My Ode to Sodom - Check them Out.
Sodom is a German thrash metal band formed by Thomas Such aka Tom Angelripper and Frank Terstegen aka Aggressor in 1981 in Gelsenkirchen; many lineup changes to follow with Angelripper being a consistent member. The German thrashers have 15 studio albums with the earlier material being black metal while later (and superior) offerings being aggressive thrash metal; to be among the main influences of modern thrash and even death metal bands. As much as the title is a giveaway, I will still mention that I am a huge fanboy of this band but my start was with their thrash albums and only later on, I checked out the early outings.
The purpose of this article is to introduce Sodom to more people, especially younger metalheads who a) sat in metal communities and were guided by the tastes of the majority; mostly top 40 high popularity low-quality stuff and b) just want a cool new band to explore. While Sodom is popular, I noticed that few people knew of them; my offline, metalhead friends are an example among others. So, pretend we are in a dark room with weapons hanging on walls and I am standing in front of you with Knarreheinz (Sodom's gasmask-bedecked, roided-up super soldier mascot) talking about metal; don't mind the gunshots and screams.
As mentioned above, Sodom started with black metal and according to many online sources, this was a desperate attempt to upgrade from working in coal mines. I am no fan of black metal aside from a few underground Russian bands and thus, Obsessed by Cruelty, In the Sign of Evil and the Witching Metal, Victims of Death demos did not do much for me. However, Sodom is the best thrash metal because they evolved musically into not only another genre but establishing themselves better within it. I am no fan of mainstream press but this time, I would agree that Sodom's early outings were indeed Venom worship; way too much to matter since most bands tried that back then. We won't have the great and influential band today if they remained a black metal band.
The man who we should thank for such progression is guitarist Frank "Blackfire" Gosdzik who convinced Angelripper that horror/occult/Satanic themes were no longer interesting and therefore, metal bands moved on to themes covering war, politics and societal issues. To me, this already puts Sodom above most of their counterparts because the evil schtick was already by-the-numbers tripe by that point with Slayer and their wannabes running it into the ground. Very few bands cover contemporary and modern warfare and Sodom filled that void I needed in metal.
Knarreheinz - The Mascot
M16 - Persecution Mania
Like Angelripper, I was always interested in warfare from a historical and technical context, and what better way to start than M16, a concept album about the Vietnam war. The band's instrumentals convey the sound of a brutal war with buzzsaw guitar harmonics, song structure as fast as a soldier's mind in a firefight with a few slow, heavier riffs in the mix alongside good production where Angelripper's vocals are crystal clear; showing that Sodom are here to tell war stories and not pose with graphic pictures like a good number of other metal bands unfortunately do. M16 is what war sounds like with grim lyrics about being watched, (Cannon Fodder) highly lethal weapons of the period (M16) the enemy (Among the Wierdcong) along with upholding and praising the fighting force on your side. (Marines)
Persecution Mania, another Sodom classic every metalhead should hear at least once, is another album that sounds like war albeit the cruelty part. The songs feel like Sodom is throwing cruelty at the world with Nuclear Winter throwing fast punches and snapping your spine with an ear relaxing, nerve tightening solo. Electrocution is another thrash classic with room for intense instrumentals. I am no fan of covers (minus some rare exceptions where the cover is better than the original e.g. Killswitch Engage's rendition of Dio's Holy Diver: and yeah, Dio sucks.) However, Sodom does a stellar job covering Motorhead's Iron Fist to the point of Angelripper sounding almost like Lemmy and instrumentals are tightened up with world-renown German precision.
Agent Orange - Tapping the Vein
Agent Orange, an album housing some tracks that define Sodom to me; Tired and Red, Ausgebombt, Magic Dragon and Remember The Fallen. The Powerslave/Piece of Mind of thrash metal: album housing several defining tracks of a band. A seasoned listener can tell that Sodom liked NWOBHM where Ausgebombt has that hardcore punk sound Motorhead performed while Don't Walk Away is a cover of the song by Tank. Sodom put their best foot forward here; it's clear they wanted to make a name for themselves on the still growing metal scene of the late 80s.
While Sodom is predominantly a thrash metal band who contributed many things to death metal, they did release a death metal album; enter Tapping The Vein. This album has heavier guitars, double-kick drums, and Angelripper's sneers and roars deeper and faster. The methodical, slower, heavier riffs play a bigger role while picking up speed; giving the record more kick. Here, Sodom is trying to convey a confrontational mood where the listener would have no choice but to start punching strangers and headbutting freight trains; especially to the solo in One Step over The Line.
In my career as a metalhead, I heard the term "war metal" thrown around a good amount, usually in case of black metal that mostly turned out to be Burzum clone #999,999 and had nothing to do with the subject. Sodom, however, is what war metal is with not only in-depth coverage of the subject matter but also, an accurate representation of what it would sound like musically; fast, heavy riffs with slower, methodic and deliberate ones in between, sneering and roaring vocals and a few acoustic, calm overtures when the ammo runs out and the enemy retreats.
Sacred Warpath - Decision Day
As the band released more albums, most of them have shown musical progression to thrash with very interesting guitar parts which will fit very well in a melodic death metal track; an example of this is Sacred Warpath from the 2014 EP with the same name that kicks off with Angelripper letting loose a war-weary yet determined roar followed by a heavy, moving guitar riff; kicking into high gear with catchy grooves and later on, a fun solo whose structure sounded like combat music from an old shooter Codename Outbreak. The melodic additions to songs carry over to the latest album Decision Day where there are more grooves and melodies as Angelripper's vocals sounded more expressive while the war theme remained. Sodom got with the times without selling out. They seem to acknowledge that metal music must adapt and evolve to remain fresh; making Decision Day an album with old fury and new weapons.
The above was Sodom's second stage of evolution which makes them a forward-thinking band that wants to make fresh material and releases something new with a classic touch; not rehash and copy-paste the old onto a new album. The band is one of the cornerstones of not only classic thrash but to an extent, death metal. Sodom, like their cousins ACCEPT, has laid the groundwork for many a metal band where the former has paved the way for the more extreme-leaning ones. So, in conclusion, Sodom is a band that you should know and listen to at least one album to experience the cruelty, war, and confrontation.
© 2018 Jake Clawson