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Sodom: Agent Orange - 75%

Never_Enough, June 28th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2000, CD, Steamhammer

When you perfect a formula so well, it often leaves little to discuss about it. That's what Sodom has done here. Nothing screams that this is a masterpiece that deserves to be worshiped on an altar, yet there's no major negative aspects about it. The problem when it comes to reviewing average to decent records is that it doesn't leave you with a lot of material to elaborate on. That's why I can go on about St. Anger until I'm blue in the face despite how awful it is. I wanted to preface with this, so if I seem to nitpick a lot, then you know why.

Anyway, the album opens with "Agent Orange". A song that's really a culmination of a bunch of different thrash metal styles. The opening riff is akin to Practice What You Preach era Testament with it evoking a great desire to headbang. It swiftly moves on to something of the likes of Ride the Lightning era Metallica. However, those just serve as the appetizers to the rapidly fast pace that takes over the rest of the song. Seriously, tapping your foot to this tempo makes you look like you've been drinking too many Monster energy drinks. Right then, it transitions to a Slayer-esque section just as it gradually picks up speed again. The song keeps that Slayer influence at hand for the solo where it flat out abuses that whammy bar. Lyrically, the song details the use and effects of the cancerous chemical we all know and love; Agent Orange. Actually, Angelripper does a great job describing the horrors that this chemical carries and pens a memorable chorus that always ends with the line, "A fire that doesn't burn". You know, just to really drive in the point. All of that comes together to make the best song off this album.

Going back to the subject of lyrics, this album is quite interesting in that regard. The main theme surrounding this album is the Vietnam War which begs the question: Why are so many metal bands interested in the Vietnam War. You got Napalm Death, Jungle Rot, Sodom, Anvil, Manowar, Bolt Thrower, Exodus, Blind Guardian, Terrorizer, Nuclear Assault, and Sabaton writing stuff about the Vietnam War. I can see why Black Sabbath would write about it, because the war was still raging around that time. I personally find the Vietnam War to be an overly complicated and overly political to even be invested in. Enough of that rambling, anyway, Tom Angelripper does a great job with the lyrical content on Agent Orange. He's clearly very passionate and strangely fascinated with the subject. He's able to inject so much passion throughout this album without resorting to being an anti-war hippie. To put it bluntly, it's something that I like given that I'm a bit of a self-identified historian.

Agent Orange is surprisingly rather varied than one is to expect. You have your insanely fast thrash metal tunes like "Tired and Red" and "Incest", but then you get into your slower tracks like "Remember the Fallen". This variety really breaks up the monotony of the album's full-throttle nature. That's before you get into the heavily hardcore punk influenced "Ausgebombt". This track is an almost jarring turn for Agent Orange which is easily identifiable as Teutonic thrash metal album. Speaking of which, this is probably the first straight thrash metal record from Sodom. Persecution Mania was definitely thrash, but it still had traces of their early black metal roots. Here, anything that was black metal was swept away in the recording process. They're certainly able to give up their elements of black metal for a heavy metal approach on the track "Don't Walk Away". Apparently, it's a Tank cover for whom I can't say I'm too familiar with. How does it fare with the original? Well, it seems that Sodom chose to directly cover the song as oppose to putting it in their own style. It's a little different from the original. For one, there isn't a scream at the beginning of the song which is probably due to it being way out of Tom's vocal range. There also isn't the diminished vocal effect on the chorus which is a welcome improvement. The cover is a little heavier with the bass being more prominent in the mix, but besides that, it's pretty similar. I guess the cover serves as an homage to Tank rather than twisting the song into their own. It's pretty much on par with the original when it comes to quality, so there isn't a clearly better version.

Overall, I recommend Agent Orange. I'm not nearly as attached to this album as so many other people are. I definitely wouldn't go as far as to claim that it's the best thrash metal album of all time. For what it's worth, it's a solid release with a diverse number of heavy hitting, violently fast songs on it. I also admire Angelripper's passion that went into writing the lyrics and overall themes of Agent Orange. In terms of the band's career, this certainly was a great record for them. It was their commercial breakthrough in Germany which is remarkable considering they didn't have to water-down their sound. I guess I can look at this album in a more positive light just for that.