Review by Dr. Martin M. Jacobsen
Teutonic Thrashers Sodom has done it again. Epitome of Torture, their fourteenth studio album, offers top-notch Thrash with a touch of Death (like most of their work). Excellent song writing has yielded hard, heavy, and brutal tunes. Sodom show no sign of slowing down. This album is just plain fantastic.
Bassist/vocalist Tom Angelripper, the only original member of the 32-year-long enterprise, sounds as strong as ever, his gruff voice issuing a still-pessimistic worldview. Eighteen-year veteran guitarist Bernd “Bernemann” Kost, while not as prominently featured here as he was on their previous effort In War and Pieces (2010), proves through excellent riffing and soloing that he has nothing to prove. New drummer Markus “Makka” Freiwald shakes things up with furious blast beats and boundless energy. Producer Waldemar Sorychta, who also helmed the band’s previous effort, does it right again.
If you will bear with me, the quality of this album draws on the history of this band; thus, a few words about that history are needed. In listening to all of Sodom’s albums as I prepared for this review, I discovered something interesting. While it is the genius of Tom Angelripper to have maintained creative control over the sound of the band, he has exhibited perhaps even greater genius in giving new members room to offer their full potential. Throughout Sodom’s history new members have added vitality to the band. Guitarist Andy Brings seemingly led the band to make a start-to-finish Death Metal album in 1992’s Tapping the Vein, and Bernemann’s fingerprints are all over his inaugural outing, 1997’s ‘Til Death Do Us Unite. And Makka’s foot pedal is all over this effort. His drumming brings a more modern, Death Metal influence to the mix. Sodom capitalized on the new element and created a fantastic album, just plain fantastic.
In My Final Bullet we find a perfect introduction to the album. A quiet opening graduates to great riffs and then pumps up the pace. Solid riffs and solos, as well as time changes, offer adequate intensity. Blast-beat drumming pushes the song forward relentlessly, surprising even the most avid Sodom fan.
S.O.D.O.M. gives us a pure Thrash anthem (the spelling of the word forming the backbone of the chorus). The guitar work steps up considerably, with steady riffs and a nicely structured solo. Blast beats and super-fast drumming hurtle the song forward. This song has the potential of becoming a live crowd-pleaser.
Epitome of Torture proves a good title track, with a little Metallica here and a little Slayer there. A heavy, chugging chorus (sung as “epi-tomb” of torture) pulls the song back a bit for a Classic Metal moment (though even that is backed by mind-blowingly rapid drum fills). The blistering solo carries us to an even more intense exeunt that cuts off short, denying us a warm down. Stigmatized may be the closest this album gets to a filler track. Heavily indebted to Slayer, this tune really offers nothing new. The drums again emerge as insanely good, but the timidity of the guitar work (or the song writing) and the derivative sound overall causes this track to fall a little flat, especially when compared to the quality of the rest of the album.
Cannibal opens with a chorus-like chant about “Water-Boarding, breaking my resistance,” in keeping with Sodom’s long-time focus on war. Then Bernemann kicks out a menacing riff before morphing into a riff again reminiscent of Slayer. Multiple time signature changes take us to a crushing interlude suggesting a machine gun followed by a blistering solo that serves as a bridge to the song’s chorus and end.
Shoot to Today; Kill Tomorrow, a hard, fast song with blast beats and death chants, lets up (relatively speaking) only during the chorus. Hints of Motörhead, Slayer, and Venom hark back to Sodom’s roots. It’s the epitome of straight-ahead metal, with a couple of good solos and an occasional time signature change, as if Makka’s thundering drums weren’t proving the point well enough.
Invokating the Demons opens with a heavy crescendo (how’d they do THAT?!) and then speeds up into a very nice tune reminiscent of Iron Maiden in places. Fine guitar work and multiple time changes couple yet again with some of the finest drumming anywhere, creating an astonishingly heavy, intense tune that ANY Metal fan of ANY preference would be proud to turn up. This song proves a highlight of the album.
Katjushka, a fast, angry diatribe about a Russian missile that killed thousands in the not-so-distant past, boasts an incredible opening hinting perhaps at Russian folk music before burying the accelerator in the carpet. The guitar solo drips with anger for a full thirty seconds and three segments – another highlight of the album, again thanks to Makka’s drumming.
Into the Skies of War has a fantastic opening riff. The main part of the song is again seems like standard Thrash until it shifts to the chorus. It sounds like Iron Maiden without being derivative. In fact, this song serves as yet another Sodom staple. Perhaps even more interesting, this song joins the preceding three or four tracks as getting heavier and heavier.
The album closes with Tracing the Victim, closes the album as a compliment to the hard, fast opener. Echoing Metallica without copying them, they offer a song that, while just as heavy as the last five or six songs have been, layers guitars and moderates the vocal in ways not really seen elsewhere here. The drumming, especially at the beginning, shows a mastery of the nuance as well as the blast beat.
I recommend this album wholeheartedly. It will be released in vinyl as well as electronic media. Buy it in your favorite format, but do buy it.
Rating: ****½ /5