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Sodom: ‘Til Death Do Us Unite | Ein Meisterwerk Vergessenes

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Last Updated on 09:23 PM by Giorgos Tsekas

Two decades ago, there was no Sonisphere, no Big Four Tour, everybody and nobody’s reunions, no facebook to post all kinds of nonsense (Re-Animator being the new Slayer and such), no big sponsors to every festival/live event. Speed/black’n’roll was not a big thing nor was there a small thrash band in every corner of Athens (Greece)…

1997 has been a weird year for metal. Especially thrash metal. You see, it was only one year before, in 1996, that Slayer introduced hardcore to the masses with “Undisputed Attitude”, when things were not that open-minded. Metallica was turning to a more hard rock style (let alone the fact that it was more about their wardrobe than about their music at the time). Nuclear Assault was almost broken up and just released a compilation. Suicidal was far from their crossover glory and turning into a personal hardcore/groove project for Cyco. Anthrax was trapped in limbo two years after “Stomp 442” and a year before the release of the meaningless “Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real”. Megadave was ready to release Cryptic, which wasn’t bad (a bit weak though) but also wasn’t thrash. Exodus was releasing a live album, “Another Lesson In Violence”, in a failed attempt to remain in the spotlight. Testament was a bit off, as well, just two years before their big come back.

Back in 1997 thrash was going through hard times: Destruction was totally off (two years before a vivid return) and Kreator was just a step away from the abasement of Mille’s weirdo goth vision titled “Endorama”. The honour of thrash couldn’t be defended by Tankard’s “Disco Destroyer” or the Swedish response to Slayer, as was the back in the day advertisement for The Haunted. The revival of metal’s best selling genre would still be out of everyone’s expectations and years away into the future. Yet this harsh environment gave birth to a masterpiece, an album that stands proudly among the classics of Sodom and the entire thrash anthology. And to imagine that upon its release, the main topic to discuss was the food poisoning that the band members suffered from after the photo shoot with the raw meat in their mouths…

It is true that the provocative artwork didn’t give the greatest first impression. It was very fitting to the album title though. A skull between the bellies of a pregnant woman and a fat man. Well, at least it was an original idea different than the genre’s norm. “`Til Death Do Us Unite” came out on February 24, 1997, by GUN/BMG. It was their eighth studio album after two releases that didn’t meet commercial success: they were more punk than their audience would stand and their composition was not as high end as before. To be fair to both the band and the audience though, “Get What You Deserve” and “Masquerade in Blood” are neither waste nor masterpiece. The first is definitely tempting whereas the second is weaker, but both are decent and include hits. The main issues are the lack of chemistry between band members, due to continuous line-up changes, and the lack of novelty in the guitar section. Both of these issues have been successfully addressed with the arrival of Bernemann. Letting Strahli and Atomic Steif go and bringing in ex Crows members Bernd “Bernemann” Kost (guitar) and Bobby Schottkowski (drums) brought peace in Sodom. Let’s not forget of course the key role played by producer Harris Johns. Credited with Walls of Jericho (Helloween), R.I.P. (Coroner), Pleasure to Kill and Flag of Hate (Kreator), Chemical Invasion and The Morning After (Tankard), Killing Technology and Dimension Hatröss (Voivod), Brasil and Anarkophobia (Ratos de Porão), and most of all Persecution Mania and Agent Orange, his is a massive come back.

There is a common misconception about Sodom returning to textbook thrash in 1999 with “Code Red”. “`Til Death Do Us Unite” may be full of rock’n’roll/punk/hardcore vibe, but it really is their return to where they truly belong. Another mistaken belief is that this album should have better been released right after “Better Off Dead” or “Tapping The Vain”. The thing is, though, if it had not been for the releases of “Get What You Deserve” and “Masquerade in Blood”, their next work would have sounded quite different, without its characteristic thrash/crossover bits.

“`Til Death Do Us Unite” starts deafeningly with three of the best Sodom ‘90s tracks: “Frozen Screams”, “Fuck The Police” and “Gisela” (german lyrics). “Fuck The Police” became a big hit and got a promotional video clip, indicative of the band’s popularity returning to its ‘89-’91 levels. “Gisela” is about a (hairy=old school retro porn) 40 year old prostitute that enjoys champagne and caviar, and she’s the only one worth sinning for. High speed, party mood and aggression come rushing out those first three tracks and then things cool off a bit with “That’s What An Unknown Killer Diarized”, which is not a thrash bit nor a very interesting one. Pairing up with the album’s homonym track, which is slow and awkward, they make the weakest duo of the entire album. Between those two though, you get the chance to enjoy “Hanging Judge” with its Anthrax spirit and gang vocals, “No Way Out” with its multidimensional tempos and interesting riffs, and “Polytoximaniac” with its punk attitude and uplifting beat. After “`Til Death Do Us Unite’, you get a cover of The Bangles and Simon & Garfunkle’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter”, a favourite for a lot of people (for me, not so much). Close to the original, yet punk and energetic. Speaking of energy, next comes “Suicidal Justice” filled with anger. Pounding drums and raging guitar solos make it a thrash masterpiece. The following track, “Wander In The Valley”, could have been part of the tracklists of “Code Red” or “M16” due to its mid tempo. “Sow the Seeds of Discord” and “Master of Disguise” are a powerful rock’n’roll frenzy with the latter being destined for live performances. “Schwerter Ze Pflugscharen” is an experimental mid tempo track with german lyrics, a precursor to 2010 release “In War & Pieces”. A nice composition well put together and diverse that makes the record even more multidimensional. The ideal ending comes with “Hey, Hey, Hey Rock’n’roll Star”, a party anthem for those who don’t take themselves too seriously.

The album as a whole is not monotonous, it has the right amounts of hardcore/punk attitude and metal/thrash technicality, and a definite orientation towards faster and more aggressive speed without denouncing the Ramones/Motorhead rock’n’roll heritage of the band. A couple of weak moments are not enough to make it less significant, taking into consideration the time of its release when record companies would demand extended playtime (thus explaining a couple of fillers among the 79 minutes of the album’s tracklist). Speaking of time, it was back then loved by a few true fans and ignored by the masses, despite being a diamond. And diamonds, even buried or forgotten, remain timeless.

dedicated to my best friend Giak & to George Carahito

Tracklist :

1. Frozen Screams
2. Fuck The Police
3. Gisela
4. That’s What An Unknown Killer Diarized
5. Hanging Judge
6. No Way Out
7. Polytoximaniac
8. ‘Til Death Do Us Unite
9. Hazy Shade Of Winter
Written-By, Composed By – Paul Simon
10. Suicidal Justice
11. Wander In The Valley
12. Sow The Seeds Of Discord
13. Master Of Disguise
14. Schwerter Zu Pflugscharen
15. Hey, Hey, Hey Rock’n Roll Star

Backing Vocals – Bernemann (tracks: 2, 5, 15), Bobby* (tracks: 2, 5, 15), Harris Johns (tracks: 2, 5, 15), Stefan Paul (tracks: 2, 5, 15), Uwe Gottuk (tracks: 2, 5, 15)
Cover [Cover Concept], Photography By – Mike Kolossa, Oliver Schmitten
Design – Peter Lohde
Guitar – Bernemann
Producer – Harris Johns, Sodom
Producer [Support] – Ulli Pösselt
Recorded By, Mixed By – Harris Johns
Vocals, Bass – Tom Angelripper
Written-By, Composed By – Tom Angelripper (tracks: 1 to 8, 10 to 15)

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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