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Worth coming back to - 76%

Metal_Mongrel, January 22nd, 2008

The trivia behind this album was familiar enough to fans of Sodom even before The Final Sign Of Evil was released - and if it isn't, it's included in the CD booklet anyway. The idea of In The Sign Of Evil not only being re-recorded but having previously unheard songs from that era included was too good for me to pass up on. Straight away this throws up the issue of whether old classics should be left alone, or maybe a re-recording can give them a new lease of life and ensure their significance isn't forgotten. More importantly to me, does the re-recording and presence of (as far as the listener is concerned) brand new songs mean this release can be considered totally independent from the original EP?
I can't think of any other band that has deliberately regressed in such a thorough manner. Sodom's style has stayed pretty consistent over their career, so this is no 'back to our roots' effort that many bigger bands have tried and failed to pull off (you know who I'm referring to). Instead of being an alternative to admitting that the band is out of interesting ideas, this is a band with a 25-year career intentionally throwing itself back into 1984 with the benefit of experience. This is apparent in the lineup and the sound.

As far as the lineup goes, what each player brings to the table seems to reflect what they've been doing (or not doing) since In The Sign Of Evil was released. Grave Violator's guitar playing is competent, but you'd have to be pretty shocking to mess up a Sodom song, especially in a studio environment. The solos are a nice extra touch and suit the album, but as they're standard 'just play fast' solos and there's only a few of them, Mr Violator won't be appearing on the cover of any guitar magazines and if you're not paying attention you might miss them entirely. It would have been nice if the guitar could have been a bit louder and crunchier, but it's still fine as it is - you should be playing this album loud anyway! I've heard some criticisms of Witchunter's supposedly sloppy drum playing on here, but honestly, if other people hadn't put the idea in my head the most I would have said is that there are points where his playing doesn't sound entirely confident - as in, was he meant to hit that cymbal harder or is it supposed to be like that? The playing isn't as intense as an album like Agent Orange, but still suits the music fine. At least I can hear all of what he's playing and pick out a variety of beats, which is more than what I came away from In The Sign Of Evil with. Most noticeably, Angelripper's vocals reflect the most strongly on what's going on here. The blackened, throaty style is the only way to do the vocals here, different to the more straightforward but intense style he uses these days, but they're delivered with surprising clarity. Occasionally a more hysterical, high-pitched yelping comes out, but not enough to throw the listener. Even his bass is a bit more prominent at times - nice touch, but off course there's no wizardry to listen out for. That's not why we listen to Sodom.
Of course, this means that it's even more obvious that the voice is singing lyrics written by teenagers who didn't speak English as a first language. I still say though, anyone who comes to an album such as this looking for deep, intelligent lyrics is far from deep and intelligent themselves. They're an idiot. At least the Engrish seems to have gone, in terms of accents at least...lyrically, we are still all suicide, without brain. While we're on Burst Command Til War (I'm still dying to know what that is), I do slightly miss the weird vocal effects from the original version...but it's still hard to beat as far as I'm concerned! Nyar!!!

I'm happy to say that the re-recording has generally been A Good Thing. It's not like we can't listen to the original versions any more, and it's nice to hear songs such as Sepulchral Voice leaping out of the speakers with all the heaviness they're capable of being fully delivered. Other things that come with the territory - new album intro, restyled Outbreak Of Evil intro and the aforementioned removal of effects from Burst Command Til War - help distance the album from the idea that it could replace what was originally recorded.
The new songs are generally pretty midpaced or a bit quicker, certainly there's nothing consistently breakneck that we could associate with early Sodom (not that they were always that fast in their early days, but never mind...). They're pretty standard Sodom - simplistic riffing that treads the lines between Thrash and traditional Metal, and punk. Not crappy three-chord punk either, proper nasty dirty style. The opening track The Sin Of Sodom goes into one of those cool, simple, palm-muted Thrash riffs at 3:16 which endeared me to the album from the word go. There's an open NWOBHM influence in tracks such as Sons Of Hell, with the power chords following a primitive melody - maybe too primitive, as this song is probably the weakest point of the album due to that 'melody' being so weak. At least now we can hear what Witching Metal was supposed to sound like - this will be a great relief to any of us n00bs who've found the demos we downloaded too much to handle!

At the end of the day, of course the old songs will evoke different feelings from how they originally sounded. But they're still good songs and they're still done justice. The 'new' songs compliment them well and together they all make an album that should generally satisfy fans of the old school sound, and make a good start for newcomers to Sodom or those who (god forbid) aren't familiar with their 80s output. Cheers for doing this for us, guys. Now write another great brand new album and tour the UK!

Originally written for http://www.metalmongrel.com