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The Final Sign of Chris Witchhunter - 49%

Larry6990, April 12th, 2014

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