22 June 2008

Album of the Week: Sodom - In the Sign of Evil (1984)

Before Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum created Black Metal as we know it today, such bands as Bathory and Venom pioneered the sound. Equally influential upon the Norwegian scene was German Thrash Metal outfit Sodom. The first studio effort by Tom Angelripper and company was 1984's In the Sign of Evil, a five-song EP that is highly regarded in extreme Metal circles.

In the Sign of Evil is composed primarily of furious Thrash Metal with a notable infusion of Death Metal and elements of what would eventually become Black Metal--essentially, a mixture of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost riffs and the speedier tempos of Bathory or early Slayer. The result, while certainly not a thing of beauty, is nevertheless a real treat. Sodom's modus operandi on In the Sign of Evil is speed. Save for song intros and the occasional breakdown, Sodom cranks out five tracks of breakneck, undiluted Thrash.

Like any album, however, In the Sign of Evil is not without its drawbacks. For one thing, the drums aren't always as precise as you might want them, and though Tom Angelripper's vocals are suitably evil, the English-as-a-second-language nature of the lyrics have the unfortunate effect of making them seem a little silly. Take the first verse of "Blasphemer," for example:
Black metal is the game I play
'cause no one show me the right way
I am a bloody Antichrist, only believe in bad
Spit at the church, Evil I get
Of course, looking for profound lyrics in Thrash Metal is like looking for an apartment in New York that's both spacious and affordable--you probably aren't going to find what you're looking for. One last problem with In the Sign of Evil is its brevity--the album is a scant 18 minutes long (it is an EP, after all). This problem, however, was remedied on the 1988 re-release, which included Obsessed by Cruelty (Sodom's inaugural full-length album) in its entirety.

Despite its drawbacks, however, In the Sign of Evil is still one of the most significant releases in the developmental history of extreme Metal. It is a worthy purchase for collectors of Metal history, or indeed anyone looking for quality Thrash Metal. Just don't confuse it with 2007's The Final Sign of Evil, which is a modern re-recording of the 1984 original (and with which, naturally, many fans were not pleased).

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