Seems like about 90% of the reviews for any Sodom album released in the past two decades or so have been cut from a similar cloth: “Old-school thrashers remain remarkably consistent,” “Sodom sounds like Sodom,” “business as usual for the Teutonic titans,” “you know what you’re getting,” and so on. And, for the most part, those were all accurate.
Tom Angelripper must’ve felt similarly, because he infamously fired the entire band (all two of them) via messaging app back in 2018. Fans were surprised, but calmed by the subsequent rehiring of classic-era guitarist Frank Blackfire and the addition of Desaster / Asphyx drummer Husky. Beyond that, Tom brought second guitarist Yorck Segatz into the mix, and thus, Sodom became a four-piece for the first time in their four-decade history.
This half-old / half-new line-up proffered a pair of EPs by way of introduction, 2018’s Partisan and 2019’s Out Of The Frontline Trench. (The print-exclusive collection of odds and ends that is / was Chosen By The Grace Of God doesn’t quite count, with its sole new offering, “Down On Your Knees,” also appearing on Trench.) Both of those EPs showed this expanded version of Sodom firing on all cylinders in a way they both had and hadn’t in awhile; they were (are) still operating on the same war-ravaged battlefields, but now, they were doing so with an increased and re-energized savagery. Sometimes a little fresh blood is all you need…
Now here we are with the band’s sixteenth record, and the first full-length they’ve ever recorded as a quartet, though in the interim between Trench and now, Husky stepped aside amicably to be replaced by new drummer Toni Merkel. Stylistically and thematically, like the EPs before it, Genesis XIX is a Sodom record, so a large part of those descriptors I listed in the first paragraph still apply: Sodom sounds like Sodom; you should know what you’re getting here… but if you’ve been keeping up, then you should be just a little bit more excited than before.
Rolling out of the gate with the brief introductory “Blind Superstition,” Genesis XIX hits full stride early with “Sodom & Gomorrah,” and it’s evident from the start that Sodom c. 2020 did not come to screw around. That track rips and rages in the perfect Sodom way, a galloping and pounding drumbeat, speed-soaked raw riffage, and Angelripper’s curdled snarl, with a short but effective half-time breakdown to shake things up between the two halves of the unrelenting assault. Add that to the blistering “Euthanasia,” to the seven-minute title track (which is positively epic by Sodom standards, both in length and scope), and to the bulldozer drive of “Nicht Mehr Mein Land,” and Genesis XIX kicks things off with some of the best witching metal Sodom has released in three decades. “Glock N’ Roll” overcomes its silly title by sheer thrashing power, and the Moby Dick-inspired “The Harpooner” flirts briefly with a downtempo gait before jumping right back into full roar.
With a warmer, stouter, more analog attack, Genesis XIX sounds both old and new, possessing a modern heft and yet not sounding overly polished. Fans of Sodom’s colder, proto-black sound might find it a little too full, but it shouldn’t turn off the longtime listener, and anyone with an ear for post-millennium thrash should be well pleased. The only real criticism with Genesis XIX is that, at just shy of an hour, it’s a bit overlong for this type of thrashing, and some later entries like “Dehumanized” or the punkish “Indoctrination” could probably have been held back for a future EP. Still, that’s not much of a complaint, the whole “too much of a good thing” issue, and I have a sneaking suspicion that late-album tracks that seem a bit lesser now will rise up in later revisitations and prove themselves to be sleeper standouts.
Now forty years into their career, Sodom does what Sodom does — that much is and apparently will always be true, and thank whichever god you believe in (and maybe any that you don’t believe in) for that consistent quality. Still, fresh blood tends to make a big difference, and here’s further proof: Even as Genesis XIX isn’t much of a deviation from the established blueprint of Sodom-styled witching metal, it’s the best record they’ve done since their golden era, and a damned fun thrasher to get the blood boiling and the heads banging.
The spark has returned; the fires have been stoked higher. Long may they burn.