Album of the Week 33-2013: Sodom – M-16

Out of the “great three” of German Thrash Metal, Kreator is probably my favorite. However, the recent albums of Sodom have spoken to me much more than the others did. Kreator’s records, while good, have grown increasingly sterile and Destruction offers too little surprises. Sodom, however, did some of its best work in this last decade in a half. In fact, the lineup with guitarist Bernd ‘Bernemann’ Kost and drummer Bobby Schottkowski – who has sadly since been replaced – surrounding Tom Angelripper is my favorite Sodom lineup so far. And ‘M-16’ is the album Iove just about as much as the classic ‘Agent Orange’.

So where does ‘M-16’ find itself amongst Sodom’s discography? It’s not quite as vicious or an all-out speedfest like ‘Persecution Mania’ or direct predecessor ‘Code Red’, nor is it the dark Venom-inspired sound of the earliest work. The Punk overtones of the ‘Masquerade In Blood’ era have luckily been shed as well. Actually, ‘Agent Orange’ might not be a bad reference point. This is powerful, riff oriented Thrash Metal with enough variation to prevent tired ears. In fact, it’s that variation that makes this incarnation of Sodom such a delight to listen to. The Vietnam concept might add a certain deal of continuity as well.

First off, ‘Among The Weirdcong’ is the best opening track Sodom has ever recorded. The verses have a threatening, creepy quality to them and the chorus appears anticlimactic, but is very much the dangerous climax it’s supposed to be. The riffs, while relatively simple, are very powerful and the song feels very trusted, although it doesn’t quite sound like any Sodom song before or since. What follows varies between vicious uptempo Thrash (‘I Am The War’, ‘Minejumper’) and midtempo stompers (‘Napalm In The Morning’, ‘M-16’), sometimes a little of both (the genius ‘Little Boy’, the closing section being the fastest section on the album).

Maybe it’s also this variation that cures a common symptom of many Metal records. ‘M-16’ isn’t frontloaded with good stuff. In fact, the closing salvo of the vicious ‘Lead Injection’, the more traditional Thrasher ‘Cannon Fodder’ and the dark, epic masterpiece (despite being under four minutes) that is ‘Marines’ contains a couple of the best songs Sodom has ever recorded. Okay, the closing cover ‘Surfin’ Bird’ is a bit silly compared to the serious stuff that’s on the rest of the album but it does fit the Vietnam concept.

Saying that ‘M-16’ is the perfect Sodom album would maybe go a bit too far, but then again, the only true competition for it would be ‘Agent Orange’. ‘M-16’ is as varied as Thrash albums get and its most vicious moments are as violently delightful as Thrash Metal can possibly get. Sodom would successfully discover more experimental territory with the next three albums, but this is the album where they successfully blended their aggressive Thrash roots with an interesting curiosity. And more importantly: it’s a fantastic album.

Recommended tracks: ‘Among The Weirdcong’, ‘Marines’, ‘Little Boy’, ‘Lead Injection’

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