Monday, January 3, 2011

Sodom - In the Sign of Evil EP (1984)

Almost as an autoimmune response to the filth peddled by infamous British bastards Venom, Sodom was formed quite early on in metal's germination towards extremity. Birthed in 1981; before Slayer, before Possessed, and before the other 2/3rds of the German 'big three' (Destruction and Kreator), both of whom were also trios in their waking years, Sodom manifest like a bullet from oblivion with a pair of noisy and violent demos that spread enough buzz to get the acquire the attention of Steamhammer; who teamed up with the band to produce their In the Sign of Evil EP. Through the years, it has proven to be noteworthy not only for the punk undercurrents and venomous onslaught it gestates, but also its seminal influence upon the dire future of black metal.

These were the halcyon days of the band's stage names, and the line-up consisted of band leader Angel Ripper (bass/vocals, later Tom Angelripper), Witchhunter (drums), and Grave Violator (guitar), who had replaced Aggressor from the demos, and together they volley an intense barrage of Satanic warfare which lay somewhere between the showy, viral ministrations of Cronos and crew, gravel pounding of Motörhead and perhaps the riot toned chords of Discharge. Some regimen of the band's future, more complex metallic embellishments does rear its head from time to time, but for the most part, the songs here were written through simplistic structures that generally alternate between 1 or 2 riffs. "Outbreak of Evil", one of the band's most enduring songs, still being performed in their regular stage rotation, is a fine example of how they integrate some wailing, spooky leads, and then bludgeon through a pair of minimal effort, punk fueled rhythms while Tom's younger, retching vocals corrupt the surface.

"Blasphemer" breaks out a broken thrash melody before the drums charge forward, and I've always found it curious how similar the primary guitar rhythm in the verse feels to Slayer's "Chemical Warfare". Once more, an incredibly basic tune here, given character largely due to Witchhunters incessant storming and the bouncing of the vocals as if some sociopath were conversing with himself in a padded cell. "Witching Metal", one of the band's earliest tunes, having appeared on both demos prior to this EP, is possibly my least favorite of its contents, sounding heavily like a sloppy, charging Venom track with a swift kick in the ribs, but I do enjoy the lead sequence and I find it hard to fault lyrics like 'Metal War Sodom, Wildfire Sodom, Bloodlust Sodom, Witching Metal!' which seem forward and compelling enough. "Sepulchral Voices" and "Burst Command Til War" are just as brute, but the latter is pretty charming for its echoing chamber of voices and the sloppy but memorable construction of the chorus.

Obviously, this is only the infantile precursor to the technical, focused riffing of the band's legendary efforts Persecution Mania and Agent Orange, and there might not be such a memorable piece here as "Nuclear Winter" or "Agent Orange", or even "Sodomy and Lust", but the band's boundless energy is already in place, and "Burst Command Til War" serves as a fitting foreshadow to the band's later obsession with warfare and post-warfare themes. This is not so much about impressing the listener with the music, but showing just how far metal was capable of going in 1984, and though its speed would be surpassed, it remains a landmark in Germany's speed/thrash history (not to mention black metal on the world stage), and still sounds pretty good by today's standards, when compared to all the retro underground acts who trip over themselves to achieve the same archaic appeal.

Verdict: Win [8/10] (only believe in bad)

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