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Thriving on Naked Enthusiasm… Above All - 66%

bayern, November 21st, 2020

1980… the world hasn’t become metal yet, but it’s quite clear that the disco and the punk will be side-lined by the growing-by-the-day metal hordes. Millions of young budding metallers are eager to participate in this exciting campaign more fully, not just as concert goers and vinyl purchasers. Their fingers itch, their hearts thump, they even have ideas of how they want to sound like… the more aggressive the better (of course!).

There’s only one small obstacle on the way: the don’t really know how to play. They have very basic knowledge of how to handle the guitar and the bass, of how to bash the drums until they crack, but what comes out of their combined efforts so far is a bit more than semi-organized noise. And they don’t want to spend ages in studios, under the vigilant gaze of music teachers… besides, who’s going to pay for the fuckin’ guitar lessons? If they tell their parents they want money in order to become the rowdiest metalheads in town, they’ll be grounded for weeks, maybe even months, in the best-case scenario… it’s so sad, this situation, cause the youngsters know that even in their current, barely amateurish status they can still make an impact. They subconsciously know that the already started metal revolution needs raw unpolished teams like them… only if they weren’t so shy and so indecisive; they don’t want to become the laughing stock of the underground with their very first (un)officially released tunes…

and then… a miracle occurs, god forbid! In 1981, the year of the Beast according to the Metal Gospel... I guess a strong current of utmost despair and burning desire can prick the social consciousness harder than a combined prayer unleashed by the entire Vatican personnel… three musketeers from the Isles called Venom, would you believe, have released a full-length titled “Welcome to Hell”. Can’t be true, can it? Well, it can, and not only but this raw pristine recording becomes a sensation literally overnight, turning its creators into the stars of the show. Yeaah! The really good thing, mind you, is that this album is a perfect example of how limited musical skills can shake the scene. The English guys have definitely seen musical instruments, be it at a shop window or at their neighbour’s house, and that more than sufficed for them to snatch those and start composing.

To put it short, this was the prayer of the mentioned hordes of young enthusiastic musicians… answered. And that was the way; put your band out there in the open first and foremost, don’t let your enthusiasm burn out, ignore all the naysayers… cause, eventually, you will learn how to play later; exposure and publicity are more important at this early stage… those were the thoughts of Thomas Such ala Angelripper, Josef Dominik aka Grave Violator, and Christian Dudek aka Witchhunter, three belligerent teenagers from Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia, who were making quite a bit of metallic noise in their parents’ garages, and also had a name for their joint efforts, Sodom. “That’s it! We’re doing it! If these Venom lads can bathe in fortune and glory playing like that, so can we! And we’re even more brutal!” Yep, that last statement was true. Add the invaluable piece of encouragement from the SPV label representative Manfred Schütz ("You guys are so bad, you will sell a lot of records!") thrown during a gig in Frankfurt in 1984, and the die was cast.

Sure thing but the dice… sorry, guys were too late to show up with an official release; by the time the EP reviewed here appeared, the world had already seen one side of the Apocalypse when raided by the dark cavernous, twisted atrocities of a Swiss gang called Hellhammer; and the Scandinavian ice caps in the north were already half-melted under the black mark of someone Thomas Börje Forsberg aka Quorthon (R.I.P.) whose team Bathory even managed a full-length out of these raw blacky noise tactics. None of those were better musicians, but they somehow got luckier in intriguing the respective recording companies a bit earlier.

“Better late than ever” was the motto, also the joint outcry of the three German troubadours, and boom… these near-20min of pristine black metal-ish barrage reached the ears of the more or less suspecting fanbase. And the lads were also very well aware of the existence of another English batch, the good old Motorhead as evident from the evergreen “Outbreak of Evil” which catchy repetitive simplicity flows into “Sepulchral Voice”, a more intimidating proposition the band raging with vehemence and passion, with Angelripper's subdued but suitably demonic semi-declamatory vocals leading the show which grows into something more evil and vicious on “Blasphemer”, a raging aural insanity that must have inspired the South American hordes for their unholy exploits that followed suit shortly after. More controlled bash comes pouring out of “Witching Metal”, the obligatory nod to the pioneers Venom without whom this whole enterprise wouldn’t have existed; before “Burst Command til War” wraps it on with headbanging vigour to spare, a one-dimensional but inspired hammering that nicely gets the message through, “We’re here, finally, and we mean business! We’re not good at it yet, but we’re learning by the day! And we’ll get there!”.

Not as twisted and devious as “Apocalyptic Raids”, and not as deliberately malicious as Bathory’s first, this little effort rightfully finds its place among the first extreme metal recordings. Its laurels by no means rest on musical merits, and its pioneering value would have been bigger if released a bit earlier. However, the guys did succeed in becoming the most brutal German outfit as neither Destruction’s “Sentence of Death” nor Kreator’s “Endless Pain” could match its over-the-top intensity. The least musically adept of this holy triumvirate, even more so during these early stages, Sodom managed to procure a niche for themselves in the mid-80’s if based on enthusiasm and drive, and little else. Yes, they did learn to play better, much better actually, and they did abandon their overt satanic image. Kudos.

Listening to thrash landmarks like “Persecution Mania” and “Agent Orange”, the fan can’t help but fondly remember the band’s early days, when the chances for this semi-amateurish team to become more than redundant noise-mongers were very minimal… so this Manfred Schütz guy was right; the guys did sell a lot of records, and probably quite a few from the EP here as well… after all, it never hurts to check how bare-chested enthusiasm can make you heard, over the hills and far away, and probably inspire you to try and match the latter with at least a dignified sniff of musical dexterity.