SODOM is widely hailed as being at the forefront of the first wave of Black Metal, accompanied only by the likes of HELLHAMMER, BATHORY, and VENOM. Their tenure within this style was relatively short, as on their first full length they were headed towards something closer to a pure Thrash style, but along with the “Victims Of Death” demo, this little EP is about as good as it gets if your looking for something that really captures the darkened intensity of the early scene. Somewhere between the impish mutterings and rabid dog barks, the constant Speed/Thrash beats and the reverb heavy production, a strange sense of poetry emerges from the darkened ether.
There has been this odd consensus in some quarters that the production on this is lacking, but for this style everything seems pretty well ordered. The guitars have this sort of crisp clarity to them that is pretty heavily comparable to NUCLEAR ASSAULT’s “The Plague”, though they sound a little distant in comparison due to the heavily reverb drenched vocals being extremely prominent. This approach was adopted on just about every major DARKTHRONE release, particularly their lesser acclaimed epic and progressive Death/Thrash debut “Soulside Journey”. The only thing that doesn’t really seem to have a lot of prominence is the bass, which again is typical of this style of Metal.
Each one of these five evil numbers brings something unique to the table, though they all share in common a very morbid atmosphere. “Outbreak Of Evil” is the most Thrash oriented and has a fairly constant flow to it, save the free time intro that sounds like an eviler version of the one at the beginning of METALLICA’s “Hit The Lights”. “Sepulchral Voice” tends towards a sort of bi-polar mix of doom breakdowns and this wicked Speed Metal section that sounds like a twisted, faster and earlier version of an AGENT STEEL riff. This one also features the bass having a little bit more prominence and employs some distorted notes that sort of emulated, on a simpler level, what Cliff Burton brought to METALLICA.
As things progress from here, the sounds get even more twisted and strange. “Blasphemer” gets extremely close to that same profane display of perpetually fast drumming and obscured speed riffing that was regularly employed by BATHORY on their debut. The vocal delivery was also likely a pretty heavy influence on both Dead and Varg, as Angelripper manages to utter some pretty twisted stuff in a really garbled tone. “Witching Metal” goes back towards the proto-Black Thrash formula, but with more of a VENOM flavor to the riffs. It’s more elaborate that the opening track and loaded with some pretty fancy soloing work, which also happens to be just a tiny bit too low in the mix. “Burst Command Til War” sort of preempts the mixing of vocal effects and synthetic sounds with the Black Metal formula, which a lot of Black and Death acts later picked up on. The riff on this one has a similar early Power/Speed feel as the one riff from “Sepulchral Voice”, but the context it’s presented in is so different that you hardly have time to notice.
Though this was probably much more influential on the later Black Metal scene than what most of what came after this was aimed at, every self-respecting Thrash fan should have this in their collection as a historical proof that the Thrash genre can be a lot more versatile then most give it credit for. You don’t see a heck of a lot of bands trying to explore this approach again to see if some new ideas could come out of it nowadays, and it’s a bit of a shame because many of the 2nd wave of Black Metal have either gone defunct or gone in different directions, and the 3rd wave doesn’t sound a thing like this. Nonetheless, along with the HELLHAMMER recordings and the BATHORY debut, this is about as extreme as it gets for the early days of Thrash.
(Online September 17, 2008)