Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sodom - M-16 (2001)

I was pretty happy when my digipak of Sodom's 10th full-length arrived by post, adorned in all its camouflage glory. Surely the band were going to continue to stir the fires of warfare that they had reignited in 1999's Code Red, and to that extent, this album does not at all disappoint with its meaty rhythms and the unadulterated chaos and violence of its compositions. Bernemann's guitars sound excellent, and if we needed any more evidence that he is in fact the true successor to Frank Blackfire's period of attendance in the late 80s, this is fucking it. In fact, Kost is even more reliable and consistent in his tone and performance, even if the songs don't match up to those written during the band's apex of creativity.

M-16 centers conceptually on the Vietnam War with tracks like "Minejumper", "Marines", "Among the Weirdcong" and "Napalm in the Morning", and this is probably the right band to handle the subject. I actually don't enjoy the opener "Among the Weirdcong" all that much, the bouncing flow of the verse riffs is rather uninteresting, but they more than compensate when they blast out storms of hostility like "I Am the War", "Minejumper" and "Cannon Fodder". A good deal of the album is performed through a slower or middle tempo, with an atmospheric punk/rock frenzy returning for "Marines", or the marching substrate to "Genocide" and "Little Boy", but thankfully a lot of tracks like "Lead Injection" create a nice balance and I can't say I was ever really bored listening through the album as a complete work.

However, the album does lack when it comes to manifesting a single go-to, classic Sodom track, which even Code Red provided (several times). The obvious anger, the guitar tone, passion for the subject material and the solid Harris Johns mix all go along way towards consistency, but there are painfully few individual segments that cry out for an instant replay. The cover of The 1963 classic "Surfin' Bird" (The Trashmen) is strangely poignant here, since the original was likely something the boys in Vietnam might have listened to on the radio, and it feels like it's present more for relevance than simply 'fun'. When all the smoke has cleared, M-16 does not stand among the ranks of the band's best works. Certainly Tom Angelripper has done worse by us than what is present, but you can pick out almost any Sodom album at random (excepting Masquerade in Blood) and target some better written material. This isn't the epic, memorable Vietnam concept album that I've yet to hear in metal, but it's decent enough.

Verdict: Win [7/10] (I cannot build but I can destroy)


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