Review of Genesis XIX by Sodom

Band: Sodom
Album: Genesis XIX
Release Date: 27 November 2020
Record Label: eOne
Buy on CD, vinyl or digital: here

Cover of Genesis XIX by Joe Petagno

Cover of Genesis XIX by Joe Petagno

Usually on DCHM we review albums by local bands or those with ties to the area. However COVID has made 2020 a pretty downer year for everyone, including metal album reviewers. When DCHM contributor Vivek’s favorite thrash band, Sodom, was looking for reviewers for the band’s upcoming album I knew he’d be excited at the opportunity to write a review. Several ALL CAPS text messages later he had accepted and the result is this lengthy, in-depth review of Genesis XIX, named after the chapter of the Bible that tells the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you don’t feel like you’re a Sodom expert now, you will by the time you finish reading Vivek’s review below.

In many ways, 2020 will go down as one of the worst years of recent memory. From all of the overwhelming news regarding COVID-19 and elections around the world, there has not been much to look forward to. By now, most people know some of the ways this has affected the music industry from cancelled tours to full-on venue closings. It also has forced bands back into writing mode for records that will be released whenever this pandemic is over. However, some bands have made the decision to release music during the pandemic. Many albums released during the pandemic have brought a much-needed boost of happiness and have provided some bright rays of light to shine through the darkness of 2020. The band whose album will bring the most dazzling and vibrant rays of light to metalheads and thrashers all around the world is none other than the all-mighty Sodom.

Genesis XIX is the album’s title and its only motive is to provide intense, varied, and overwhelming thrash metal. This album shows Sodom are still among the best thrash metal bands active today. The main reason for that stems from how Genesis XIX continues to build on the sounds that made Sodom thrash metal legends. This release also marks Sodom recording a full-length album as a four-piece, the first in their almost 40-year career. The new record will satisfy fans who are anxious about how Genesis XIX holds up to the classic Sodom albums.

Sodom was founded in 1982 in the coal-mining town of Gelsenkirchen, Germany by Aggressor, the first guitar player of the band, and frontman and bassist Tom Angelripper, who is the sole constant member. Sodom began their career playing a primitive and sinister form of speed metal that would go on to influence black metal all around the world. In 1987, Frank Blackfire joined the band and helped them evolve into a thrash metal powerhouse. With Blackfire joining Sodom, the band would reach the peaks of thrash metal and solidify their title as thrash metal legends with the seminal releases of Persecution Mania, Expurse of Sodomy, and Agent Orange during a short timeframe from 1987 to 1989. Once Blackfire left Sodom in 1989, the band experimented with traditional heavy metal, speed metal, death metal, hardcore punk, and punk rock for most of the 90s. In the late 90s and into the early 2000s, Sodom flew the flag of thrash metal higher than everyone else by returning to pure thrash metal with the other seminal releases of Code Red and M-16. During the 2000s and into the 2010s, Sodom began incorporating more melodic and modern elements into their sound. Tom Angelripper still fronts Sodom but Genesis XIX is the first album with lead guitarist Frank Blackfire returning to the band. Toni Merkel and Yorck Segatz are the young newcomers who round out the lineup on drums and rhythm guitars, respectively.

