Of the hallowed Teutonische Thrash triumvirate, it can be argued that Sodom has aged the most gracefully, if only by a slim margin. This dawned on me while listening to album #14 in its entirety for the umpteenth time, yet I wasn’t even able to make it all the way through the last Kreator or Destruction records. I was born just a smidge too late to be an original Sodomaniac, but by the early ’90s I had done my homework, catching up on the band via timeless classics like Obsessed by Cruelty, Persecution Mania, and my all-time favorite, the Expurse of Sodomy EP (“Break their crust…”). Unfortunately I can’t confess to paying much attention to the band’s post-Agent Orange output. Sorry, grandpa, too much shit, not enough time. Now, I’m not going to throw you a line of bullshit about Epitome of Torture being a return to that 1984-1987 form —that just wouldn’t, and shouldn’t, be possible for any Thrash band 32 years into their career— but I’ll be damned if this album doesn’t absolutely sizzle with pedal-to-the-Metal virility and rage. There are basically two types of song here: hard-charging Speed Metal joints and stomping mid-paced Rockers. Newer drummer Makka “keep on rocking in the” Freiwald (once a live skinsman for Rotting Christ) may be somewhat responsible for how relatively vibrant these ten tracks sound, but at the end of the day it’s these choruses (and pre-choruses) that become glued to the brain. Album standouts “My Final Bullet,” “S.O.D.O.M.” (you know a band’s getting a little long in the tooth when they have to spell their name out mid-chorus so they don’t forget), “Stigmatized” (slight “Bombenhagel” feel), and “Into the Skies of War” are instant anthems thanks to the trusty snarl of Tom Angelripper. In his old age, the Aryan Araya’s voice is starting to slightly resemble the late, great Sam Kinison at times. Not a bad thing, just sort of comical. (Speaking of comical, what graphic design terrorist Photoshopped this ridiculously bad cover art?) But no matter how hard it is to keep a straight face through with that in mind, Epitome of Torture is a damn fine effort and a worthwhile addition to their legacy. Not sure how much post-review replay value this has in store for yours truly, but I do know this is as energized and vital as Sodom has sounded in ages.
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