Only a year after the release of the Thrash Metal classic “Agent Orange”, SODOM is back with another release called “Better Off Dead”. The band has always had a quick turn around time for their albums so it’s not unusual to see one this quickly, but it is unusual to hear the band taking a new direction with their music and moving away from the harsh and aggressive Thrash Metal style they had on their previous album.
But don’t worry out there Thrash fans, “Better Off Dead” doesn’t go pop or anything of the like – SODOM is still very much Thrashing their way through the songs on their fourth release. This time there is some changes to the process though. And quite frankly, it may not be the best SODOM release out there, but it’s still quite good.
It is interesting that the band has now decided to put more of a focus on the structuring and tempo work with songs. Instead of the focused chaos of their last two albums this album definitely has a groove and purpose to most of the instrumental work. Possibly it has to do with the band pulling influence from older bands (as shown in the two covers chosen for the album, TANK and THIN LIZZY). Songs like “Resurrection” and the opening to “Bloodtrails” have more of a straight forward Heavy Metal feel than Thrash per say, but then tracks like “An Eye For An Eye” or “Tarred And Feathered” bring back the Thrash.
One could also assume that the changing of the style would be attributed to the addition of Michael Hoffman on guitars for the album. Replacing Frank Blackfire isn’t an easy task and possibly to avoid the comparisons the band decided to use guitars a little differently on this release. It works for the most part too – as their styles of playing vary enough to prevent such criticisms or hold them to an extent.
Overall, “Better Off Dead” is still SODOM at the heart of the music – and of course Tom Angelripper’s snarling vocals are going to remind you of that (even if they sound a bit hollow on this release). But the new song writing attempts and focus on have a heavier guitar tone make this album separate from the rest of their catalog. It’s still a decent album as a whole but nothing stunning like their last two albums. Had this album been a tad more memorable in the end it would have helped but then again, that’s why it’s called ‘experimenting’.
Songs to check out: “An Eye For An Eye”, “The Saw Is The Law”, “Bloodtrails”.
(Online September 14, 2008)