|Black Metal, Thrash Metal
June 1st, 1989
Release length: 1:05:56
What more could possibly be said about Agent Orange that hasn’t already been heard? Clearly inspired by earlier metal acts that established what would become the first wave Black Metal such as Venom, Agent Orange was a rather unique, as well as intense album that covers various topics such war and even taboo ideals like incest, which is obvious by the track named “Incest”, which is one of the album’s more enjoyable tracks. Each track on here is simply fantastic and typically come off full of energy and rage, but the only track on this release that really seems to be a little lacking compared to the rest would be “Magic Dragon”, which in the title name alone should be enough of a warning to the listener. Clearly this track is not one about fantastical dragons, but another war-based song, however it does wind up hitting the six minute mark, and really beats the chugging Thrash concept to death as it just starts to feel a little weak and repetitive after a few minutes. Had the song been a minute or two shorter, it wouldn’t be as bad, but in the end it all just sounds incredibly drawn out. It actually feels like the band would do this again on the next track, “Exhibition Bout”, but the slower paced music manages to create a rather intimidating atmosphere that makes the track work.
Much of the album follows a faster paced Thrash sound, however, one of the fastest tracks on here, as well as oddest songs, would be the track “Ausgebombt” due to it’s more Punk cross-over sound and vocal performance. Overall, “Ausgebombt” is a great song, but doesn’t really have the same intensity that some of the earlier tracks on this release contain, like the hard hitting title track “Agent Orange” and “Tired and Red”, both of which really capture the anger and spirit of Sodom nicely, while “Remember the Fallen”, a much slower track that acts more as an anthem that would be found on a Metallica album, really displays the entire point and message of this album’s war-based theme. All of these tracks will have you coming back for many repeat listens.
Sadly the Agent Orange 2010 reissue will have you scampering to find a better, much older pressing of this Sodom classic due to the increased noise. If you ever listened to a heavily scratched CD in a high quality CD player that can still read it, but there’s still some static noises and clicks in the background from the laser trying to read the CD to replace the constant skipping, then you’ll know exactly how the static and noise in the background of this release is. For those win a tin ear, chances are good these noises will often go unheard, but even for them it will become obvious by the time you hit the introductory plane engine sounds in “Magic Dragon” since there’s barely anything to mask the clicking. It’s as if the album were remastered, but not run through a noise filter of any kind to cancel that out, and it’s on every track of the CD just low enough that you can pick up on it, which will drive you absolutely batty as you listen because you’ll be more focused on that sound that comes up throughout album then the actual music. Luckily, this noise doesn’t hit all the time, as the track “Exhibition Bout” seems to be void completely of the annoying clicking.
When the remaster job from hell doesn’t hit you with the odd background noises, it really does wind up making the songs sound better and in some cases more intense, so at least that does it’s job to a certain degree. On top of the remastering, you get a bonus disc, which winds up being the real draw to those who have this album already. The bonus disc contains six live tracks, and the German version of “Ausgebombt”. The disc starts off with the live version of “Incest”, which you really wouldn’t be able to tell is a live song at first until the crowd winds up kicking in later on in the song. In fact, if you’re not paying attention you may think you happened on some kind of bonus track that isn’t listed as that song, as well as the rest of the live tracks on here, sound quite different from the others, which is fine since they come off heavier and much more intimidating then these remastered versions are. These live tracks are a great listen and really make up the only reason to pick up this reissue. “Ausgebombt (German Version)” is an interesting romp as well, but isn’t any different from the original outside the lyrics being German instead of American.
The bottom line is that Agent Orange is a fantastic Thrash classic that needs to be heard if you haven’t heard it yet. However, that doesn’t mean the 2010 reissue is the right answer. Due to the often annoying static that goes on behind a good number of the original tracks, there’s really no point to bother with the first disc, especially if you have an older pressing as the more raw analog recording quality of the album makes it much more enjoyable through it’s intensity, and any noise is masked well by the music and effects. The only real reason to pick up this reissue, in the long run, would be the bonus disc that features the six additional never-before-released tracks, making this a great addition to the collector or rabid fan’s Sodom collection. While it’s not one of the worst reissues out there, the label could have done this version so much more justice in the remastering stage then what it got, and that’s a really sad thing to consider.
01. Agent Orange – 6:04
02. Tired and Red – 5:26
03. Incest – 4:40
04. Remember the Fallen – 4:21
05. Magic Dragon – 6:00
06. Exhibition Bout – 3:36
07. Ausgebombt – 3:05
08. Baptism of Fire – 4:04
09. Don’t Walk Away (TANK cover) (Bonus Track) – 2:56
|Initial Pressing Score: 8/10
2010 Reissue Score: 6/10
2010 Reissue digital review copy of this release provided by SPV Records via Freeman Promotions.