Sodom

Genesis XIX clocks in at just under an hour which may raise some eyebrows considering that it is a thrash metal album. However, every riff on the album is important to each song and is a kick to the jaw. There are no filler riffs to be found on Genesis XIX. It contains all of the hallmarks that made the Blackfire-era albums so legendary and groundbreaking. The rapid fire-riffage, quick guitar turn-arounds, heavy breakdowns, and old-school mid-paced chug riffs all make a triumphant return on Genesis XIX. The cherry on the top is Frank Blackfire’s exhilarating guitar solos. Genesis XIX also draws from other eras of Sodom and even takes elements from punk and black metal. The album begins with a one-two punch from “Blind Superstition” and “Sodom and Gomorrah.” “Blind Superstition” is a great instrumental track that accustoms the listener to all of the heaviness present on the album, but it also does not give too many details away. The instrumental track also does a great job of maintaining a groove to catch the listener and builds up tension in the best way possible. It’s an old-school trademark, but Sodom utilizes this in the most effective way possible. Sodom also keeps it unique enough that it does not sound like something rehashed from a previous album. “Sodom and Gomorrah,” provides a kick in the face after “Blind Superstition” locks the listener in. This track is a speedy and whipping start to the rest of Genesis XIX. “Sodom and Gomorrah” has a ton of punk elements present in the track, which makes the song feel like something off of Get What You Deserve and ’Til Death do us Unite era Sodom. The punk attitude shows off a factor of diversity while still maintaining the overall vision of thrash metal. The punk riffs get the intense and high-speed aspect of thrash metal off of the ground while keeping the listener anticipating when Sodom will go full on thrash. This is a brilliant way to build tension and keep the listener engaged so that when Sodom switches back to playing pure thrash metal, the listener will go ballistic. “Sodom and Gomorrah” also has some twists as well. The track features a breakdown that is similar to a wall of sound. In that, Blackfire and Segatz build layers of guitar noises while the other plays the riff, Angelripper harmonizes and travels up the bass guitar fretboard, and Merkel keeps the wall of sound grounded with pulverizing double bass drumming. This breakdown is a refreshing change and it is also unique. It enhances the song through the use of the second guitar to add depth to the band’s older sound. While that is something new it does not feel like something modern or brand new. It is a different approach to the sounds that made Sodom famous.

Sodom & Gomorrah lyric video

After this track, Sodom then showcases why they are thrash metal juggernauts. “Euthanasia” is riff-filled thrashing madness. This is one of the shorter tracks on the album, and that works to its benefit. “Euthanasia” is a straight-ahead thrash metal beatdown. It features nothing but mean and pure thrash metal riffage. Each riff on this track contains all of the traits that made the riffs on Persecution Mania and Agent Orange so ferocious. The song has a mean down picked intro that transforms into a classic sounding Sodom riff festival for the rest of the song. “Euthanasia” is fantastic because the riffs in this track have a similar structure to those found in the Blackfire-era albums but have a modern edge to them. This modern take of the classic era of Sodom makes all of the riffs in the song a refreshing listen. For those anticipating an excellent Frank Blackfire guitar solo, the wait is worth it! The way the solo slams into the listener recalls great memories of Persecution Mania. Blackfire shows no signs of age in his soloing and it has perfect flow as well. This guitar solo does a lot terrific traveling throughout the fretboard. The solo for “Euthanasia” reaffirms Frank Blackfire’s ability for fretboard wizardry. It’s a perfect return to form for Frank Blackfire and will crush any qualms that people might have about his return to Sodom. It’s a wonderful resolve for the first tracks and has a good transition into the title track, “Genesis XIX.”

