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SODOM – Twins Of Evil
Mike Exley
Metal Forces, Issue 23 (1987)

Sodom (l-r): Tom Angelripper, Frank Blackfire and Chris Witchhunter

Okay, I want to be quite blatant here. There’s one thing that really grabs my vitals when I read some of our rival metal magazines, and this is the refusal to allow coverage of all types of music in the thrash scene. They prefer to side safely with Metallica or Slayer. But I say, why not cover more bands who have been working hard for years, but never even attracted as much as an album review in some cases. As for an interview, well that would seem to be out of the question, wouldn’t it? For example, take three guys from Essen; Tom, Christian and Frank, better known to the world as ‘Angelripper’ (vocals / bass), ‘Witchhunter’ (drums) and ‘Blackfire’ (guitar). The band formed early in 1981 and took the name Sodom, but since then finding an article on them has been like finding a needle in a haystack. Now I have the chance to put another needle in the haystack, and find out about the background to a band who have received some of the harshest criticism known to man for their style of mayhem on the metal scene. Admittedly Sodom’s career has not been a smooth ride, but they deserve a chance to have their say just like anyone else. So, what were the early beginnings of the band?

Tom: “Oh, that’s a long story, because there were several line-ups in the early years. Christian was in the band right at the start.” Christian: “Yes, I formed the band with a guy called ‘Aggressor’. You remember, he wrote some of the tracks on our first EP, In The Sign Of Evil. But then I left the band, and while I was away Thomas joined the band as the drummer (at which point Tom laughs).” Tom: “Oh dear, I was really bad!” Christian: “Later I rejoined the band and Tom switched to bass. That was the first complete line-up. That was about six years ago, and as you know quite a lot has happened since.”

Indeed it has; Sodom are presently working with their fourth guitarist in six years, but the radical style of the band’s music has still been retained. Tom: “Well, I suppose you could call it radical because it really isn’t like anyone else. We didn’t originally have any influences because we wanted to create our own style from the beginning, we wanted to play Sodom music and we think that we have managed to continue to do that ever since.”

Christian: “I suppose a love of Venom and Motörhead brought us together in the first place, but I don’t believe that they really influenced us. They were the first to create the same power metal style that we play, and I suppose we did get some lead from that. But you can’t really put a label like thrash or speed on our music, we just try to use power and technical ideas to create an original sound.”

Many bands who started with the same ideas have found it necessary to go more commercial, so what are your views on that? Tom: “There are so many speed and thrash metal bands around at the moment that you have to have an original style to make it. Some people go commercial, but we stick to what we’re doing because we believe that it is original anyway. Basically, we play what we want to play because I don’t think it’s important whether you play fast or slow so long as you have your own style and it’s powerful. We don’t say ‘we must play this one slower’, if we have a good idea we’ll do it.”

Christian: “The feeling of the music is the most important thing. Obviously we want to sell LPs, but we’ve never said ‘Oh, we’ll sell more albums if we play this one slower or sound more commercial’.”

Does it anger you that some of the press have so far refused to take your music seriously? Tom: “No, not really. I think that that is a problem for the particular magazine, not for us. We don’t write music for the press, we write it for our fans who have supported us so far. At first people said that our music was very simple and just noise and energy, but we want to play this type of music and our fans still support us, so we don’t care about that.”

Christian: “Can people really say we can’t play our instruments when I’ve heard so many bands that aren’t even as good as we were when we started. I’ll admit we weren’t very good back in 1981, but now we have got more technical and much better. I have heard bands that are so bad that they make our music sound like Europe. They just have no idea how to play. I’ve heard that we were labelled as ‘the worst band in the world’ – well I suggest those people listen to some of the rubbish around now.”

Do you think that unfortunate label keeps you out of the press? Tom: “In a way, yes! I think the fact that we get so much criticism is because magazines want to promote their own image by criticising the band who has a label like that just to be like everyone else. I hope we can change some opinions with this new EP (Expurse Of Sodomy) and get away from that label, because it’s just not true.”

Tom Angelripper

Every time you release material you seem to have a different line-up. Why do you seem to have trouble keeping a stable line-up? Tom: “I don’t know really, we’ve just been really unlucky with our guitarists. Peppy (’Grave Violator’) wanted to do other things while we needed someone who was committed to the band, so we replaced him. Wulf (‘Destructor’) was only with the band a short time, basically because he was not a good musician, and now as you can see we have ’Blackfire’. I hope this line-up will last forever.”

How did Frank come to join the band? Tom: “He was playing at the same rehearsal room and Christian decided to approach him to join the band. He had a similar taste in music to ours. He liked Slayer, so we approached him and told him about the record deal and the promotion that we were hoping to put together. He was really a great guy so he’s now in the band.”

Do you think that making the Obsessed By Cruelty album with Wulf was a mistake? Tom: “Yes, now that we have Frank in the band, I do think it was a mistake, because Wulf is a terrible musician. I cannot say anything nice about him as a musician because he cannot play. He didn’t have the power or the technique which Frank has, and this made Obsessed By Cruelty a weak album. Wulf really could not interpret our ideas.”

