Sodom – Aggressive as PossibleTuesday, 1st December 2020
Returning with a powerful record Genesis XIX, Sodom are not content to rest on their past potent discography. They continually prove their veteran status in the metal realm, choosing to be as pure and powerful as they can even in these modern times. Expanding to a four-piece, the return of Frank Blackfire (best known for his work on Persecution Mania and Agent Orange in the late 80’s) plus new guitarist Yorck Segatz and drummer Toni Merkel give renewed fire and creativity to the group. We reached out to bassist/singer Tom Angelripper and he was happy to bring us up to speed on the current members, the analog/pure nature to the tones and sounds of the record, the longevity of metal and thrash, and how drive-in shows are not in the band’s future.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve expanded the Sodom lineup back to a quartet, mixing up a familiar face with former guitarist Frank Blackfire back in the fold along with second guitarist Yorck Segatz and drummer Toni Merkel. Discuss the lineup shifts that occurred and what you think the band chemistry and attitude is regarding Sodom in 2020?
Tom Angelripper: Oh yes. When I had the split with Bernemann, I always thought about taking a second guitarist into the band. It’s always been very important to me. I remember we had a 35th anniversary show in Bochum, with all the ex-members on the stage. I saw Frank Blackfire on the stage and I was so impressed, he is a brilliant guitar player. In the end, the lineup is complete. At the beginning of this year we got a new drummer, Toni Merkel as Husky left the band. Nowadays the two-guitar lineup is perfect in my opinion.
Dead Rhetoric: Genesis XIX is the band’s latest album – how do you believe the songwriting and recording sessions went for this effort? Where would you assess this record compared to the output of Sodom over the history of the band?
Angelripper: When we got Toni in the band in January or February, we started rehearsing for the upcoming shows and doing the setlist. We realized that all the shows got cancelled step by step because of the coronavirus. We spent more time writing songs. In these times, we rehearsed three or four times a week. We started a jam session in a rehearsal room, drinking some beers and the guitarists would come up with the guitar riffs, I’d arrange all the songs as I had to come up with the lyrics and melodies plus my bass parts. The difference to the other records, we recorded everything in our rehearsal room and after that we go to a professional studio mixing on an analog desk. I booked Woodhouse Studios with Siggi Bemm, and that is a big difference when you mix an album with analog. It’s going to be a special sound, the music is completely different with two guitarists in the band. Frank is going to write different guitar riffs than Yorck, but they both wrote perfect songs for a Sodom album. When you listen carefully you can hear the tracks that are from Frank’s hands and the ones that are from Yorck’s.
Dead Rhetoric: Recording with proper Marshall tube amps over digital amps and plug-ins, why do you believe for Sodom this is so important to convey properly on your records – does this help keep things authentic and organic, and inherently more human as a result?
Angelripper: That’s right. When we recorded with the microphones and Marshall (amps), I think that most bands use plug-ins for the guitars, or drum samples. In the end, if you listen to a couple of bands they end up having the same plug-ins and samples on everything. They use the same samples, the same software, we don’t want it. We just use microphones and there’s a special magic between the speakers and the microphones that you capture. Sodom has to sound like Sodom. We don’t want to sound like every other band, if you listen to bands like Venom, Kiss, or Motley Crue, they always had a big drum sound and a completely different guitar sound. It allows us to record the songs in a completely different way.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention in the background information the martial aspect to your lyrical content that works well in the thrash metal genre. Singing about things that weigh on your mind, do you find there are specific events and influences that crop up as you are working out the music that work hand in hand with these songs – as you cover everything from Moby Dick to serial killers and military/society topics this go around?
Angelripper: I think there are two songs on this album that are dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah, the history of both cities. Most of the songs are about the world we are living in. It’s not just the coronavirus, everything in my opinion is running out of control. I’m somebody that has to write it down, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and write it down. I cannot change anything, but I can write things down and scream it out on a stage the next time. We always try to write the songs as aggressive as possible. “Friendly Fire” and “Dehumanized” are the heaviest Sodom songs ever. We start writing the songs in the rehearsal room, but we don’t think about what we are going to do. In the end we have a song like “The Harpooner” which is about the movie Moby Dick, the books about it which are really interesting to me.
Dead Rhetoric: You went with artist Joe Petagno again for the cover of Genesis XIX who did 2016’s Decision Day work for you. What do you enjoy most regarding his artwork and how did you come up with the specific apocalyptic / futuristic scene this time?
