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Decision Day

Steamhammer / SPV (2016)
Rating: 8.5/10

Bands such as Sodom, Kreator and Destruction have become old friends to those of us who grew up in the 80s. Tried and very much trusted they have belligerently stood by our sides as numerous trends and fads have come and gone, and while they rarely rekindle older sparks with newer material, we remain forever faithful to their cause.

When I heard that Sodom’s latest slab of Teutonic metal was to be their most volatile, I was a little dubious. That’s not to say that Sodom and their brethren have let us down over the years, but they have, over the last decade or so, had a tendency to become a tad generic in their assaults. However, with Decision Day there is certainly a spark that may have been absent from a handful of previous antics. But having said that, I can only take my hat off to these German stalwarts who have done their best over the decades to not abide by rules, and while implementing melody they’ve still maintained that stubborn thrash edge which has enabled them to maintain their stay in the thrash league while other so-called “big four” bands and the likes have faded away.

Decision Day is, however, Sodom’s best album for some time. Although I was a big fan of previous clunking chunks – particularly 2013’s Epitome Of Torture – there were still moments of shining fury that didn’t quite sit right with me. But from the off this latest affair is keen to deliver its message by way of some extremely heavy and foreboding snaps.

With the current crop of thrash bands and their records we’re always talking about a harkening back to old school territory, although nigh on every band is simply not capable of such nostalgic class, but with Decision Day there’s a real menace and prowess from Tom Angelripper and company.

One can still expect some killer melodies hidden within, and this is evident from the superb ‘Rolling Thunder’ which comes complete with many layers – splashes of subtlety combined with the sinister. But it’s the opening ‘In Retribution’ which hurts the most and remains my favourite cut on the opus. Fizzing guitars scorch the ears as the trio runs rampant into a full-on metal fury taking us right back to the pits of the 80s. Tom’s vicious snarls are as fresh as they’ve ever been; mocking and arrogant, the track is a pummelling blackened thrash outburst of the highest order as it builds to its doomy chorus.

Of course, with such a searing start there’s always that worry that the band may be fobbing us off and revert back to a more generic and lighter approach, but thankfully that never comes. The title track hammers along like Accept on steroids, made all the more formidable by Markus “Makka” Freiwald’s fearsome drum thuds. Meanwhile, the ominous ‘Caligula’, while typically Germanic in its cold, steely construction, is just so fearsome from its throbbing chants and scintillating leads from Bernemann that one just cannot argue with this persistent tank of thrash metal.

Sodom is still able to marry hints of Gothic melody with traditional metal sprints, while clambering at punky ethics to collide with the expected thrash expressions. ‘Who Is God?’ is another of those maniacal thrash pukes that hurtles to the finish line leaving the listener out of breath and aghast in horror; Sodom seeming at their cosiest while hammering thick and fast like an out of control juggernaut.

‘Strange Lost World’ is a tad disappointing; the band reverting back to a melodic and rather generic Teutonic trudge which seems to lack the sharpness and nastiness. But one cannot argue with some of the shred work on offer amidst the battering bass and drum march.

Tom Angelripper is still gruelling and venomous in vocal tone, but I’m always seeking another nasty bout of acidic metal to kick me in the ribs and this lurking horror waits just around the corner with the fetid ‘Vaginal Born Evil’, while ‘Belligerence’ is very much Slayer-like as it creeps with ominous prowess before hurling itself into full-blown annihilation. Hell, Angelripper even opts for a Tom Araya-style menace at times in vocal tone.

Other gems are ‘Refused To Die’, which injects some intriguing Gothic atmospherics and some of Angelripper’s best vocal sneers, while ‘Predatory Instinct’ (a bonus track on the vinyl and iTunes versions) is another war-torn hammer blow; fast, furious and proof that Sodom are not willing to let the flags of thrash fall.

With Decision Day there was always going to be that air of familiarity; after all, we never expected Sodom to become a progressive funk-rock electro band. But where Slayer keeps on faltering, Sodom do not. They feel no need to replicate the past, but instead tear up the rule book and do what they do best, and that’s crack the skulls of those who are critical while giving their hardcore fans another thrash blast with hints to the past, remaining on course to obliterate the present and the future.

Neil Arnold

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