Throughout the long life of Thrash Metal, particularly in the German scene, SODOM has always been a band that varied in their sounds and musical focus. They never went to the extremes of experimentation that KREATOR or DESTRUCTION did, but each release has its own signature sound and personal stamp. It's a quality that has always made SODOM fun to listen to even if the overall quality has been hit or miss.
So going in to their latest album "Epitome Of Torture", I was not sure what to expect exactly. Their previous record was something of a varied effort in focus and this fourteenth album in their long discography continues with that ideology of diversity. Although the record is definitely more cohesive overall in its style, the band does love to play around with some different aspects of their music here - most notably the melodic element that threads it way through the entire release.
Before y’all take to the streets in riot over SODOM going soft with melody, know that “Epitome Of Torture” is still quite distinctly SODOM. The Punky vibes that undercut the harsh Thrash foundations are still front and center here (with those Punk shades really bubbling to the surface at times) and checking out instant classics like “S.O.D.O.M.” or “Shoot Today - Kill Tomorrow” will alleviate any larger issues you might have. Tom Angelripper isn’t about to do anything too drastic with this band and his rasping roaring vocals will cement that right back in place.
What did change however, is some of the detailing that SODOM injects into this varied style. “My Final Bullet” starts off the album with this slight experimentation in effect, blending a bit of Groove riffing, Thrashy energy, and a hint of melodic guitar work (and some in Angelripper’s voice on the chorus) that made that track instantly memorable and quite catchy with its hooks. Had the rest of “Epitome Of Torture” been this strong with the experimentation, this album might have ranked up there with SODOM’s best.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album leaves a bit of a stale aftertaste. The last half of the album really piles on those Punkish drum patterns and melodies with rather formulaic intent. At times it works like on “Into The Skies Of War” which might have made the cut on their brilliant record “M-16” and “Stigmatized” which might have come right off of “Tapping The Vein” with its almost Death Metal like ferocity, but the rest falls a bit short and left me sort of ‘meh’ towards the whole thing. A feeling I’m definitely not used to when listening to a SODOM record in the last few years.
If you call yourself a SODOM fan, then this album is easy to sell. Down at its core “Epitome Of Torture” is still the SODOM we have come to love and mosh to, but with the relative success in deviation that “In War And Pieces” reached or the modern career highlighting self-titled effort it’s hard not to feel the disappointment here. It’s still a decent record and it may grow with me throughout the year, but at this point in time I would say it’s probably the weakest effort in 15 years (if you choose to just overlook the re-recorded effort like me). It’s unique with Punk energy, melody, and diversity, but not all that memorable.
(Online April 11, 2013)