Sunday, June 28, 2009

Black Wax Classics Series: #1 - Sodom - 1986 - Obsessed by Cruelty LP

I decided that I'm going to start occasionally posting some of my own vinyl rips of well-known classics for people like myself who just enjoy the sound of a nice LP rip, regardless of how much more shiny a CD may sound. Obviously these posts will be completely meaningless to some of you, but to those who do in fact like vinyl rips and worship the respective album being posted, I recommend giving it a try.

The first one in this series is none other then the first Sodom LP, 1986's Obsessed by Cruelty. For people like me, who love semi-sloppy, primal old school metal, it doesn’t get much better than Obsessed by Cruelty. Some complain about the shitty production and mixing, others complain about the band’s at-the-time lack of musical efficiency, but both of which are things that I welcome with open arms. In my eyes, I would not want this LP any other way. The guitar could be louder, but I think its lowness in the mix actually adds to the chaotic, thrashing cacophony the band was going for. Over the years, it has really grown on me, and I’m very glad it finally did and it now sits as my favorite Sodom release (with the EP coming in not too far from behind).

The complaints regarding the production mostly come from the mixing department, as the recording itself actually has a pretty clear sounds that could have been indubitably put to full use given the proper mixing job. This has grown to really not bother me though, as the music more then makes up for it, and to me, the rawness and primitive nature of it works to the band’s advantage. The vocals, although not as buried as some people may have you believe, are still fairly low in the mix, but are definitely loud enough to remain audible, no matter what was going on with the music. The guitar has only one track, which is panned to the right, while the bass is on the left. Both have pretty warm tones and aren’t as crunchy as on the preceding EP, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, as both are powerful enough to do the riffs justice. The drums hold the most power and prominence in the mix, which is actually something that tends to bother me as well as most others in a lot cases, as you may have gathered. However, here, I do not find this to be an issue, and in fact, I like it this way. So if your ears have been tainted and pussified by today’s digital, crystal clarity, then this album’s production will without a doubt irritate you to no end, but I’m perfectly okay with that, because in that case, you probably shouldn’t be listening to classics like this anyway (though I think Behemoth may suit you well).

Obsessed by Cruelty marks the band’s transition from pure, early black metal to a more relentless and ripping black/thrash-oriented sound (emphasis on the thrash part). But this new sound didn’t necessarily mean the band had completely outgrown the messy, blackened slop that helped make the In The Sign of Evil so great. While their writing skills had developed far beyond the basic three or four riff songs that the EP saw, their playing skills had not quite caught up with that level development, making Obsessed by Cruelty a well-written yet sloppy affair. The balance between the two works out well enough to make it one of those albums where when you think about it, it just would not be the same if it were being played with high musical prowess. This comes out the most during the faster sections, where at times the drums and bass may be a tad bit ahead of the guitar, or the other way around. The guitar never ventures too far off though, as it does always find its way back home quickly after getting off track. In this sense, the guitar being low in the mix is not necessarily a bad thing, and in the end probably saves more irritation for the modern-metal kiddies who can’t handle a little sloppiness then the production already does for those who need everything polished, pristine, and squeaky clean.

By the time Sodom began recording this album, Tom Angelripper’s vocals had shifted from a much raspier, high-pitched, croak-like shriek, which was just radiating with menacing evil, to a more mid-range, semi-growled-yet-intelligible recitation that a lot of the time didn’t follow any particular rhythm. Not a bad way, though, he just sort of demonically rambles over vicious, ripping blackened thrash metal, and it works very, very well.

The riffing had certainly gone through some modifications over the two-year span between the EP and this, setting the Hellhamemer-like simplicity to the side and replacing it with, a more thrash-oriented and varied style riffing, ultimately giving it the thrashier sheen the band was going for. That is not to say the occasional ‘In the Sign’-type black metal riff doesn’t pop up every once in a while, because it does, and they actually do a great job of carrying some of that into their newfound thrash riffing. The guitar tone is relatively thin, but not overly so, and its punch is still felt through the excellent riffing. The bass is thick and ugly, and has a very deep tone, which sounds especially awesome during the slow sections (the beginning of the title track is a perfect example). I’d say Mr. Chris Witchhunter, the drummer, did a damn fine job on here. I mean, at this point he was no virtuoso by any means, but sloppily yet surely, he kept it together as he pounded and pummeled away on those poor skins of his. Like the rest of the band, he really was at his best during the slower sections, where he could add texture with well-placed fills and different snare patterns.

