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Sodom - Persecution Mania
Review: Representing the confused mixture of styles that was metal in the 1980s, the most advanced record from Sodom combines speed metal, heavy metal and nascent death/black, but never manages to fully anchor itself in any one direction, despite producing the genre-definitive songs "Nuclear Winter" and "Persecution Mania." Tremolo strumming in the death metal style is enmeshed in the chorus-indicative cadences of speed metal, and the bouncing recursive riffing of heavy metal defines verses, but where this album shows promise is in its escape from strict verse-chorus structure into designs that use extensive introductory material and thematic bridges between associated motifs that, sestinatically, diverge into returns of the major divisions of song. At moments it seems like the band is going to abandon their chanted lyrics and bouncing denouements entirely, but it is as if a spirit rising above the morass of rock music gets re-infested with it like a cancer, perhaps only so that we can tap our feet to the music.
In addition to structural inventions that survive in the genetic lineage of death and black metal, Sodom contributed several important ideas: ambient drumming, which rarely ends phrases with fills but continues often across riff changes at the same tempo, allowing the artist more flexibility in composing lead rhythm playing as one might in a classical piece, in the narrative style; serial drumming, where tempo does not change but texture does, creating a displacement that can complement a thematic change in riff; use of chord voicings beyond the standard power chord in sequential alternation, using harmony as a contextual and melodic device simultaneously; change in texture between different speeds of tremolo strum, muted picking and open chording, giving more emphasis to phrase and less to rhythm and harmonic synchronization of riff. All of these were essential contributions that have since been expanded upon to flesh out the language of underground metal, and if you listen here between jubilantly syncopated choruses and warmed-over heavy metal riffs, they are used to great effect, in the advantage of retrospect eclipsing the formula-proven elements of this album. This can be seen in a small degree on the cover of "Iron Fist" which outdoes the Motorhead original in precision and impact.
Finishing with stripped down and re-arranged versions of older songs, "Persecution Mania" is on the whole mid-paced and often lukewarm owing to its lack of clear vision, both aesthetically and musically, yet can be a fertile ground of study for those who are curious as to the prototypical state of death and black metal. Its highlights, the two tracks mentioned above, are essential study for any musician wishing to explore this field, and the album as a whole has aged better than other Sodom releases, but its state of incompleteness - halfway to a new vision its authors clearly are unwilling to adopt, and reliance on older forms they can only partially stomach, producing anomie of musical development - makes it at best an occasional listen.