Sicktus : Onkel Tom... Even those who do not know Sodom, probably know a couple of German beerschlagerthrash tunes by Tom Angelripper and his wrecking crew. Everyone who has ever been to Wacken definitely knows - consciously or not - a large part of the repertoire of this Sodom sideproject, who have been turning (mainly German) festival grounds into a bouncing, roaring, drunken mass since 1995. The band are a typical love it or hate it act. The haters use sentences and reasoning that start with "Germans and humour..." or the well substantiated, classic (and classy) "I'd rather just die!". The crowd who like them use... Well, they use beer. And lots of it, preferably by the liter and drunk from a tankard. And the sing (read: shout drunkenly) along with the songs.
I count myself among those who like the project. Of course, musically it is not the world's most progressive act out there (brahaha!) and the lyrics are pretty much based on the ingredients "La", "Beer", "Schnapps", "Beer","Lalala", "Wurst" (German for sausage), "Woohoohohooo" and "Beer", like a Manowar album is based on "King", "Sword", "Blood", "True", "Metal", "Brothers" and, well, "Woohoohohooo", but that is no reason to dislike it, right? Good. So, if you, dear reader, are one of the few who do not know Onkel Tom, their image is that of a travelling beershow, who fly the flag of fun and do not care much about sensible lyrics and well thought out songwriting. A bunch of drunk, thrashing loonies from Germany, if you like. So imagine my surprise when the new Onkel Tom album was actually... Somewhat... Eeerrmm... Serious. Both musically and lyrically.
Okay, have you recovered from that shocker? Let me immediately nuance that then: the album kicks off with an intro that is based on Slayer's 'Hell Awaits' intro, but "played" with a sound that is somewhere between snoring, farting, festivaltoiletdiarrhea and the sound of popping beer bottles, to continue straight on with a happy-go-lucky sing-a-long thrasher. 'Zu Wahr, Um Schön Zu Schein' ('Too True To Be Good') then follows and that is just a damn good song, with a dose of Die Toten Hosen / Dezperadoz vibe. That last thing is striking, because guitarist Alex Kraft - the main force in Dezperadoz - is not present on 'H.E.L.D.', which is the first time since a very long time when it comes to Onkel Tom. Hardly recovered from the - positive - surprise, the band put me on the wrong foot again on the matter of where this album is heading, by following that strong tune by a typical 1-2-3-4 drink hit 'Alcohol'. Right, you got it, the main lyrical theme is the excellent piece of poetry "Alcohooool, wooohoooohoooo Alcohol, wooohoooohoooo Alcohol...." and the musical blueprint is a polka beat, count to four, break, speed it up, repeat... Well, that is how we know these guys, right?
The gang from Gelsenkirchen surprise yet again though, by delivering a thrashballad to a hangover in 'Am Morgen Danach' ('The Following Morning'), to strike true with a again somewhat Die Toten Hosen-alike 'Was Euch Nicht Passt' ('What Does Not Suit You'). I hear some Böhse Onkelz in this track as well. 'Vom Paradies Gen Suden' has a direct sing-a-long quality and catchy, punky vibe. It is a bit too much to talk you through all 13 tracks on 'H.E.L.D.', but the mix of fun, alcohol and more serious and heavy, somewhat melancholic songs ('Ich Bin Noch Am Leben'), the humour but also the more intelligent lyrics works very well. So, no silly covers? No medleys? No thrashed versions of German schlager hits? Nope. On 'H.E.L.D.' it is all original and new songs that we find. If something like "an honest combination between party punk, raw thrash and in your face hardrock" does not repel you - and preferably if you know German, you should check out this album. If you ask me, this is a damn decent and strong, very catchy record - and a very welcome surprise!
'H.E.L.D.' will be made available in three versions, a regular jewel case CD, a digipack version with two bonustracks and a (white) double LP which features yet another, third bonustrack. Oh, and in case you were wondering what the acronym H.E.L.D. means: "Hart-Ehrlich-Laut-Durstig"! (Hard-Honest-Loud-Thirsty)