Album Review: Sodom – 40 Years At War – The Greatest Hell of Sodom

Album Review: Sodom - Genesis XIX

Album Review: Sodom - 40 Years At War - The Greatest Hell of Sodom
Reviewed by Gareth Pugh

Sodom 2022, to quote a friend, are in a good place. 40 Years is a long time in anyone’s book, especially to be a top of the food chain thrash band that has never strayed from the path and at this moment in time Sodom seem as hungry and focused now as they ever were.

Since becoming a four piece, the band has been as prolific as they ever have been with a splendid new full length album ‘Genesis XIX’, a plethora of EPs, and now in their 40th anniversary year, comes a rather special release: ‘40 Years at War – The Greatest Hell of Sodom’. The latest release sees the band release an album of re-recorded tunes, in fact, one song from each of their landmark releases, 17 in total, and in the majority of choices they haven’t gone for the obvious selection either.

The first thing that you notice is the striking cover art, from man of the moment Eliran Kantor (Kreator, Testament, Helloween, Havok, My Dying Bride, to name but a few) which has band mascot ‘Knarrenheinz’ in close combat with the ‘Red Hooded Executioner’ from the 1985 ‘In the Sign of Evil’ EP. It is a stunning piece that is also a great nod to both present and past, notice that it’s the same sword the Executioner was holding as well, on the original ‘In the Sign of Evil’ cover art.

Onto the music, and ‘Sepulchral Voice’ rumbles out of the gates with a squeal of feedback and slow power chords from hell, before chugging off to oblivion, the production for this album very much follows the same formula as the latest ‘Genesis XIX’ album, everything done the old school way, with analogue miked amps and no digital processing, this gives the songs a real ‘live’ almost feral feel, yet there’s a definition and a real depth that gives the whole sound an extra heft, really wonderful stuff, this is how gnarled Teutonic thrash should sound like, and perhaps other legendary German thrash royalty should look to this in future! This production really gives the older material, like ‘After the Deluge’ and ‘Electrocution’ a new lease of life, and the material sounds like it was written yesterday and not 35-40 years ago.

Album Review: Sodom – 40 Years At War – The Greatest Hell of Sodom

The band has sensibly done the track listing chronologically so you can see the development the songwriting has made over the years, and each track fits in flawlessly into the running order. The ‘Agent Orange’, ‘Better Off Dead’ and ‘Tapping the Vein’ album’s songs (‘Baptism of Fire’, ‘Better off Dead’ and ‘Body Parts’ respectively) all sounded pretty good when they were originally released, but here they sound even heavier, with super tight performances from the guys.

My two least favourite Sodom albums, but ironically Tom’s favourites, ‘Get What You Deserve’ and ‘Masquerade in Blood’ were at the time of release, some of the heaviest sounding Sodom albums of the nineties due to the raw, stripped back and bass dominant recording. Ironically these tracks don’t sound quite as heavy here, but that doesn’t mean to say they don’t sound better though, because they definitely do and what they lack in sheer heaviness they more than make up for in pure power due to the clarity of the new sound.

Arguably the re-recording of anything post 2000 is a bit of a redundant exercise as the production on those albums were universally very good, the exception of course being ‘Ashes to Ashes’ from ‘The Final Sign of Evil’ release (which was a re-recording of the ‘The Sign of Evil’ EP, with additional tracks, by the original line-up in 2006, emulating the recording of the time), but it’s certainly interesting to hear these more modern songs back to back with a consistent sound from the ‘new’ four-piece line-up, which for the everyone but obviously Tom (and Frank on a few tracks) this will be the first time recording them in the studio, so there is an energy to this release, that is sometimes missing in some re-recordings.

As usual this is available in a multitude of formats, digital, CD, double vinyl (white, blue, red & cristallo black), as well as the boxset, which includes the digipak CD, an exclusive coloured vinyl (blue in clear), cassette (why has this format made a comeback?) including an exclusive bonus track ‘Equinox’, 4 track bonus CD (with new track 1982, and 4 re-recorded demo tracks), 2 posters, a sticker, a hand signed photo card (sighed by all band members) and most excitingly a hardcover 72 page book with an introduction by Tom about their origins back in 1982. Also, each has its own double page spread, depicting its original artwork and production information. Also, the band has reached out to fans over the last 12 months, asking for stories and recollections of the different album tours. So overall, a very nice package, and options suitable for all budgets.

Of the 4-track bonus CD, first up is a new track ‘1982’ and it is a blackened thrasher with a fairly laid-back intro that builds to a bluesy solo around the 2 min mark before picking up the pace and really going full tilt to the finish, a cool track, and it’s a bit of shame it’s only available in the boxset. The other 3 tracks are taken from the first two demos, ‘Witching Metal’ is from the first ’83 demo of the same name, while ‘Victims of Death’ and ‘Let's Fight in The Darkness of Hell’ are from the second demo ‘Victims of Death’ from 1994. All 3 tracks sound fantastic, the arrangements, guitar tunings, lyrics, etc. remain the same as the originals, but they sound so much heavier and more effective, with the new production.

Overall, this is a very comprehensive anniversary release, for the real die-hard fans the boxset is a very nice collectors’ package, and the normal vinyl and CD options, work well as an introductory ‘greatest hits’ type release for new fans. My only slight qualm is on the standard option, there isn’t any ‘new’ material, as such, could ‘1982’ have concluded the standard release, instead of being a bonus? Well maybe, but on the whole that’s a minor quibble, and the bottom line is that this is a great anniversary celebration from a thrash institution, and here’s to many more years to come.

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