Sound — 8
35 years and 15 albums into their career is a hell of a long time for just about any band out there. Name any band that's been around that long and released that many albums, and ask yourself if their musical output is still worth listening to. You might get a few bands like Rush or King Crimson who have put out consistently excellent records for their lengthy careers, but most will be like Metallica, where the more recent output has been more debated by their fanbase.
Sodom's new album, "Decision Day," shows that the band is not about to start messing with their formula, a mix of thrash metal musicianship with black metal vocals and melodic sensibilities. Straight from the opening track, "In Retribution," you get a feel of what this band is about as they pummel you with breakneck guitar and drums (performed by Bernd "Bernemann" Kost and Markus "Makka" Freiwald, respectively), and Tom Angelripper's vocals and bass playing rips you apart. It's all a pretty big statement, and it's a bit interesting that the band opened their new album with its longest tune, but as a mission statement for the band's sound, it's huge. Throughout the album, the band continues this trend, never letting up or showing an abrupt shift in style. The album is chock full of huge-sounding riffs, Kerry King-esque solos, evil-sounding vocals, pounding drums, but there are also some elements of groove and catchiness throughout that make this an easy album to digest. Tracks like "Rolling Thunder" groove as hard as they slay, while some shades of the band's punk rock influence come through on tracks like the title track and the intro of "Caligula." The playing is quite excellent throughout, as well, with lots of really cool riffs and tasty guitar solos to check out.
There are a few very small complaints I have with the album, though. Most of it comes down to the fact that the band's songs don't really vary in tempo or dynamics, and it does make the album feel a little boring to take in as a whole. There are a couple of moments that differ from the formula on the album, like the more down-tempo "Strange Lost World," and a couple of songs that feature softer sections with acoustic guitars before the solos, but that's about it. And to be honest, I've never really been a fan of the sort of black metal vocal style Angelripper uses. Even though the songwriting is quite formulaic and the band has done very little to change their style over the years, it has actually served them well in the long run, with pretty much every track on this record guaranteed to get you headbanging. The prooduction is done quite nicely, too, with a sort of plain, old-school metal attack. Not too much going on beyond the simple drum/bass/guitar/vocal sound on this record aside from a couple choral vocals in tracks like the closer "Refused to Die" and some very sparingly-used acoustic guitar bits. Just a very meaty-sounding, simple production, which serves this type of music quite well.
Lyrics — 8
Tom Angelripper's lyrics on this record are quite good, focusing mainly on the horrors of war and battle, which is interesting for a metal band, since those topics are usually quite glorified. While many lyrics on this album do contain anti-war themes, it's clear they're not intended to be protest songs or polarizing, politicized words meant to offend, but simply descriptions of the sheer horror of it all, such as these verses from the aptly-titled "Vaginal Born Evil": "Raised up swords/Unleashed force/Ritualized decapitation/Life termination/Hallowed stones/In the hands of gods/To kill by lapidation/Licentious persecution/War spreading through the air/Imprecation/Brutalization/Salvation fall into despair/Violence growing/Through bloodless veins."
The band also tackles religion (in the songs "Caligula," "Who Is God?" and "Strange Lost World," especially) and do actually make one political sort of statement with the song "Blood Lions," which is definitely a reaction to some high-profile cases of hunting endangered species that have made it into the media lately: "The king of the animals/Reduced to a profit machine/Tame like a cub/Victim for a wimp/They spend their lives in cages/Barbaric exploitation/Immoral cruel and outrage/Carnal satisfaction/Million dollar industry/No kill, no fee/Trading skin and bones/Virility purpose/Blood lions."
About the only aspect of the album I'm not really a fan of is Angelripper's vocal style, but that's mostly because I've never really been a fan of black metal-styled vocals, and it's always been one of the things I've struggled with in this band, even though it's quite easy for me to get past it for the lyrics and the great riffs behind it. But if you're a fan of that sort of style of vocal, you'll probably dig this a lot.
Overall Impression — 8
Sodom have kept it simple for this album and given us exactly what we want and nothing that we don't. This album is just eleven tracks of excellent riffs, old-school production, awesome solos, breakneck tempos, and just overall thrashy goodness. The fact that this band can keep up that kind of consistency over their 35-year career is nothing short of amazing, especially considering the quality of a lot of other current bands that have tried to keep up the pace that long. And even though there's absolutely nothing groundbreaking about this record, it's sure to be get you headbanging and throwing up the horns. Their mix of thrash metal and black metal is timeless, and this is a band that's likely going to sound great even another 10 years from now. I can definitely recommend checking this album out.