Late-career albums present a challenge to any band, even one with such an esteemed and consistent reputation as Sodom. In many ways, Sodom is similar to other bands who decided – rather than “branch out” and enter new stylistic territory – to focus on what they’re good at. Bands like AC/DC, Motorhead, the Ramones and Slayer all found ways to make this work. But that doesn’t mean the results are always as consistent as the approach (as we learned from last year’s Slayer album). Personally, I’m very partial to Sodom’s early “black thrash” output from In the Sign of Evil and Obsessed by Cruelty, though I also am a big fan of Persecution Mania and Agent Orange. So with that in mind, let’s examine how well Decision Day performs.
Decision Day is a very good thrash metal album, and aided by the vocal approach of Tom Angelripper, the album has a slight black shade to it that takes it beyond the more orthodox thrash offerings out there. It also pulls it ahead of the two previous albums, which sounded a little too much like the bands Sodom influenced. According to the frontman: “the vocals on Decision Day occasionally remind me of our Persecution Mania phase…but the songs go much deeper, musically as well as in terms of their lyrics.” What I take this to mean is that, this album focuses more on specific events rather than the conceptual work about nuclear destruction on Persecution Mania.
If you look at the album artwork, the cover illustration contains a bit of an “updated” throwback message. Engulfed in the explosion are the flags of the USA and the Russian Federation. Implied in this image is that yes, the Cold War itself is over, but the antagonists of the world stage are basically the same. There is some truth to this, but the lingering Russo-American rivalry is a very small portion of current affairs, one which grows less relevant as time goes on (see: cooperation in Syria and the Iran Nuclear agreement). And therein lies the problem with thrash metal’s conceptual comfort zone: it’s very much limited to language and cultural cues that tie back to the 1980's. Not that there’s anything wrong with this in principle (synthwave, anyone?), but it’s still a big challenge to any band looking to make the next “great” thrash album. And with the reliance on open E-string chugging and juiced-up NWOBHM and hardcore chord progressions, there’s only so many places for thrash to go. It leads one to ask what makes this album necessary.
But thrash metal is still great music! What Decision Day gives Sodom is the ability to add new songs to their setlist. Likewise, it gives fans new songs to mosh and headbang to. The album contains plenty of great riffs, blistering solos and those excellent vocals (very reminiscent of Sodom’s revisiting of their “black metal” days on In the Final Sign of Evil). Sodom could very easily continue like this for another decade and maintain their place as masters of Teutonic thrash. Though they should probably stay away from weird gang vocals (“Caligula” sounds a little too much like Soulfly, a sound I’m not sure Sodom is fit for replicating).
Favorite Songs: “Rolling Thunder,” “Sacred Warpath”