Anticipation for this gig was high. It had been mounting for months since I decided I wanted to make the trip. That night I was about to see my favourite band perform live in the flesh for the first time. Evidently it wasn’t just me who was excited for the gig. There was a large queue outside the Underworld going round the corner past The World’s End pub next door – all raging metal maniacs hungry for the Teutonic thrash treat that only comes around every so often.
This was the first ever gig I’ve been to in London, so of course the Underworld was new to me too. I’d heard a lot about the place from reviews in various well-known UK hard rock/heavy metal publications so I was pretty eager to see what the place was about. I must say I was surprised at the size of the venue. I heard it had a pretty small capacity but the floor space was huge, spanning the size of two or three rooms rather than one. First you are greeted with the main bar at the back of the room by the entrance where I must say, I was rather disappointed with the fact that there was no Sodom merchandise on sale – I would have like to have added another t-shirt to my collection as a memento – however, commemorative band branded items are only a bonus when it gets right down to it. It’s the experience that counts! Moving forward through the Underworld, one can find the stage area. The stage is tiny! It’s smaller than the stage at Glasgow’s Audio! On the other hand the floor space for the crowd is pretty sizeable with what I think is a capacity of a couple of hundred people on the lower floor in front of the stage, and then another couple of hundred of people on the upper level linking to the main bar (where again, there’s probably room for a few hundred people). The capacity is probably comparable to Glasgow’s Classic Grand if you discount the main bar area.
The doors opened very early at 6pm and the support band, Divine Chaos, were due onstage at 7:30. Throughout that time there were people continuously pouring into the venue to point where it wasn’t far off reaching full capacity. I was looking forward to hearing Divine Chaos. I didn’t realise who they were until I saw their album cover sitting on the merchandise table – I’ve been drip fed news of their debut album release, A New Dawn in the Age of War, on Twitter where their label, Evil Eye Records had been following me. I think I’ve walked in on an awesome new band!
Divine Chaos were certainly pumped with masses of energy for the show, especially being Sodom fans themselves (supporting them must have been a dream come true – hopefully one day that’ll be me!). They hit stage blasting into their crushing thrash material from the new album. I’d say Divine Chaos have something of a mixed sound. It’s all rooted in thrash but there’s plenty of little melodic doses here and there, intense shredding lead guitar work and scathing vocals (on the higher-pitched end of death metal). It’s difficult who to compare them to exactly. Their sound is very modern, and a lot of that could come from the lower tuning of the guitars (I think they were using seven-strings but I’m not quite sure). There’s a crushing crunch to the guitar sound, quite like modern Exodus. The melodic elements and vocals are a little reminiscent of modern Carcass. The stellar lead work, and some of melodic ideas are a bit like that of Bloodshot Dawn. There’s a lot of variety in Divine Chaos’ sound but ultimately it’s their own.
As a live act, Divine Chaos are certainly something else. Despite the 5 of them being crammed onto the tiny stage, there was no shortage of energy and atmosphere. The frontman is definitely the star of the show, never failing to get the crowd moving with him in a mental mosh for every song. He screams for a mosh pit and he gets one before shredding his throat into the mic and headbanging like a maniac himself. The other band members join in him in the heavy metal mania. The fast riffs are thrashing and the slower riffs are seriously heavy, and the band mosh to their music accordingly yet still managing to remain incredibly tight in their performance. It must be noted that the drummer too is a machine. He pounds the kit through the varying tempos with ease and aggression with some expert work on the toms and cymbals through some crazy fills and variations to the beats. The drumming certainly doesn’t stick to conventional beats for long.
Divine Chaos are experts in their extreme metal craft and definitely a band to look out for. Once I’m home from London and have better internet access (I’m typing this review on my return journey) I’ll be checking out more of them and I’ll definitely have a New Band feature to accompany this gig review for all you to find out more information about the band. Seriously, along with bands like Seprevation, Bloodshot Dawn, Shrapnel and Winterfylleth, Divine Chaos are yet another UK band deserving of reaching higher heights. I always though the UK metal scene had been lacking in some serious talent throughout my lifetime (the glory days probably pre-dating my existence by about 15 years with the dawn of NWOBHM) but now things are definitely looking up for our little island on the heavy metal map.
Only a half hour wait later and the time had come. Like I said, the anticipation for Sodom was extremely high. There was genuine electricity in the air, with the crowd ready to explode at any moment. There were continuous chants of the band’s name during this time, and even a group in the middle of the crowd shouting the well-known refrain to Sodom’s immortal debut hit “Outbreak of Evil”. The countdown to the thrash metal mayhem under the influence of these German masters was like the ending moments of the half-life of atoms prior to a nuclear fission reaction. The lights went down and a loop of the intro the first song, “My Final Bullet”, echoed throughout the room. After a few repetitions, drummer Markus “Makka” Freiwald took his position on the stage. The crowd erupted. Another repetition of the intro, and guitarist Bernd “Bernemann” Kost took his position. The crowd erupted again. Then there he was – the legend himself “Onkel” Tom(as) “Angelripper” Such – and the crowd went wild.
Sodom played the slower heavy accompaniment to their backing track to complete the remainder of the intro to “My Final Bullet” and as the tempo increased following the fadeout of the backing track, the crowd started moving as the countdown to nuclear meltdown came to a close. Then the explosion happened. As the pounding thrash beat came in, almost the entirety of the lower floor in front of the stage opened into a massive pit. This continued for the entirety of the gig. It truly was madness, metal mania, the only way I can describe it.
The setlist was quite varied featuring songs from throughout Sodom’s career. Following “My Final Bullet” was of course the aforementioned “Outbreak of Evil” where the crowd could be described as representing the lyrics of the song. The pit was massive and intense, with sweaty bodies flying everywhere and screaming the refrain.