The track “Genesis XIX” was released on the Out on the Frontline Trench EP in 2019 as a teaser for the album. On that version I was not too impressed. I felt the track needed to be faster and I also thought the track was monotonous at times. I was a little worried about how “Genesis XIX” would come out based on this track. However, the album version of “Genesis XIX” improves on every aspect of the previous version. All the riffs and structures on this version are more menacing and the guitar and bass tones are much sharper and heavier. In that, the main riffs that are on the Genesis XIX version are faster and heavier. In addition to that, there are additional bridge riffs that add so much more savagery to the track. If you want to get into specifics, the Genesis XIX version of the title track is 7 minutes and 10 seconds, while the Out of the Frontline Trench EP version is 6 minutes and 42 seconds. The bridge riffs added make a huge difference and that was for the best. The drums are a lot more pounding and aggressive. I love how the main riffs on this track turned out. They have a magnificent flow to them. They don’t feel clunky on Genesis XIX when compared to the Out of the Frontline Trench EP. The riffs combined with the vocals have a call and response feel to them. Again, it takes the traits that made the late 80’s Sodom records so great and gives them a modern update. The riff works with several power chords scattered throughout plenty of tremolo picking and then a several note turn-around. I have always loved this structure because it can be manipulated for any purpose. The solo is great as well, it hits at the moment where you would least expect it and it’s a fretboard whirlwind. Blackfire keeps the solo chaotic but concise enough that the listener can absorb the solo without confusion. The breakdown in “Genesis XIX” is unique when compared to the rest of the album, it has an anthemic groove to it and has all of the elements of traditional heavy metal. This breakdown is an epic resolve for all of the intensity that preceded it. The breakdown also has a dark melody to it which in many ways keeps the listener hypnotized and prepares them for the speedy thrash metal right after. The flow that Angelripper has while the riff plays is fluid and concise, so when the several note turn-around hits, Tom can get some breathing room before providing more brutal vocals. Tom Angelripper’s vocals on this track are much better than the Out on the Frontline Trench version, he sounds more vicious on this version and has a much harsher bark to his voice. His vocals have the raspy teutonic growl to them, but Angelripper does not mind using some guttural vocals as well. It enhances the track overall and provides more depth to the song. Toni Merkel’s drumming makes him the unsung hero of this album. Throughout the album, Merkel provides the drumming to make the riffs have a stronger attack to them. His drum work pushes the whole band forward and makes every aspect of Sodom much heavier, thrashier, more brutal, and more vicious. Merkel shows the best of his abilities on the title track. His ability to jump into a pulverizing double bass drum section from a simple thrash beat is refreshing and something I have not heard in much recent thrash metal. One highlight of this can be found around the two minute and six second mark where the next riff is all chords. His simple, yet so effective, double bass drums underneath the chords pushes the riff and Angelripper’s vocals to their absolute limit. It will stomp out the listener in the best way possible and still keeps them engaged in the song. “Genesis XIX” is among Sodom’s best title tracks.

Friendly Fire music video

The next song on the album, “Nicht Mehr Mein Land,” shows Sodom diversifying their sound from other genres of metal they helped influence. The outro of “Genesis XIX” fades into “Nicht Mehr Mein Land,” however “Nicht Mehr Mein Land” begins with a blasting intro, it catches the listener off guard in the best situation imaginable. This intro is a wonderful surprise and shows Sodom returning to black metal in a thrash metal context. In a lot of ways, the black metal elements in this track are a continuation of the music presented in In the Sign of Evil and Obsessed by Cruelty eras of Sodom. The black metal elements in “Nicht Mehr Mein Land” show an alternate direction the band could have taken if Blackfire had not joined the band in the 80s. The slight return to black metal on this track does a great job of Sodom recognizing the black metal they influenced and using that knowledge to their advantage. The majority of “Nicht Mehr Mein Land” is all mid-paced crunchy riffs that recall classic old-school heavy metal sounds. They have a similar feel to “Remember the Fallen” and “Napalm in the Morning” off of Agent Orange and M-16, respectively. “Nicht Mehr Mein Land” will also go back to some black metal, which is cool because of the contrast it presents to the classic traditional heavy metal riffage that came before it. The song’s ending is somewhat similar to the intro of the song, it has dark elements of the intro, but it does not go full on black metal like the intro does. It’s a wonderful and harrowing ending for a song that catches the listener off guard. This ending is the perfect resolve for “Nicht Mehr Mein Land” as a whole.

“Glock’n’Roll” continues the thrash metal attack, however some of the riffs on this song have a dark tinge to them. It still contains that thrash metal straightforwardness but also sounds evil and malicious. The verse riffs have that same Persecution Mania and Agent Orange feel to them, but they are contrasted by some melodic verse riffs and bridge riffs. The bridge riff in this song is very old school but it works as a transition to the slower and dark melodic riff in one of the verses. This bridge has Blackfire performing a slight lead over a thrashy rhythm section provided by Yorck Segatz. This is a fantastic example of how the addition of a second guitar player has added more depth to the sound of Sodom. It then transitions to the melodic verse. This riff in the chorus is as gloomy as a fog covering a cemetery. Segatz plays the chords, while Blackfire plays a dark melody underneath the chords, and Merkel keeps a somewhat slow to mid-paced groove underneath the guitars to sustain and drive the verse. This verse riff also gives Angelripper an anthemic element to his voice, the listener can’t help but shout along with Angelripper’s delivery of the lyrics,

