Sodom - Better Off Dead review


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Band: Sodom
Album: Better Off Dead
Release date: 1990

01. An Eye For An Eye
02. Shellfire Defense
03. The Saw Is The Law
04. Turn Your Head Around [Tank cover]
05. Capture The Flag
06. Cold Sweat [Thin Lizzy cover]
07. Bloodtrails
08. Never Healing Wound
09. Better Off Dead
10. Resurrection
11. Tarred And Feathered
12. Stalinorgel
13. The Saw Is The Law [splatting version] [bonus]
14. The Kids Wanna Rock [bonus]
15. Stalinhagel [live] [bonus]

How do you succeed an almost perfect thrash metal album like Agent Orange? Do you try and create something similar that the fans expect and will be pleased with? Or do you just add a lot more variety, risking the accusation of "selling out"? Sodom went for option #2 with Better Off Dead and, although they did not reign supreme, they fared quite well.

The album was marked by the departure of guitarist Frank Blackfire from Sodom, who joined the Teutonic thrash competitors Kreator. He was replaced by Assassin's former axeman, Michael Hoffmann, and this change in line-up is evident in the riffs and especially the solos. There is plenty of wah-wah and rock n' roll influence in the latter, which, along with the "softer" general approach of Better Off Dead, made many people compare it with Metallica's self-titled release, which came out the following year.

This is probably the most accessible studio effort by the German thrashers and one of the most melodic, too. It sounds less aggressive than Persecution Mania and Agent Orange, which preceded it, and it pales in heaviness compared to the borderline death metal and devastatingly brutal Tapping The Vein that followed. One of the main reasons for this, apart from the songwriting itself, is the guitar sounding very "thin" for Sodom standards, and I believe Harris Johns produced the album this way on purpose. As a result, even the thrashier songs in the album like "An Eye For An Eye", "Shellfire Defence", "Capture The Flag" and "Bloodtrails" don't sound as heavy as they could and should.

The main advantage of Better Off Dead, though, is its diversity, which is rarely exhibited in thrash metal (particularly in 1990). The punk elements that the band is known for are here, but in much larger quantity, as well as the hard rock/NWOBHM and Motörhead influences. This is pretty obvious from the choice of the two excellent covers the band managed to squeeze in the album: Tank's "Turn Your Head Around" and Thin Lizzy's "Cold Sweat". The contagiously rocking "The Saw Is The Law" and the inspired riffing of "Bloodtrails" stick like bubblegum in your mind. The speed frenzy of the two opening songs, "Never Healing Would" and the title track, is typical neck-breaking Sodom. "Resurrection" is a heavy/melodic tribute written by Tom Angelripper after the death of his father, featuring surprising chanting in the outro. Finally, the punk/thrash masterpiece "Stalinorgel" is Better Off Dead's "Ausgebombt" and ends the listening experience on an energetic high note.

Even a more experimental and melodic Sodom release rises above most acts out there in ferocity and hate-filled violence. It is a controversial record for sure, but it is still capable of making your ears bleed and it offers pure enjoyment if judged on its own merits, instead of being compared to the band's earlier works.

Simply put, "turn your head around".

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Production: 6


Written on 11.09.2017 by I was into this music when you were still in diapers.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 13 users
07.11.2017 - 18:17
Esoteric Zachism
I have never heard this album. Maybe I should give it a listen.
07.11.2017 - 18:34
Old Nick
Written by VIG on 07.11.2017 at 18:17

I have never heard this album. Maybe I should give it a listen.

Oh man, you are in for a treat if you like Sodom.
on and on south of heaven


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