Christian: “Wulf has some ideas, but he couldn’t play them and he didn’t like the hard style of music we wanted to play. Frank is totally different because he’s a better guy, a better guitarist and he drinks. Wulf would never touch beer!” (Great peals of laughter from all assembled!)

Has Frank’s experience with his old band helped your development? Tom: “In some ways, yes, because on this EP we have progressed and got a lot better and more technical on the musical side. I think this EP is a progression from In The Sign Of Evil rather than from the Obsessed By Cruelty album. Although Frank wrote with us on this EP and played all the guitar, thrash is quite new to him because he played just heavy metal with his old band. Because of this experience he did have a lot of useful ideas he wanted to use.”

Is the production of the Expurse Of Sodomy EP, which should be out by the time our readers read this, better than that of Obsessed By Cruelty? Tom: “Obsessed By Cruelty had some great ideas on it, but it was not a good album. Not only was it ruined by Wulf’s bad playing but also it was damaged by the production of Horst Müller, because he doesn’t understand this type of music. This EP is much better because it was produced by Harris Johns who had worked with Helloween. I think he is the best producer for our style of hard power metal, because he understands it. The production is very clear and very powerful. Also, he didn’t get as drunk as our other producer.”

Some people have said that the EP may show a new side to your style. Is this true? Tom: “Yes, I think so. This is the best record we’ve ever done, and we think our fans will really like it. Everything about the record is so much better than before and I believe it does show different parts of our style. ‘Conqueror’ and ‘Sodomy & Lust’ are fast and technical, while ‘My Atonement’ is a slower track with some excellent ideas.”

Do you think the EP will maintain the difference you have had from other German bands in the past? Christian: “Yes, I think so. When I listen to a lot of German bands it seems to me as though they all want to copy other people. Every time I listen to a band I hear a riff by Slayer or Metallica. We’ve always been different, and our own style is very important to us.”

Where do the ideas for the lyrics come from? Tom: “I use a lot of books. I am interested in the occult, not just the part about Satan but also fantasy and dreams, and I use nightmares a lot in my lyrics. I try and write lyrics which are hard to understand and an interesting challenge to the listener.”

Your progress has been hampered by personnel changes up till now, so where would you like to see the band going with this stable line-up? Tom: “I think this line-up will stay together for the rest of the duration of the band. This line-up is the best for us and for the fans as well, because it’s so much better than we had with Wulf. When Frank came to the band we were able to put his ideas together with ours and we made a huge step forward with our style. Sodom will be a force to be reckoned with now.”

Christian involved himself with other projects when you didn’t have a guitarist, but I guess that is at an end now? Christian: “You’re right, it is. I was free at the time of the Destruction tour, for example, and that’s how I came to do that after Tommy left. SPV asked me if I would do it, and as I’m unemployed I decided to take it because the money was good. It was good fun and I got a lot of good live experience, but I won’t be doing it again because I’m fully committed to Sodom now. Now we have Frank in the band I really want Sodom to succeed.”

Were you asked to stay with Destruction after the tour? “Yes, I was. They couldn’t find a professional drummer with long hair and good technique, so they asked me to stay. We got on really well, but I could never move to Southern Germany because I’m committed to Sodom and to Essen, and also it’s really boring down there. I believe they have a drummer now though because the one that plays on their EP is staying on (Olli). He’s the jazz drummer Schmier told you about when you met us on the tour.” This brings tremendous fits of laughing to everyone concerned. “No, you mustn’t laugh, he’s a very good drummer.”

Chris Witchhunter

How much success are you having outside Germany? Tom: “We’re having quite a lot actually, mostly in the USA rather than in the rest of Europe. Our name is largely still a cult name because we’ve never been there, but our albums sell very well over there. In The Sign Of Evil was a big success over there. The European market is quite limited compared to the bigger US market.”

How about the rumours of your US tour with Destruction? Tom: “Yes, that’s a definite possibility but nothing is concrete yet. We’d love to go over there because of our big following there.”

Christian: “I hope we can go because originally we were supposed to go over there in late 1986, but with no guitarist we had to cancel it and wait ’til now. I’m sure we’ll be on the road in 1987 though, because we also want to do a German tour.”

So, Sodom are back. It seems to me that there’s a new enthusiasm in the band with ‘Blackfire’ taking over the guitar. The new EP is now available and it will be coming out on a limited edition picture disc. 5,000 copies should be produced to start with, and depending on sales it may be brought out as a normal EP. Pick up a copy and you’ll find a changed band. All the promises of good production and better musicianship are true, I can assure you. Sodom are ready for action and raring to go. The names of ‘Angelripper’, ‘Witchhunter’ and ‘Blackfire’ should finally make it after all the hard work of the last six years, and they deserve it.

Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 23 (1987)

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