Article by Hereweald Cola Algar
This work by Sodom is comparable to its contemporaries in Kreator. But while the latter produced fairly boxed-in songs that felt limited and to a certain point disconnected, Sodom manages to give a serpentine sensation to song structure. We are seldom given time to breathe, yet the music breathes… and where pauses do occur, they are measured, well-integrated and they enhance the feeling of articulation that is generally missing from the more ‘ripping’ areas that form the meat and bones of the music.
In itself, this feeling of organic flow is certainly quite limited in the end if the same is not used to bring in a layer of substantial content. Without having to look much further, we see that this is precisely the greatest limitation in Sodom’s procedure: it really is simply about a maintained sensation of savagery and attack. While it does that very well, it does not do much more, not even reflections or a more nuanced exploration of the possibly associated psychological and visceral areas of the mind and reality. If abstracted in terms of mechanics tied to effects in aura, in terms of multi-layered effects, the lessons which could be learned from the stone-age methods found here could be applied to an endless number of different characters, textures, relative speeds, and perhaps more. The problem with metal in general is that in its majority, it has always been about either direct appropriation or, in the case of the usual misanthropic metal savant, unconscious mystic osmosis to an essential core, only later to surface completely filtered through the natural impositions of that individual.
It is important to note that while Sodom remain stuck at this point in their careers and later only managed to devolved, slowly but surely, into an almost arena rock brand of speed metal, they did serve as a stepping stone for metal as a whole. Later acts, even if to a limited degree, took a hint from them that metal could move beyond chorus-verse traditional pop structures completely. This not only improved upon them but rather entirely disregarded them in favor of a proto riff salad without its worse aspects. One may ask, however, if the full fledged riff salad- in its more moronic incarnations- was a direct descendant of Sodoms fluent attack stream.
The influence that the early work of Sodom has had over the future tendency of underground metal is significant. Although some may argue that the best bands easily looked beyond this savage attack- looking for a keener sense of atmosphere and directed energy in Bathory’s first two albums- Sodom nevertheless provided a parallel avenue of exploration that need not have remained as limited. While Bathory emphasized pacing and a use of laid-back but firm motifs that are almost invisible in their progression unless faithfully followed in the mind’s eye, Sodom’s more wordy savagery on the brink of becoming a mess had the potential of evolving to the point of becoming series of long, winding riffs. Basically, what was missing from Sodom’s music to take that step without watching the whole of the music crumble down was the incorporation (and thus understanding and application) of musical motifs.
After Sodom, we have seen not only the pathetic trail of imitators that followed in their wake, but also a series of attempts at incorporation the Sodom method into areas which needed heavy work in achieving a proper re-purposing despite the logical progression. One such progression can be seen in many black metal acts that place primacy over aggression and speed. Within this rather disparate group we can find those who at least partially understood the inner spirit of black metal, but also those who were, and still are, simply aping the genre. Among the first group we can find bands that did not seem to be directly claiming influence, or even overtly showing it, but who could be cited to make either references to Sodom or be heard using a type of riff attack and flow characteristic to Sodom. Among the second group, we find the low-IQ black metal often described as “witching”, and which is little more than a retarded counterpart of war metal.
As a definitive work of the band, Obsessed by Cruelty is a work worthy of Hessian ears, as well as the deeper consideration of their minds in terms of the potential lying under the rough contours; the possible usage and styles that could spring if such techniques and impulses were to be funneled towards a filter of unique inner thoughts and significant connection to the natural flow of reality. Sodom is still the underdeveloped template, unlike Bathory, which did indeed provide the basis for what was the best black metal of what we know as the golden era of the genre. The task for the future, that is, for this moment here on out, is to find diverse ways of abstracting different aspects of the Sodom method as found in the present album, so that experimentation and an organic sense of darkness may take an avenue of metal towards realization.