As a fan of Sodom since my early teens, I’ve developed a certain comfort level with their steadfast refusal to evolve or progress beyond the basic template of 80s Germanic thrash they helped establish along with Kreator and Destruction. There were always plenty of other bands I could count on to surprise me or throw me for a loop musically, I certainly didn’t need Sodom changing their caveman ways. Of course, when a band releases album after album of essentially the same old school thrash mixed with punk, you can expect some degree of tedium and recycling and I’m never going to bang on these cats for a lack of originality. However, when one of their typically Sodom-esque albums is bad, it’s bad. Epitome of Torture is such an album and the title is a great example of truth in advertising, since this is a pretty torturous listen. It’s a stark drop off from 2010’s In War and Pieces and it’s loaded with bland, monotonous thrash lacking the usual Sodom charm and energy. It’s also far less musically accomplished and way less diverse than In War. It’s still Sodom through and through, from the song structures to the familiar shouts of Tom Angelripper, it’s just an uninspired outing. While I’m not about to adopt Mr. Fistings now infamous “2.0 for all re-thrash” stamp of disapproval policy, I’m afraid I arrive at a similar result here and I don’t like it one bit.
Basically, there are some decent, if not actually good tracks here, like opener “My Final Bullet,” which is angry, urgent and respectably memorable. It’s not destined for the pantheon of Classic Sodom songs, but it’s tolerable. ” I like the title track a little bit, but I suspect that’s because the lead riff reminds me of old Nasty Savage material and it’s funny to hear Tom badly mispronounce “epitome.” “Stigmatized” is decent and made better when Tom adopts death vocals a lot like Max Cavalera’s on Beneath the Remains. I suppose the best in show is “Into the Skies of Death” which sounds like a mix of Sodom and Tank. It’s slower and more rock-based, but it has a certain appeal.
While none of the above are screaming for playlist immortality, things get worse from there. “S.O.D.O.M.” is saddled with a ridiculous “Sesame Street spell along” chorus that ruins it completely. Other tracks like “Cannibal” and “Shoot Today, Kill Tomorrow” are generic and flat, lacking any really memorable traits. “Invoking the Demons” almost rises above dull, but can’t quite make it, while others like “Tracing the Victim” barely register at all.
Though I knew I was listening to the mighty Sodom, this could have come from any of the re-thrash bands currently flooding the market. It doesn’t have any special, signature features beyond Tom’s raspy bellow, which sounds as angry as ever. Guitarist Bernemann seems unusually restrained for much of Epitome and his fluid solos are more rare and less developed than before. That’s a shame, since his playing really elevated the material on albums like In War and Pieces. New drummer Makka (ex-Despair) is fine and thumps the kit with appropriate amounts of violence, but doesn’t particularly stand out. Overall, Epitome suffers from many of the same ills as the last Destruction opus. It feels rushed, undercooked and devoid of catchy, memorable thrash anthems.
Since Sodom is such an enduring commodity in the metal world, I don’t get my boxers in a bunch over the occasional off album. Still, it’s disconcerting to see both them and Destruction hit the skids around the same time. Let’s all raise a big beer to these titans of Germanic thrash and wish them a quick recovery from whatever malaise has afflicted them of late. I’m sure Uncle Tom and company will be back for the attack before too long with agent orange in their veins and saws in their hands.