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Epitome of Torture is the Epitome of Modern Sodom

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A good friend of mine has a stereotypical crazy uncle named Steve, who currently spends most of his time in said friend’s attic. Steve’s got all the hallmark attributes: his former nicknames include “Pussy Hammer” and “Slagger,” he’s a conspiracy theorist, and his pupils seem permanently dilated.

Somehow, I’ve come to regard Sodom in a similar way as I do Steve. Like Steve, Sodom are often reminiscing about better days, and can be unintentionally hilarious. They’ve dipped their toes in some unsavory areas, but it’s still evident that they’re nowhere near to running out of steam, and they almost always have something good to say when you pay attention. Sodom certainly have good things to say on 2013’s Epitome of Torture, but we’re starting to have heard their stories before.

There are some good chunks of rugged thrash on Epitome of Torture. “Shoot Today Kill Tomorrow,” a whiplash guitar assault peppered with Tom Angelripper’s emphatic, mechanized vocals, is as vicious a pit song as any released this year. “S.O.D.O.M” may be generic and even comical in sections – the band can clearly spell their name – but it’s still a whirlwind ride, climaxing in a deceptively heavy chant that begs to be screamed along with. “Invokating the Demons” (maybe Sodom DO need a spelling lesson) pounds and shrieks, driven by an intriguing snare fill. Bernd “Bernemann” Kost’s abundant solos best many of the genre’s famed axemen.

Sodom know how to write catchy, heavy riffs, but that doesn’t stop Epitome’s songs from coming across as a tad watered-down. Many sections don’t rock as hard, and feel hastily compiled, especially when compared with the crush of the best riffs on Epitome. Opener “My Final Bullet” foreshadows the album’s general lack of cohesion. The track rings with agitated drums and vitriolic growls, especially in its authoritative march, but those passages of feral, snarling metal are too suddenly juxtaposed with uninspired breaks, like the final melodic metalcore chorus. This inconsistency, coupled with the numerous uninspired power chord riffs, renders much of Epitome “good” rather than “great.” And the vocals, too, aren’t as powerful as they’ve been. While Angelripper’s gruff yells are still harsh and militant, they’re a tad forced, and are drenched in more reverb than a Yngwie guitar solo.

Sodom have fallen into a cruise control cycle similar to that of Dream Theater, where they’re consistently putting out enjoyable but unremarkable records. Epitome of Torture is far from classics like Agent Orange, but it’s equally distanced from the unmemorable Masquerade in Blood, and this album is a clear reminder of why Sodom rose to prominence in the first place. That’s still better than can be said for the majority of Sodom’s American counterparts – this band has yet to make a Super Collider  – and Epitome is definitely worth at least forty minutes of your time.

Sodom’s Epitome of Torture comes out May 7 via Steamhammer/SPV. You can check out the track “S.O.D.O.M.” here and pre-order the album here.

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