“You can’t disguise
You can’t escape
Wherever you will hide”

To all of our surprise, this verse riff is a throwback to the Bernemann era of Sodom, the 22 years preceding Blackfire’s return to the band. I was taken aback in the best way possible. Sodom realized the best parts of the previous era and manipulated it for a classic-sounding context. The solo in “Glock’n’Roll” also has the feel of the Bernemann era. Blackfire plays plenty of melodies over Segatz’s backing riff. This is brilliant songwriting from the band that wanted to include diverse elements on Genesis XIX.

Indoctrination lyric video

The rest of Genesis XIX continues the ideas and aggression that were presented in the first six songs of the album. Some of the tracks have varying degrees of punk, thrash, and black metal to them. Overall though, it is still thrash metal to its core. For example, “Dehumanized” has mean thrash metal written all over it, but it does contain several black metal sections too. This similar structure is also found in the final track, “Friendly Fire.” A criticism of that song would be it is too predictable, but throughout the album Sodom have shown mastery of the art of contrast. Whenever Sodom wants to bring in outside elements and different eras of Sodom into Genesis XIX, they bring those elements to enhance the thrash metal riffage and atmosphere in the album. Sodom knows how to utilize these elements without venturing into full on crossover thrash or black metal. They know when there are too many outside elements as well as when there are enough portions from the previous eras of Sodom. Even realizing that there is some repetitiveness and predictability on Genesis XIX, it does not detract from the album overall. It is something that is minor at worst and at best something to keep consistency within the record. Each riff and the amount of times it is played is important for each song as a whole so removing them to reduce the album’s overall length would have been a mistake. The straight-ahead thrashers are found in “The Harpooner,” “Waldo and Pigpen,” and “Occult Perpetrator.” These tracks are all no-nonsense songs that will get a crowd in a non-stop circle pit within seconds. It’s Sodom showing off that they can still write thrash metal better than bands less than half their age. The punk influences peak on the track “Indoctrination.” I’ll be honest when I say: on this track Sodom almost goes full on crossover thrash and even crust punk. “Indoctrination” sounds like an unreleased song from Get What You Deserve. From the intro bassline alone, that appreciation for 80s hardcore is on full display and for some reason it just works. The verse riff has a crust punk sound to it; however, it has a thrash metal structure and delivery. This is something that few thrash bands will do or even approach, so to hear Sodom play thrash with a crust sound to it is refreshing and reassuring to say the least. The breakdown is crossover-like, with Angelripper having a hardcore bark to his voice. The whole track has Tom Angelripper incorporating crossover/hardcore elements to his voice. This track in particular highlights Angelrippers range, I just love how he can do thrash and black metal vocals, but then sound like he sang in a German hardcore band from 80s. It’s a great change of pace and still keeps the listener engaged deep into the album.

Genesis XIX is Sodom’s answer to the abysmal year that is 2020. For a band that has nothing to prove, Sodom have again shown why they are thrash metal legends. Genesis XIX shows Sodom incorporating outside elements, while realizing and understanding the best parts of their past that lead them to the success that they’ve had. Genesis XIX is by far their best album since M-16 in 2001. The return of Frank Blackfire has given the band a rejuvenated energy that has caused Sodom to exceed their high standard of thrash metal. His riff writing and soloing is just as fresh now as it was more than 30 years ago. Blackfire returned at the best time, and this album is proof of that. Sodom have reinvented themselves for the old school and the new school fans in such a unique way. The addition of Yorck Segatz on second guitar and Toni Merkel on drums has provided so much more depth to the band than what was heard in previous incarnations of Sodom. When the pandemic ends and life returns to some semblance of what it was before, the tour for this album will be legendary. I can see people going nuts the entire time for the Genesis XIX songs, right along with the classic material. Genesis XIX is THE thrash metal album of 2020 and will bring much needed happiness to Sodom fans, thrashers, and metalheads worldwide.

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