Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sodom - The Final Sign of Evil (2007)

In 1984, Sodom was set to record their first full-length album. Unfortunately, as the story goes, their label could not afford to pay for the necessary studio time and only a handful of songs ended up being recorded. Those tracks were released as the legendary In the Sign of Evil E.P. In the years that followed, the band moved away from its Black Metal origins and developed into one of the elite among the Teutonic Thrash bands. With the passage of over two decades, however, Tom Angelripper saw the need to revisit the band's dark past. For whatever reason, the leftover material was never recorded for any of the band's subsequent albums. In time, the original line-up entered the studio and brought to life those forgotten songs, as well as new versions of the ones from the E.P. In September 2007, The Final Sign of Evil was released, thus Sodom was finally able to share the morbid vision that possessed them so many years earlier.

The first thing that one notices is the incredible production. This possesses the same ugly and raw sound that was present on their debut E.P. For decades, bands have tried attaining an older sound and the best they could manage was to use poor equipment or to simply do everything in their power to make their releases sound as if they were recorded in a garage. With The Final Sign of Evil, Sodom reaches back into the past but manages to get an old school sound and still retain some level of quality. This really seems like it could have been vomited forth back in 1984, and that is one of the most positive things that can be said of this album.

Regarding the music, it is purely old school Black Metal, hearkening back to the glory days of the First Wave. One thing that really helps is that the members of Sodom really tried to keep things authentic; i.e. instead of giving these old songs a modern spin, they remained true to the spirit of the old days. Angelripper's vocals are more demonic and raw than in many years. Witchhunter's lack of drumming for about fifteen years also helped him sound as unpolished and primitive as the material called for. The same can be said for the length of time since Grave Violator had picked up a guitar. One really has to commend Tom for looking to his old bandmates for this project, which just goes to show how serious he was about presenting the old material as it should have been.

The unreleased songs seem to pale in comparison to the classics that we have all known for so many years. Some of that may be nostalgia, while part of it may be that they chose the very best songs to record, upon finding out that they would not be able to make a full-length album back in '84. While my personal preferences lean toward the original recordings, there really is nothing negative that can be said of the re-recorded versions. The are possessed by the same evil spirit as the originals and uphold the same sort of savage and primitive feeling. The previously unheard tracks hold their own well enough, but they certainly would not have been able to carry their weight without the classics there with them. The one standout, among the 'new' tracks is "Hatred of the Gods", which would have fit in well on In the Sign of Evil, or even Persecution Mania, for that matter. It is interesting to note that most of the songs chosen for the original E.P. were the faster ones (with the exception of "Sepulchral Voice"), while the majority of the leftover songs were more mid-paced. It says something for the identity that the band wanted to project, seeing which ones they kept and which ones were shelved.

The Final Sign of Evil is a great album and highly recommended to fans of the band's early work. With so many groups going back and re-recording old songs in order to give them an updated feel and make them more modern, it is amazing to see one of the forefathers of Black Metal embracing their roots and remaining true to the underground spirit that spawned them in the first place. The only bad thing about this is that they did not stick with their old sound for the next album.