Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Sodom - Obsessed By Cruelty (1986)

Sodom's debut L.P. took some time to appear. Two years after the release of In the Sign of Evil, in May 1986, Obsessed By Cruelty was finally unleashed upon the Metal underground. During those two years, some things changed for this German band. The primal Black Metal that was found on the E.P. had transformed. Though the sound was not so distant from what it had once been, there was a significant difference in the music and its execution. The vocals weren't as evil and possessed; the atmosphere wasn't as dark and wicked.

The intro may have had some people expecting more of what was heard on In the Sign of Evil. The funeral organ and demonic voices work well to set the tone for unholy Black Metal. Yet, instead of that, there exists something more related to Thrash Metal. "Deathlike Silence" erupts from the graveyard, punishing the listener with a violent pace not far removed from "Blasphemer" or "Burst Command 'Til War". The lyrics are dark, but not Satanic. Aside from the different style that is employed, one may also notice that the guitars struggle with the percussion, in vain, as the latter maintains aural dominance. This is a major complaint against the entire record, really, as drums should never overpower the music like this. Despite such grievances, the first song is still memorable, energetic and one of Sodom's best-known for a reason.

"Brandish the Scepter" bears the same anti-Christian sentiment from before, though it is bereft of any mention of Satan or Hell. It begins with a blinding flurry of riffs and vocals, but manages to slow down for a bit. It is during these slower sections that the album is most enjoyable, as there is less percussion for the guitars to contend with. The drumming on this one is, more or less, a primitive blast beat.

"Proselytism Real" begins with a slower riff that hearkens back to the E.P. The lyrical theme is still, somewhat, cryptic and occult, though not making a great deal of sense. Though the song does speed up, it never seems to reach the frenzied pace of the earlier songs. This means that the percussion is a little easier to digest, giving the guitars more room to breathe. Musically, this track wouldn't have been out of place on In the Sign of Evil, but the vocals aren't evil enough, nor are the lyrics. Nonetheless, it remains one of the better songs on this album.

A brief drum solo opens "Equinox", a straight-forward Thrash Metal song which owes quite a bit to Venom's "Witching Hour". Of course, bands like Venom and Motorhead were an influence to Sodom, so it is not surprising to hear this come through in their music. As with the rest of the album, the vocals seem to be buried a bit more than on their previous release.

"Volcanic Slut", like the last track, begins with only the drums. The bass and guitar come in to create a hellish feeling of death slowly creeping toward you. This is quickly abandoned as the song goes full blast into pure Black/Thrash.

The next song is "Obsessed By Cruelty". This one starts with an eerie intro, with twisted guitar notes giving the impression that the band is burning in the flames of the Kingdom Below. This is accentuated by the demonic vocals of Angelripper. After a couple minutes, Sodom trades a dark atmosphere for intense speed. Around this time, a lot of bands seemed overly concerned with some non-existent contest to see who could play the fastest, often sacrificing brilliant ideas for the sake of an increased velocity. There are some decent riffs and leads, but one gets the impression that the song could have been something more. Some of the riffs are quite memorable, but where the band really shines is the slower section, near the end.

"Fall of Majesty Town" begins with a nice thrash riff and a, somewhat, subdued pace. Unfortunately, within about a minute, it returns to the same generic Sodom riffs that are found all over this album. Not that the riffs are even that audible, buried so far beneath the pounding drums.

Another killer thrash riff introduces "Nectemeron", though the bloody drums overpower it once they arrive. It sounds as if this would be a passable song, if the production wasn't so atrocious. As the pace slows down, one can get more of a feel for what is going on, until the drums ruin it, once more. Really, Obsessed By Cruelty has to be one of the most abrasive albums recorded. It's difficult to sit through, with the cursed percussion drilling into your brain.

"Pretenders to the Throne" seems reminiscent of "Burst Command 'Til War". This one is fast-paced and straight-forward. It is fairly simplistic, while still retaining a good amount of energy. Much like the final song, "Witchhammer", it is more in line with the Black Metal approach of the previous release. The latter more so than the former.

Obsessed By Cruelty is adequate enough, when it comes to songwriting. Though the departure from the early Black Metal sound, in favour of Thrash Metal, is disappointing, is kind of a let down, the real problem here is the awful production. It's not that it sounds too primitive, for that would be just right for this type of music. The main complaint, to reiterate this, is that the drums are far too high in the mix and make this an annoying listening experience, at time. Obsessed By Cruelty has a lot of potential and it would be interesting to hear this in a remixed form. While this is superior to what many of their peers were putting out, Sodom was capable of much better.