In my eyes, Sodom’s first LP, the almighty Obsessed by Cruelty, is a damn fine piece of black/thrash. I’d go as far as to say it’s easily one of the best albums of its kind from that era, ranking it up there with Necrodeath’s ‘Into the Macabre’ and NME’s ‘Unholy Death’. Everything from the sleeve artwork, to the broken English lyrics, to the music itself, and yes, even the production, is awesome, and all live up to the standards it takes to deem an old 80’s black/death/thrash recording a classic.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Taranis (Pol) - 1992 - Obscurity (Demo)

There have been many bands strongly influenced by the likes of early Samael and Hellhammer, but few had taken it to this extreme and pulled it off as well as these Polish madmen. This band specialized in creating heavily doom-laden black metal, sounding like the hideous lovechild of the two aforementioned bands.

The production on here is not what you would expect from a 1992 black metal demo. It's one of those cases where there is a perfect balance of rawness and clarity, with the end result being the most fitting way to capture what the band was going for. Although the music itself is far from original, it is still very well done in the sense that they achieved what they originally set out to do: worship the altar of the mighty Samael and Hellhammer. Basically, what they did was take Samael's favoring of slower, blackened doom-oriented tempos and riffs and combined it with Hellhammer's simplicity in both some of riffs as well as the song structures. However, that is not to say it is nearly as primal or primitive as the Hellhammer demos, it just shares some strong aesthetic similarities.

I'd like to thank Mr. Wraith from the Dunkelheit blog for hooking me up with a nice 320 kbps rip of this bad boy. I will be posting the band's 1995 album, Faust, in the near future, so keep checking back for that.

Also, it's the summer time (happy summer, everybody), meaning school is over and I now have much more time on hands to update this more frequently then I have been over the course of the school year.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tormentor (Hun) - 1988 - Anno Domini

This is the single greatest black metal album of all time. I really mean that. I wholeheartedly feel Anno Domini is the very pinnacle of the entire genre, and I was very pleased to see a request to post a high quality rip of it, because now I finally have an excuse to do so.

Most of the rips I've heard elsewhere didn't sound quite up to par, probably because they were most likely from the first non-demo reissue that came out in '95, which was just a master of a dubbed copy of the tape. This is a rip from the later reissue, the one with a better master and an overall richer sound.

But I digress... now back to how awesome this album is. Each song is its own entity, and the variety found on here is pretty astonishing. With some bands, this can lead to inconsistency and failed experiments that have the potential to really bring an album down. Tormentor never had that problem. Whether they are playing relentless, thrashing black fury as seen on "Heaven" and "Trance", eerie, atmospheric mid-tempo songs such as the epic "Elisabeth Bathory", or brilliant arrangements that are schizophrenically on the verge of technicality as seen on the two "Tormentor" songs - it always works, and it works well. Everything they did was done with 100% conviction and executed with blackened, evil precision.

The fact that they were all actually pretty damn good at their respective instruments didn't hurt either, and it goes without saying that Attila's vocals are just out of this world. And I mean that literally. They don't sound like they come from a living human being. More like a demonic alien-banshee with a thick Hungarian accent. Some say De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas was his finest achievement. Others claim his work with Sunn O))) contains his most captivating performances, but I strongly, strongly, disagree. Anno Domini most definitely contains his best performance in all of his career, and as eerie and chilling as they are on De Mysteriis, or how much they add to Sunn O)))'s already-hypnotic tendencies, neither compare to the maniacal brilliance seen on this here masterpiece.

Every element that makes up Anno Domini all point to one thing: the highest level of black metal preeminence possible. Yes, the ultimate black metal album.