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From the Abyss #1: S.A.D.O.

Nothing compares to the thrill of discovery. As a kid, I obsessed over used record stores, especially those that let you play CDs to “check for scratches”. Sifting through stacks of albums, poring over cover art, and trusting your gut to lead you to glory: the search itself was the adventure, and the prize of a revelatory find was worth every second of shit you heard along the way. With the birth of the MP3, the internet became the world’s largest record store – and these days I’m drawn to its most fetid corners to continue my tireless quest.

Friends, I speak of the Encyclopaedia Metallum: better known as Metal Archives. You know it and probably hate it – for one reason or another. Despite its inconsistent exclusionary policies, it remains a tremendous resource, one that I use daily. Beyond its obvious usefulness when hunting down discographies and other biographical minutiae, it has a far greater function — a hidden, higher purpose — as a random band generator. Located in the column at the leftmost edge of the homepage, nestled between R.I.P. and USER RANKINGS, lies the paradigm-shifting pathway that can lead to anything (or nothing, usually nothing) at all: the RANDOM BAND link.

Now, chances are you just clicked the link and found something bad. Bad is probably too weak a descriptor. After all, there are currently 83,642 bands on there, and that number increases by the hour. But… isn’t it possible that one of those unsung, undiscovered, or unjustly forgotten bands just might be amazing? The odds may be stacked, but such a wealth of unexplored material practically begs for investigation. This new series will chronicle the good, the hilarious, and the otherwise remarkable bands that I find using only the random band link. The methodology is simple: I click the link and listen to each and every band that comes my way (provided I can find a song online), and I’ll slog on ’til I find something of value.

This first entry took seven tries, during which I encountered albums of questionable merit and unquestionably creepy titles, including “Deadbaby in Your Belly” and “Rape the Dirty Nun”, and an Argentinean thrash band named either for a peaceful French village or a soft, creamy cheese (Camembert). Each of these had its charm, but none held a candle to the perverted power of S.A.D.O.

Country of Origin: Germany
Location: Berlin
Status: Split-up
Year of Creation: 1983
Genre: Heavy Metal
Lyrical Themes: Sex, S&M
Last Label: Noise Records

Meaningless acronym? Check. Horny German cock rock? FUCK YES.

Imagine a hybrid of Def Leppard and AC/DC. Now subtract subtlety, tact, restraint, and success. S.A.D.O. play tight, traditional 80s hard rock that veers into an unheard realm of absurdity, due to their feeble command of English paired with utterly batshit vocals. An open-minded approach to sex and a failure to respect the boundaries of “too creepy” mean we’re in for some seriously fucked songs, in the best way possible.

The title track off S.A.D.O.’s excellent 1984 debut Shout! is all stomp and swagger, big drums, and lyrics that make not a lick of sense:

We love the music loud!

Vague sex references are effectively neutered by Andre Cook’s frankly bizarre vocal style, though the charm of these tunes survives unscathed. The rest of the debut offers up a variety of styles, each outlandish in its own right. “Women and Whiskey” goes for Alice Cooper, and comes up awfully rapey. Part of the allure of these songs comes from having no idea what the hell is being sung; what little that makes it through is suggestive of dreadful things. A song presumably about ladies and alcohol spends every verse describing someone lying in bed, fixating on the woman who did him wrong. When we learn “she’s lying on the floor,” are we supposed to think she’s passed out drunk, or something worse?

Their MySpace page describes S.A.D.O. as a power metal band, but the influence is only apparent on the instrumentals, which feel out of place amid the rest of the weirdness. My personal favorite track from the debut has to be “Death”, a seven-minute slow jam with the best (i.e., most fucked-up) lyrical sequence on the entire album:

I’ll kill your kid sister… and murder your daddy
I’ll rip the lashes off your eyes… and slaughter all your cattle

After another five minutes of contemplative guitar noodling, the song launches into a double-time roar; despite itself, it rules. And that’s the crux of this band: the song construction shows surprising depth, and the band, left to their devices, can play the hell out of these songs. Whoever let the singer out of his cage should probably take responsibility for their failure, but what a fascinating trainwreck we’re left with. Apparently these guys got stuck playing odd-band-out on their label, Noise Records, which was mainly known for thrash and speed metal like Celtic Frost, Helloween, and Kreator. In theory, they might have been a reasonable opener for Cold Lake-era CF, but other than that, it must have been tough going.

I struggled to find their later albums; 1987’s Circle of Friends looks promising enough from the MySpace clips, and 1990’s (hopefully) ironically titled Sensitive seems like good fun. Fortunately, YouTube has a handful of clips, mostly from their third album, 1988’s Dirty Fantasy. The subject matter marked a shift towards gambling as the vice du jour (“On the Races”, “Gamblin’ Fool”), which probably says more about their financial straits than anything else, while the music saw more of a Van Halen influence with Andre Cook dabbling in Diamond Dave spoken-word theatrics. This lineup had none of the original members besides the singer, not that you’d ever know. The playing throughout is just as tight, and the songs are still stronger than they have any right to be, considering the source.

“I wanna win a little fuckin’ money!” I bet you do, Andre. The chorus brings in clean, palm-muted arpeggios à la Andy Summers, and the end sees a brief nylon-string guitar solo pulled from nowhere. There’s something bittersweet in a find like S.A.D.O; in an alternate universe, these guys could have been gods. Here, they stuck it out for four albums only to vanish, little more than an underappreciated footnote on Metal Archives, with a few hard-to-find songs the only reminder that they ever existed at all. It’s a shame there aren’t any live videos, as their MySpace bio makes reference to their “renowned live erotic shows”. Paint yourself a mental picture of that while you listen to one last track, this one offering exceptionally sweet dueling guitars. ’Til next time.

— Aaron Lariviere

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Since it’s unavailable for sale, here are download and streaming links to the first album in its entirety.


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Picture from Metal Archives.

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