I’ve been prolonging the YMIO article for Sodom‘s debut Obsessed by Cruelty for months now. All year I’ve been trying to come up with the words that would do it justice. What “justice” that may be depends on the listener’s perspective. To these ears, this thirty-year-old debut is one hot mess of an album. But now that Sodom‘s newest release, Decision Day, is upon us, I find the courage to pull Obsessed from the stockades to give it another listen. It may be inspiration, it may be nostalgia, it may be Steel‘s iron grip tightening around my balls. Whatever has come over me, it’s real. Though YMIO articles on Persecution Mania, Agent Orange, and M-16 would be easier, Obsessed is a piece of history. One that deserves my respect.
Within Obsessed there exists a dirtier, harsher, nastier Sodom sound. One that made “Sodom” the appropriate moniker for this blackened, Venomish outfit. It all began in 1984 with the In the Sign of Evil EP. Sodom took that old-school Venom formula and set out to make it more aggressive and much darker. The result was a five-track EP meant to be the band’s full-length debut. It may have a neanderthal production and songs much too long for their own good, but, like Venom before it, In the Sign of Evil had staying power. Tunes like “Blasphemer” and “Burst Command til War” get to me every time I listen to them. And it made a lasting impression on fans at the time, earning them praise as the rawest and darkest of the Germany thrash trio.
And so what should have been Sodom‘s full-length debut came and went. It wasn’t thrash and it wasn’t their best, but it was a great start. After a minor guitar change from Grave Violator to Destructor, 1985 found the trio (rounded out by Tom Angelripper and Witch Hunter) hitting the studio to record their nastiest release to date. The result was a thirty-seven minute, an eleven-track record of the most muddled, incoherent, ill-produced set of songs this side of Norway. The guitars are out of tune, the band is looser than your grandma’s tapioca pudding, and the album’s organization is worse than a best-of release. The sinister album opener gives way to the high gear assault of “Deathlike Silence,” which is representative of the Sodom sound in 1986. And its blackened riffage and Venom-like attitude bleed into the rest of the album. “Brandish the Sceptre” and “Equinox” both use the formula, introducing their own subtle seasonings into the mix. The former chucks in thrashy, mid-song breakdowns and the latter is a drum-filled playground from Angelripper’s lightning-quick rasps. And then tracks like “Proselytism Real” and “Obsessed by Cruelty” step in and attempt to mix things up further. “Proselytism Real” may have the catchiest lick of the album, but it drags its feet with an unsuccessful Autopsy-like crawl. The title track also suffers from a mood-zapping introduction, but it regains its bearings and finishes as one of the best tracks on the album.
If you own the original 1986 European version of the album, you get three things us Americans do not. A different guitarist (Assator), a “better” production, and a twelfth track. “After the Deluge” isn’t a required listen but it is a good addition—rounding out the first half nicely. Though the back half of the album is weaker, the disc would be a dud without “Pretenders of the Throne” and the ball-busting “Witching Hammer.” The latter being a respectable closer if the band hadn’t chosen the annoying “Volcanic Slut” for the job. Yep, I understand that many o’ fan loves this song, but it’s so bad it makes me cringe.
Though the 1987 Expurse of Sodomy EP and Persecution Mania full-length would erase everything Sodom had done up to this point, Obsessed is a beautiful snapshot in time. Sodom would go on to release some of the most popular thrash records of all time, and that’s what makes Obsessed so interesting. Perhaps there is a reason for everything. And I, for one, like to think that Persecution Mania and Agent Orange would have never happened had it not been for Obsessed. I don’t know why I think this, but I fear if I question it, Sodom may re-record it to prove me wrong.