pattern variations but tons of intensity and viciousness. The rattling thrasher ‘Master of Disguise’ starts with up-tempo drumming and strained riffing that adds a new dimension to the frantic material with stylish lead variations that merge well with the blasting drumming and chaotic atmosphere. The restrained ‘Schwerter zu Pflugscharen’ is the most laid-back track on the album with a haunting, ethereal riffing builds to mid-tempo thrash with accompanying drumming that works in fine atmospheric interludes amongst the thrash but still remains in the sprawling mid-range pace overall, making for a wholly different experience than anything else on the album. It ends on a great note with ‘Hey, Hey, Hey Rock'n Roll Star,’ a raucous track with effective punk-drumming patterns and simple riffing with the return of the backing gang-shouts over the furious barn-burner riffing that bashes away with extreme abandon and frantic energy that closes the album out with a bang.

While this is nowhere near as essential or mandatory a listen for any of their previous albums, this is still a highly entertaining effort that offers enough of a cross-section of their work to appeal to just about everyone in their fan-base. In general style and spirit, obviously the punk-fanatics are going to be a lot more forgiving of this one since it does contain more of an overall feel reminiscent of their truer style, the thrash fans are going to enjoy the increased amount of traditional riffing and performances on display, and the more experimental sides here are going to like the fact that there’s a welcome amount of cross-breeding the different genres and an attempt made at mixing the two cohesively rather than forego one style for another. Granted, there’s times where this can come off the wrong way since these two styles don’t really mix together well without a little effort so a bad track here and there is to be expected which is what happens here, but that still makes this a wholly underrated addition to the band’s catalog and should warrant some serious investigation by hardcore fans.