Where there’s smoke, there’s Blackfire!
When it comes to the most vicious end of the thrash metal spectrum, few can claim to have blazed the trail for the style’s unholy union with the blackened aesthetic as impressively as Germany’s own Sodom did back in the mid to late 80s. Spearheaded by the particularly vile and forbidding harshness of vocalist Tom “Angelripper” Such, who’s distorted and punchy bass work also made him a sort of Lemmy-like figure within the Teutonic thrash scene, this one-time power trio set a truly dark precedent with their 1986 debut outing “Obsessed By Cruelty”. However, it would not be until the following year when their sound would truly germinate into the mad thrashing beast that would solidify their status as kings of the German scene alongside Kreator and Destruction, largely due to the stellar riff work and virtuoso stylings of newly acquired axe-man Frank “Blackfire” Gosdzik. With his re-entry into the fold in 2018, nearly 3 decades after his departure, it would be an understatement to say that expectations for their next studio offering would be extremely high.
To put it mildly, 2020’s “Genesis XIX”, the 16th LP to come flying out of the chamber of Sodom’s trusty rifle, is a full shot of late 80s extreme thrashing nostalgia wrapped with a modern production bow. It listens like a summation of all the stylistic elements that brought the “Expurse Of Sodomy” EP, “Persecution Mania” and “Agent Orange” out of the deep abyss of this band’s creative arsenal and into existence. Of those three seminal offerings that culminated in Blackfire’s original tenure with the band, this new installment most closely resembles the heavier and more developed character of “Agent Orange”, adorned with some occasional moments of the groovier material that developed in subsequent years, but mostly driving at full speed into enemy territory. Perhaps the only substantial point of contrast is that this time around Angelripper has opted to wage war against the aligned spines of the masses via a four-piece with scene newcomer Yorck Segatz also manning the guitar and recent pickup Toni Merkel (who also destroyed the kit a few years back on Blackfire’s solo album) on drums.
Though largely an exercise in no nonsense, straight to the jugular thrashing, this album takes on a notably methodical approach to how it unfolds. Functioning as a sort of warm up session/prelude to coming horror, the mid-paced simplicity of “Blind Superstition” definitely does a solid job of setting a mood for the emerging storm of darkened rage. Immediately nipping at its heels is the first taste of that high octane, riff happy goodness that made the late 80s version of this band so riveting in “Sodom & Gomorrah”, listening like the vile offspring of “Nuclear Winter” and “Agent Orange” respectively. Angelripper’s vocal assault is notably more forbidding and dynamic relative to his former self, which shines through even more so on the follow up crusher “Euthanasia”, which amps the tempo up even more and sees the shred machine commence at just after the 2 minute mark, merging together the chaotic tonality of Kerry King and the technical excellence of Alex Skolnick into a spellbinding guitar solo display that recalls the glory days and also builds on them.
As things play out further, it becomes pretty clear that the primary development in this lineup’s approach relative to the late 80s is a more complex presentation, both in terms of guitar chops as well as overall songwriting. Though generally things wind up in the same high speed on just about every song, longer offerings such as the title anthem “Genesis XIX” takes their time getting there, emerging from a heap of feedback noise and settling into a slow-coasting, doom-like theme comparable to Slayer’s “South Of Heaven” before kicking things into gear. The similarly longer and elaborate “The Harpooneer” takes it a step further and allots for a bass intro that morphs into a full on nod to old school Black Sabbath before things really start to cook, and even then the melodic contours of the guitars hint at a lingering doom character at times. Most of what rounds out the rest of the album tends to accomplish a similarly elaborate mixture of elements, with “Dehumanized” and the comically titled “Waldo & Pigpen” being the standouts, though straightforward cruisers like “Glock ‘N’ Roll” also make a hell of a racket.
While this might not quite reach the same level of iconic status that “Persecution Mania” and “Agent Orange” have come to enjoy, this is about as close as Sodom has ever gotten to recreating the same magic that birthed those undisputed classics. One area where this album does manage to surpass its predecessors is in the execution of the guitar work, as the full on metallic assault of Segatz proves a highly effective foil to Blackfire’s more nuanced blend of metallic shred with an array of older rock and blues elements, functioning as the Mustaine to Blackfire’s Poland/Friedman. With Destruction likewise taking on the four-piece approach to thrash metal in recent years, one could say that the day of the power trio is now largely dead in Teutonic thrash metal circles, but it’s a loss that most of the metal world can live with given what has arisen in its place. Those seeking thrash metal of the highest order, blending musical excellence with all the auditory violence that one expects from the likes of Sodom, will definitely not be disappointed.
Released by: Steamhammer / Entertainment One (eOne)
Released Date: November 27th, 2020
Genre: Thrash / Speed Metal
- Tom Angelripper / Bass, vocals
- Frank Blackfire / Guitars
- Yorck Segatz / Guitars
- Toni Merkel / drums
“Genesis XIX” track listing:
- Blind Superstition (1:02)
- Sodom & Gomorrah (4:06)
- Euthanasia (3:54)
- Genesis XIX (7:09)
- Nicht Mehr Mein Land (4:29)
- Glock N’ Roll (5:02)
- The Harponeer (7:10)
- Dehumanized (3:53)
- Occult Perpetrator (4:53)
- Waldo & Pigpen (6:26)
- Indoctrination (3:10)
- Friendly Fire (3:36)
Reaching back into the seminal period of their ascent into greatness, this formerly blackened member of the Teutonic Trio returns with a vengeance and a familiar face to bring in the thrashing brutality with a tall order of nostalgia