Angelripper: I’m so glad that Joe did it again. He’s 75 years old, an old man and a brilliant artist. He was interested in the new songs, so I sent him the lyrics and the songs from those rehearsal sessions. I came up with the idea of calling this album Genesis XIX and he thought it was a brilliant album title. We talked about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he got inspired. Later I got some scribbles by pencil and we discussed what we were going to do. I remember two months later when I got the final product, here it is. He doesn’t work with photoshop, he’s an artist and a painter. In my opinion the art fits perfect to the music, perfect to the album. It is the best Sodom cover.
Dead Rhetoric: In between the two studio albums, you released a series of EP’s that included exclusive material. Did you find that you had a wealth of material you wanted to issue, or how do you decide what will appear whereas I’d imagine it can sometimes be difficult to decide what can make a full-length versus a special shorter release?
Angelripper: Yeah, the first one we released an EP because the record company didn’t want to release an album last year. You always have to wait for the options. Later we came up with the idea to come out with another EP as we had a couple of other songs left. Genesis XIX the title track made it on the album. We just want to show the people that the band is still alive after the lineup change, when Husky was still on the drums. We wanted to bring out something for the collectors, and the long-time fans who had been waiting for another Sodom album. We had a lot of time because we had no shows, we got very creative.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering you’ve been active as a band since the early 1980’s, where do you see the popularity and endurance of thrash – as it’s now advanced into second and third generations of fans as well as newer bands that are trying to put their own stamp on things?
Angelripper: There is a new generation growing up that is very interested in the history of thrash from the 1980’s. I remember the last show I did, I talked to a young metal fan and he was 14 years old. He had all the patches from Venom, Hellhammer, and Sodom. He told me that the bands coming from the 80’s are the real heavy metal bands. Who knew when we started the band in the early 1980’s people were talking about thrash metal. I don’t know if Sodom is a real thrash band. The typical thrash metal band is Exodus or Destruction. Sodom is different and built a different way.
This kind of music, is a strong part of the heavy metal scene. There are so many different styles of metal. Some people it’s say its thrash metal or black metal, I don’t know. In the whole music business, heavy metal is still a strong genre. This music will survive into the next generations.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you been handling the downtime and effects of the pandemic? What worries or concerns do you have in the short-term or long-term as we try to come out of this?
Angelripper: As of today, we have a new lockdown here in Germany because of the coronavirus spreading so much. I don’t know what’s really happening, in the end nobody is helping musicians or artists. The government is doing nothing. It’s a shame for the complete music industry, it’s going down. I’ve never been in a situation like this. I want to do my job. We cancelled a lot of shows, and we lose a lot of money. I don’t know what’s going on next year. We’ve postponed all the shows until next year, but who knows if we can do it?
The only positive is we found time to write more songs. If we don’t have any shows, we will start writing a new album. We had planned a live album for next year, but we haven’t recorded it yet. It’s a very confusing situation
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think is hard for the average fan of heavy metal to understand when it comes to specific decisions that the musicians have to make for the greater good of their careers?
Angelripper: I know a lot of bands did some shows the last month, automobile shows. A couple of promoters did shows where the people drive in by car. That’s really funny, the band is playing on stage and the music is coming from the car radio. I got offers to do this, and I said no way, I want to do my job. The stage, the way I do a show with the stage divers. I want to look into their eyes and be there with my fans. After show parties with drinking beers. But I can’t do a show when people are sitting in their cars. We have to wait until that can happen again.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in a previous interview we did back in 2013 the possibility of developing a third Sodom DVD where you were recording live tour footage from South America. Is that still a possibility down the line – or even looking into maybe writing a history/autobiography of your musical life and publishing that?
Angelripper: No, I never think about that. People ask me about a part three. The first one was very interesting because it covered the 1980’s, the history, the photos, lineup changes. But to do a third part – my dream is to do a full tour documentary of concerts around the whole world. The Sodom history for the last years, a lot of people know now what happened, they have YouTube and can see all the shows. It’s not as interesting as a tour documentary.
Dead Rhetoric: How much longer can you see Sodom going realistically? Do you know when it will be necessary to end things?
Angelripper: I don’t know. I never think about that. As long as I am healthy and I am creative, I will do it. I live for this. I never think about putting this to an end. When I change lineups, you feel like you are starting from the beginning, it’s so much work. If you are a professional musician, you are busy every day, working with the music. This is something I want, this is my life. I don’t want to have an end like Lemmy. He was so sick on stage, I saw the last shows. I don’t want to get on stage if I am so sick and if I can’t sing anymore. Nowadays I’m so full of energy, I’m so healthy, and I have so many ideas for new songs for the future.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you see the next year or two looking like for Sodom?
Angelripper: We already started writing new songs for the next album. It would be a dream to do the postponed shows for 2021. There are some festivals like Wacken with 80,000 people – festivals with so many people will be impossible in the next few years. We can write songs, I’m glad we have a new album, we have a lot of promotion.