Let’s shoot straight here: If you are even a casual Sodom fan, you probably have a good idea of what Sodom’s latest album, Decision Day, sounds like without even hearing it. Sodom might not be the best of German thrash’s big three — though you are free to argue that point — but there can be little doubt that they have been the most consistent of the group. Sure, like so many other bands, Sodom had it a little rough in nineties, but most of their troubles were line-up related. Whatever musical missteps Sodom made paled in comparison to some of the bullshit Sodom’s peers got up to in the nineties, and since recruiting guitarist Bernemann in ’96, the band has slipped into a groove, churning out mostly solid, albeit predictable records, with regularity. Decision Day does not buck that trend in any substantial way.
I’ll be damned if Sodom doesn’t put its best foot forward, though. “In Retribution” opens Decision Day with such fury that it raises the expectations for what is to follow. Besides some chainsaw-like riffs, one of the main things the track has going for it is speed. Thrash, to state the obvious, is best played fast. I am not saying that thrash metal cannot be successful at slower tempos –– it can, certainly, and Sodom’s own “Remember the Fallen” is one of many examples. However, when you’re an old band short on fresh ideas, speed and intensity can take up some of the slack. It’s hard to fault a band that goes for the throat.
Speaking of throats, Tom Angelripper seems to have a little more fire in his than usual on this outing. In fact, when I heard him bark out the first lines of “In Retribution,” it didn’t sound like Tom to me. Who-the-fuck-else I thought would be singing on a Sodom record, I can’t tell you. It’s not that Tom has started actually singing, rapping, or warbling in falsetto, it’s just that his usual bark seems more expressive on Decision day. At times, the raspiness in Tom’s voice even verges on black metal territory. The old dog hasn’t necessarily learned a new trick, but he’s put a new spin on an old trick, and Decision Day sounds a little more vital for it.
Unfortunately, the rest of the tunes on Decision Day don’t rip quite as hard as the opener, with too many falling into a mid-paced thrash rut. But fast or not, many of these tracks still have some teeth. Chief among them is “Blood Lions,” which, though it falls short of blistering, is a relentlessly battering track that boasts some ferocious grooves that benefit much from drummer Maka’s double bass. Similarly, “Rolling Thunder” manages to churn up some suitably thunderous low-end in its chorus, though it is elsewhere a bit more melodic. With “Caligula”, the band shoots for something a little more tuneful; it boasts some slinky lines from Brenneman and sonorous, choir-like vocal layering in the chorus. Does it work? Kind of. In any case, at least the band is trying something a little different.
At this point, I have to imagine most of the people who buy Sodom albums are already Sodom fans. The band’s chief competition is its own catalog. In that light, Decision Day measures up pretty well against recent work. There is nothing really classic on this record, but the material is as solid as expected, if not a little more. Furthermore, Sodom sounds lively and engaged in the music. The band isn’t just going through the motions, they still sound hungry after all these years. For those reasons, Decision Day is well deserving of a spot in your Sodom collection.