Friday, November 11, 2011

Sodom - Persecution Mania (1987)

As happened with several other bands, following the success of Slayer's overrated Reign in Blood, Sodom abandoned their Black Metal roots and centered their focus on pure Thrash, while also cleaning their sound up a bit. Released in December 1987, Persecution Mania would go on to become a landmark record for Sodom, as well as the Teutonic Thrash Metal scene. As with Kreator, it would appear that the introduction of a new member was the key element that led to the change in direction.

From the opening moments of "Nuclear Winter", it is clear that the band is much more focused and the music has an added sense of lethality. While not as raw or primitive as In the Sign of Evil or Obsessed By Cruelty, this album still possesses a vicious streak that cannot be ignored. Rather than going for the more mainstream type of Thrash that Kreator tried to attain on Terrible Certainty, Sodom retained a measure of brutality and forcefulness. One thing that helped this was the fact that Tom Angelripper's vocals are still evil and harsh, rather than going weak as Mille had done. The music is still intense, particularly around the middle, and the lead solos are a nice touch. Another important factor is that the atmosphere is still dark.

"Electrocution" utilizes blast beats, bestial vocals and barbaric riffs that bludgeon you and pound your skull to dust. Already, by the second track, it is clear that Sodom has improved upon what Slayer attempted to do with their third full-length. This one is rather straightforward and includes brief solos that add to the hellish feeling.

The next song is a cover of Motörhead's "Iron Fist", which fits in with the rest of the material, perfectly. The chorus is not as dark, of course, but that is the only real difference. Fast, intense and well-executed, this track suits the album well.

"Persecution Mania" starts out with a riff that sounds more oriented toward Death Metal, before launching into the Thrash assault. The riffs are tight and precise, lacking any of the sloppiness found on the previous L.P. As the song continues, more Death Metal riffs are utilized and the blast beats help the overall atmosphere to resemble that of Death's Scream Bloody Gore. The lead solos are longer than many others on here, accentuating the evil feeling. The morbid whispers, at the end of the song, only further this dark vibe.

Bursting from the depths of Hell, "Enchanted Land" rushes forth in a manner reminiscent of early Slayer. After a minute or so, the speed decreases as mid-paced riffs are introduced. Still, the sinister aura is ever-present, with another blistering solo to help rip the flesh right off of your bones.

"Procession to Golgatha" is a mid-paced instrumental track with a very eerie and doom-ridden atmosphere. This song adds yet another layer of darkness to the album and Blackfire's solo-work kills anything that Jeff Hanneman or Kerry King did after 1985.

"Christ Passion" starts out with a filthy thrash riff, before transitioning to something almost reminiscent of the NWOBHM movement. This type of galloping riff is completely unexpected, yet fits in so well that one does not even think to question it. The next riff is faster and more intense, with the drums pounding a hole right through your chest. As the longest track on the album, this one seems to be the most epic and to feature the most complex arrangement. This one song displays good examples of all of the sort of techniques that are employed throughout this record, even including more mid-paced thrash riffs. The lead solo shows a lot of thought and skill, sounding a bit older than 1987.

A brief drum solo introduces "Conjuration", which allows the bass to breathe a bit more and is kind of reminiscent of Motörhead. The influence is pretty clear, as this fat-paced song storms the battlefield and hacks apart all those who oppose. One of the guitar solos has a different tone, which actually sounds interesting, though not as sharp.

"Bombenhagel" brings the album to its conclusion, with a mixture of high-speed and more traditional riffs. It is the most average track on the record and even this is far superior to what many other bands were doing at the time. The final moments see a transition to the German national anthem, which is a bit strange.

Persecution Mania is a great Thrash Metal album and comes highly recommended. Sodom manages to clean their sound up a bit, while still possessing a dark and evil feeling. This is something that was lost on the likes of Slayer, Kreator and Possessed. Unfortunately, even the mightiest of Teutonic Thrash bands would go on to lose their focus and never matched this achievement. There is no excuse for any Metalhead to not own this album. If your collection is lacking this classic, go ahead and kill yourself.