With this post, we're gonna begin a new feature called Forgotten Albums, where we take a look at some of the more overlooked works of major artists' discographies. To fire it up, I'm gonna take a quick look at my favorite Sodom album ever: "Tapping the Vein."
Released in 1992, "Tapping the Vein" came out at a time when thrash was basically disappearing left and right in favor of either death metal or "groove metal" (I've always preferred the term post-thrash.) In the early '90s, there was a prevailing sense that every thrash band had to go SOMEWHERE; there were a few stalwarts who decided to stay the course and did all right, a lot who stagnated, and a lot more who wandered off into more experimental territory with varying degrees of success. Of the Teutonic trinity, both Kreator and Destruction ended up dicking around with pretty awful bids at mainstream success, but Sodom ended up doing really well for themselves by doing what seemingly no other thrash band decided to do (apart from, oddly enough, Testament years later): get more extreme than ever before.
"Tapping the Vein" is an unbelievably fucking brutal album. It's not unreasonable to call it a full-fledged death/thrash album, but rather than getting to death metal via actual death metal riffs or blast beats, Sodom takes the Demolition Hammer approach of simply playing thrash so heavy, fast, and extreme that it basically borders on death metal simply due to sheer ferocity. Tom Angelripper's vocals are a full-throated death growl, easily the most extreme he ever performed in the band's history, and the guitar and drum presence of newcomer Andy Brings and Chris Witchhunter is razor-sharp and rhythmically convulsive. There's an incredible sense of speed and tense, gnashing energy behind the songs on this album; the palm-muted tremolo riffs and hyperspeed skank beats give this stuff a feeling of claustrophobia and and dark energy that most full-fledged death metal can't even match. This stuff's definitely cut from the mold of "Darkness Descends," another thrash album that seems intrinsically designed for death metal fans, and both should be heard by such listeners.
I've never been particularly big on thrash, but "Tapping the Vein" represents a sort of ideal form of the style to me: it manages to be incredibly brutal and stack up against even modern death metal in sheer barbarism, but never sacrifices anything about its intrinsic nature as a thrash record to achieve those heights. It's unfortunate that it gets passed over so often in favor of Sodom's more formative works, but it's definitely worth more attention than it's received so far.