The Relevance of Obsessed by Cruelty

Article by Hereweald Cola Algar

It is not secret that old Sodom is well-respected around this part, if not at least thoroughly enjoyed, despite the precipitous downfall that the band suffered after the eighties towards an apparently never-stopping race to the lowest possible level. The reason for this attention, this admiration, for an obviously caveman affair like Sodom is that despite its used of underdeveloped riffs and its reliance on harsh rhythmic hooks, the same limitation forced the band to look for ways in which an enveloping darkness could be expressed.  The result, at the band’s highest point (arguably at Obsessed by Cruelty), are proto-labyrinthic songs that return to strong riffs, and so do not loose either drive or become lost in an overly complicated search for more material to cram.

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.

12 thoughts on “The Relevance of Obsessed by Cruelty

  1. Rainer Weikusat says:

    There’s a reason why this sounds like Kreator: The guy who played guitar here is also featured on Pleasure to Kill. Wikipedia doesn’t seem to know that but he’s certainly pictured on the album (“Wulf”) and his style is quite distinctive(ly awful). I used to like Obsessed by Cruelty in the past, especially Deathlike Silence and Nuctemeron, but it’s nevertheless the one Sodom album I (still) own I haven’t ever listened to completely since I got it (again).

    You should really look at In the Sign of Evil instead.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      “Hail Christ!”
      Retail cries,
      Outbreak of christmas.

    2. So which Sodom albums are you giving the full rotation then?

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        I’m not MTV.

        I’ve listened to Persecution Mania a lot but by now, I know that backwards (eventually, all music becomes stale). Since discovering metal which doesn’t follow a traditional (verse – chorus – verse) song structure, my interest in “traditional song structured” music has dropped to zero (for now at least). Still, this (and Extreme Aggression) is probably as good as German 1980s thrash will get[*]. Agent Orange is basically a pretty lame attempt to remake Persecution Mania. The sequel (Better Off Dead) is a bit of an odd album (among other things, it includes a Tank and a Thin Liyzzy cover). People who like hard rock and bay area thrash should like this, too. I don’t know any of the later ones (and don’t care about knowing them).

        Obsessed by Cruelty is the band temporarily dropping back to “amateur basement combo” level while holding on to a record contract. Which leaves In the Sign of Evil, the only one I’m still regularly listening to. If you can be bothered with such details, you’d – for instance – note that there are striking similarities between the Witchhunter and Hellhammer drumming styles (the latter seems to be a technically more adept musician, though). The guitar style also tends to show up in unexpected places, eg, this year’s Lestrygonas demo (Mighty Kingdom of Darkness).

        [*] The final track, Bombenhagel, caused a massive controversy when it was new, because it contains a guitar solo based on melody of the German national anthem in the third part. That was enough for being accused of “Nazi!” in 1980s Germany.

      2. Jim Necroslaughter says:

        In the Sign of Evil is one of a kind. Something about the acoustics and other idiosyncratic/anomalous sound effects really creates a noumenal effect. It’s not merely music, it’s something that lives and grows.

  2. Hagel says:

    Proof read your articles three times

    1. Hagel says:

      Comments can be un proof read however and may be of comparatively low effort

  3. Mister Syre says:

    For me Sodom really became interesting with Persecution Mania. The early stuff was interesting but nowhere as influential.

  4. Ok so the new Pestilence isn’t very good. It almost has the same failings as the new Morbid Angel, except they clearly put some work into the sheer amount of riffs and shit. At least it isn’t another technical death metal album I guess, but Testimony of the Ancients still exists. SO MY QUESTIONS IS: ARE THEY PANDERING OR IS THE THROWBACK ARTISTICALLY VALID? CAN A THROWBACK EVER BE ARTISTICALLY VALID? CAN PESTILENCE EVER BE ARTISTICALLY VALID AGAIN? IS THIS ALBUM EVEN ALL THAT BAD EVEN THOUGH IT CLEARLY AINT GREAT? ALSO, HOW ABOUT THAT NEW COVER ART LOL

    heres the full album for reference lol

  5. Bill Hopkins says:

    Persecution Mania is how i like my sodomy

  6. Sheriff with Shotgun says:

    Sodom always reminds me of Christmas thank You for this timely article.

  7. Trodden Boner says:

    Did you honestly believe we would forgive your use of ‘loose’?

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