“Shrill cries. Angel dies. Shrill cries. Outbreak of Evil.”
Indeed that’s what it was. It could be said that these certainly were demons breaking out of hell as an outbreak of evil, unleashing mayhem upon the Underworld.
Sodom wasted no time in continuing on with the thrash madness – they were only here for a short time so no time for messing about. Tom upped the fun factor with shouts of “PAPAPAPAPAPAPAPA OO-MOW MOW PAPA OO-MOW MOW” meaning it was of course time for their cover version of The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird”. Naturally the crowd went mental before an instantaneous tempo change into the intro to “The Saw is the Law” as heard on the Sacred Warpath EP. Despite the more mid-paced tempo of this Sodom classic, it still didn’t stop the audience moshing like maniacs in the middle of the floor. Of course when the time was right the room shouted the title along with Onkel Tom. It wasn’t until after “The Saw is the Law” that Tom finally got the chance to speak to the crowd as between the previous songs, the crowd never stopped cheering and chanting Sodom’s name. He took us on a trip back to the Persecution Mania album and introduced the next song as “Christ Passion”. Again, the slower tempo which comprises the first half of the song didn’t deter the audience from their madness, and the huge pit which comprised the middle of the floor was still going strong with headbangers, slammers and moshers. The buildup back to full speed was intense and has the beat dropped into the high velocity thrash classic, it was as if a second atom bomb went off. The crowd went beserk. It was at this point I joined them after hanging back and headbanging to myself and screaming along with the words. In swear that for the next few songs, that was the most mental mosh pitsI’ve been a part of – even more so than at the Kreator gig, and that pit was twice the size (only due to the audience floor being about three times bigger)!
I’m admitting now that I can’t quite remember the exact order of the remainder of the setlist – maybe the violence of the pit pounded my memory into submission? However the next few songs included a few of Sodom’s best ragers such as “Stigmatized” and “Blasphemer” where got stuck into the insanity and attempted a crowd surf which didn’t quite succeed (I got most of the way to the barrier, just a little out of reach from security but the front few rows didn’t make much attempt to move me forward) so I managed to descend from the top of the audience back down to the floor and continue the mosh. If memory serves me correctly I believe that “An Eye For an Eye” was sandwiched in between the two aforementioned tracks. A slightly slower song but none less savage and the crowd raged on whereas I managed to get as close to the stage as possible and shouted the words at the top of my voice. I must say at this point the sound of “An Eye For an Eye” was awesome with a more modern crunchy tone. I love the original recording but sometimes I feel the production leaves it sounding a little more tinny than some of Sodom’s other thrashterpieces. In fact the sound in general was spot on. Tom’s signature distorted bass sound was captured perfectly and sat well in the mix, not clouding Bernemann’s guitar. Everything cut through the mix with nothing masking anything else. All elements were loud, clear and crushingly heavy. Makka’s drum sound was also caught perfectly too. The snare was snappy, and the kick was perfectly punchy to drive the sound forward. The bass frequencies of the kick were also tamed nicely. All too often when I’ve been to gigs, the bass in the kick is offensively high and ruins the rest of the instruments sound within the mix, but in the Underworld it was ideal.
Following these tracks was another pair of full-throttle old-skool Sodom classics in “Sodomy and Lust” and “Agent Orange”, both of which seemingly had the crowd at their most insane. The pits were wild, the room was alive in heavy metal ecstacy screaming along with Tom’s refrain of “Agent Orange – the fire that doesn’t burn!”. Of course I went beserk with the crowd but after “Agent Orange” I had to take a back seat. The sweat was pouring off me like my pores were rainclouds unleashing a monsoon. I felt as if I had almost sweat myself dry – as soon as the gig ended I went into The World’s End and got two pints of water just to rehydrate myself before getting stuck into some fine European beer!
Following this succession of more classic material, Sodom took us on a trip to some of their more modern tunes with a more mid-paced and melodic break from the norm in “City of God” and their newest cut “Sacred Warpath”. The new song sounded great live, much better than the recording with it’s improved clarity in the gig environment (though I did miss the charming characteristic atmosphere that recording has). I can definitely see it becoming a staple of Sodom’s setlist for the foreseeable future and the crowd were loving it. For the final stretch of the set we were treated to one of Sodom’s more punky tracks with a rare airing of “Fuck the Police”, thus picking up the pace and building up the energy again for a few more classic cuts with “Tired and Red” and their cover of Motorhead’s “Iron Fist”. A final eruption of intense energy saw the relentless mosh continued and a mass singalong to “Iron Fist”’s catchy chorus. Sodom ended their triumphant return to the UK with “Ausgebombt” interchanging the chorus between the English and German equivalents and the room uniting in shouts of the title.
Sodom well and truly thrashed the place. The gig was intense, insane and ultimately heavy. It’s has only made me hungry for more. As long as I have the opportunity, I will always make time to go and see Sodom live. The show further confirmed why they are my favourite band – they’ve always been savagely heavy, fast, loud, rude and consistently uncompromising with their brand of super-aggressive thrash yet ultimately fun. Sodom aren’t perfect, they’ve not always got it right in their career – neither has any band – but I will always sing my praises about them. If you don’t know Sodom, you’re seriously missing out (I’ve pointed you in all manner of directions to their gems in my articles if you’re new to the band). If you like thrash metal and you don’t know Sodom, seriously what the fuck!? Go and buy In the Sign of Evil, Persecution Mania and Agent Orange right now and use them as your starting points, then go to a gig. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it.
To summarise in a closing statement:
“Metal war – Sodom!
Black fire – Sodom!
Bloodlust – Sodom!
Feature photo credit – Sodom Official Facebook