SODOM, Obsessed by Cruelty (1986, Metal Blade)

The skull:
According to Tom Angelripper, the original concept for this cover was a skull in near total darkness, limned only by the sheen of blood running over it. That would have been a pretty awesome cover. But that is not the cover Tom got. Instead he got a wax skull with a tree growing out of the top, a couple of weird, thumbless claw hands, and some stuff that is probably supposed to be blood but which looks more like the goopy icing used to spell out messages on the tops of cakes. It’s a classic cover, to be sure, if not for the best of reasons.

The music:
This entire album was recorded twice, because the first version was deemed unreleasable. Yet, released it was (allegedly due to some kind of mix-up), and if you’re familiar with this album, you probably only know the original recording. But before you start worrying, “You mean, there’s a good sounding version of Obsessed by Cruelty out there and I’ve never heard it?” fret not. The re-recording also sounds like ass. Only the original Steamhammer LP preserves the second recording, and if you’re a fan of the album, it’s probably worth seeking out, if only for the bass solo in “Equinox”. It really must be heard to be believed. The Steamhammer version also includes the track “After the Deluge,” which was promised, but not delivered on the original version. The playing is maybe a little tighter on the second version, too, but really, this was not the work of competent musicians. After all, this is a large part of the appeal of early Sodom, or Hellhammer, or whatever other raw, cult band you can think of. They made it sound like anyone could be in a band (see also: Sex Pistols). I’m a Sodom fan from way back, but for me, the good Sodom doesn’t start until Frank Blackfire joined the band. That said, I was unfairly dismissive of this album for too long. The bad sound and atrocious playing obscured from me the (now fairly obvious) roots of the band that would make Persecution Mania. Yes, Blackfire helped a lot, but he wasn’t solely responsible for Sodom’s sudden greatness come 1986. Any decent guitarist, and any good engineer, might have steered the Sodom of Obsessed by Cruelty to the heights of Persecution Mania, as in fact the excellent live version of the title track on Mortal Way of Live demonstrates. Probably too many terrible thrash and black metal bands have been built around the idea that Obsessed by Cruelty is a great album on its own merits, but certainly the seeds of greatness were there, even if they mostly remained unsprouted.
— Friar Johnsen

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