The fourth full-length album by legendary German Thrash Metal band.
Right before the Agent Orange Tour, Frank Blackfire left Sodom due to his conflicts with Chris Witchhunter and joined Kreator, contributing to create the stellar Thrashterpiece known as “Coma Of Souls”. Luckily enough, Sodom managed to survive to their sudden loss, picking up the Mekong Delta guitarist Uwe Baltrusch and going on tour with Sepultura without problems. But when it came to pick up a new permanent member, the band’s choice fell on Michael Hoffmann, already pretty well-known in the German underground scene for his remarkable work on Assassin’s second album “Interstellar Experience” (another hidden classic of Teutonic Thrash Metal). With this new lineup, the band returned in 1990 with “Better Off Dead”, one of the most controversial Sodom records to date.
While it was already clear since “Agent Orange” that the band was moving toward a slightly more melodic and streamlined sound in comparison to the inhuman rawness of the earlier works, “Better Off Dead” represented an abrupt change in the eyes of many diehard fans. Perhaps, too abrupt. Frank Blackfire’s role on “Persecution Mania” and “Agent Orange” had been determinant, and his departure surely influenced what Sodom did right after: at that point, their early proto-Black Meta” intuitions had been dropped completely - and without Blackfire’s contribution, Tom Angelripper directed the band’s style toward his main influences, going for a slightly more simplified approach and embracing a definitely more evident Heavy/Speed Metal aesthetic which owes a lot to the likes of Tank, Motörhead and Raven; even his vocals moved toward a slightly clearer and more melodic style (prosecuting on the same way of “Remember the Fallen”, “Ausgebombt”, “Incest” and “Tired and Red”), though still maintaining his trademark “roughness”.
Even with a more stripped down formula, a thinner guitar sound and an apparently less Extreme” style, Sodom didn’t lose their amazing songwriting skills that brought them to write the masterpieces we all know; actually, “Better Off Dead” still stands above most Thrash Metal releases out there - including the well-known “Coma of Souls”. It may be incredible, but despite the Heavy/Speed aesthetic that this album possesses on its surface, songs like “An Eye for an Eye” and “Bloodtrails” still deliver the same kind of fast, urgent, twisted, wicked, hateful riffs with pretty complex patterns that remind more to the likes of Kreator, Necrodeath and Assorted Heap, rather than Accept or Raven.
Analyzing all the different facets of this opus, “Better Off Dead” comes off as a criminally misunderstood record that needs absolutely to be rediscovered by those who usually overlook it. The most awesome thing about this album is that it doesn’t sacrifice quality for aesthetic: on the contrary, the band’s trademark style is just injected into this new, different surface (which is of course more akin to Heavy/Speed Metal) without dumbing down anything and maintaining Sodom’s “barbaric” spirit perfectly intact. In fact, Angelripper’s inspiration doesn’t suffer from this “apparent” change of direction and from the handling of new, additional elements which, on the contrary, just contribute to refresh the music and make it even more surprising and challenging in some regards.
While not topping its predecessors, “Better Off Dead” still remains one of the biggest highlights in the realm of Speed/Thrash Metal, achieving with a more “linear” and stripped down formula what many other bands aren’t able to obtain with an apparently more “developed” style - especially considering that, in 1990, the Technical Thrash movement was in full-swing and even many famous bands like Megadeth, Destruction, Tankard, Sadus, Kreator and Dark Angel were aiming toward that direction. If you have previously overlooked this masterpiece, bridge instantly your gap and prepare to hear a drier, yet paradoxically more efficacious and somewhat eerie/mysterious interpretation of Thrash Metal!!
Steamhammer/SPV, 1990 (SPV 084-76262). Made in Germany.
1.An Eye For An Eye 04:42
2.Shellfire Defense 03:22
3.The Saw Is The Law 04:10
4.Turn Your Head Around (Tank cover) 03:24
5.Capture The Flag 06:09
6.Cold Sweat (Thin Lizzy cover) 3:09
8.Never Healing Wound 02:25
9.Better Off Dead 03:44
11.Tarred And Feathered 03:02