Sodom – Revel in Attack ModeSunday, 13th November 2022
There aren’t many groups that make it forty years, even in heavy metal, but that’s where we have arrived in the career of German thrash unit Sodom. Marking this anniversary given the lack of show, touring, or festival opportunities because of COVID-19, the quartet decided to record a special album revisiting one song from each studio album for 40 Years at War. They also have a limited-edition box set that include more exclusive material, posters, a sticker, and a 72-page book including memories, pictures, bio information from vocalist/bassist Tom Angelripper.
We reached out to Tom via Skype to get all the details behind the record, including song choices, the assembly of the materials for the box set, hopes to record a live album with some never performed Sodom material included in these new set lists, thoughts on the Ukraine/Russia war, the struggle for younger bands to make an imprint on a flooded metal scene, plus future plans over the next year or two.
Dead Rhetoric: 40 Years at War is the latest Sodom record – a unique compilation celebrating the 40th anniversary of the band. Tell us how the recordings and decision making went into the track choices – did you enjoy the way the current band was able to put their own stamp on things, even if there were certain tracks they may not have been originally a part of?
Tom Angelripper: Yes. Originally, we had planned to do a live album for this 40th anniversary. We couldn’t find a proper show for the recording of a live album, because of the corona stuff. I came up with the idea to choose one song from each album and record this with the current lineup. It was very important to choose songs that we’ve never played live, that we’ve never played in the rehearsal room, underrated. We didn’t want to do all the hit songs from each album, like “Agent Orange” from Agent Orange, you know? We spent a lot of time listening to all the albums and all the songs and decided together which song would be good for the sampler.
We started after we chose the songs to record in our own rehearsal room, we have a small studio in the room. That was really funny, we didn’t want to change anything from the songs, we wanted to keep the spirit and the magic from the original songs. When you look back to the older material from In the Sign of Evil or Obsessed by Cruelty, a couple of songs were out of tune and out of time. My drummer told me he wanted to keep the Witchhunter spirit but play the songs more accurately. We didn’t change the lyrics or the arrangements from the songs – we kept the magic and the spirit of the older days.
Dead Rhetoric: What songs really surprised you that came out in a special way for this release?
Angelripper: Special songs from the 90’s. When we came back to Masquerade in Blood for example, Get What You Deserve. And then we came up to “Gathering of Minds”, it’s the heaviest song on that album. We choose “Jabba the Hut”, that was from my favorite album Get What You Deserve. It was very hard to decide what we would take. I don’t want to decide alone for myself, the whole band decided. Yorck Segatz is a big metal fan, Toni is a Sodom fan, Frank was in the band during the 80’s. That was really interesting. The album really reflects what we have done over the last forty years.
Dead Rhetoric: Discuss the work behind the European, limited-edition box set – as it includes numerous bonuses, a 72-page book, double colored vinyl, posters, and more? Do you enjoy creating something special for the diehards and collectors who take the time, effort and money to support the band in this manner?
Angelripper: We have a single, an EP, we recorded “Witching Metal” in the same way as we had recorded it on the demo tape. The same arrangement. “Witching Metal” was one of the first songs we ever recorded with the band, back in 1982. We took a couple of older songs and put them on the EP for this special edition. The whole package is something really special for the fans. The tape, the poster, a brand-new song called “1982”. This song describes how the band started in the beginning of the 80’s, when metal was kind of a revolution. We were against everybody. I tried to write my thoughts about the 80’s, when the metal scene started in Germany.
That’s something, the box set was so expensive to produce, I don’t think you can make money with it. There is a book inside, my biography, I have the foreword, publishing all the original artworks. Sometimes they look different than what was released on the album cover. It’s very important, I wanted to give my fans a platform. We got a lot of statements from fans, asking them what Sodom means to them, memories, stories behind the band. We got hundreds of emails, people writing their stories. A couple of them we printed in the book, we were limited a little bit with the book pages. There is a big poster, sticker, a tape in it. People are now really interested in tapes; I don’t know why again. On the tape there is a bonus track. The last year I worked very hard to get all the material finished, collecting the photos, the artwork, scans from the original ones. It was hard to do, and I’m so glad it’s finished.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us about the cover art with Eliran Kantor – have you always been a fan of his work, and did you trust the process for what he was able to achieve and get across for the band?
Angelripper: First, I got another artwork for the cover – which is now a poster in the boxset. The record company, they were not really satisfied with it, so I tried to find another artwork. I got in contact with Eliran – who had done the In War and Pieces cover art for us. He’s a great artist. I called him, I needed a cover idea within the next two weeks, we have no time to discuss what we are going to do. He came up with the idea of putting the executioner and the solider on the same cover fighting. Nobody would know who is going to win the fight. Two weeks later I got a pdf file with the finished artwork, and the record company liked it. They thought it was the perfect cover for this compilation. I am always in contact with him, he’s done work with Kreator and other bands as well. This cover fits perfect to the music.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it a tricky process to keep the recordings authentic with the older stuff – it’s something you were conscious of on the last studio album Genesis XIX?
Angelripper: Yeah, that was because there were a couple of songs I’ve never played. We had to relearn them, if you have never played a song in the rehearsal room or a live set, you forget the lyrics, the bass lines. We spent a lot of time covering the songs. Especially the older ones, the demos and songs from In the Sign of Evil, the arrangements are chaotic. But it was important to me that we don’t change anything. We cover the songs one by one. We played the tuning the same, and the timing was also very important. It was funny to do – to work with all the older material helps the band, helps me, choose the next material for the upcoming setlist. We want to put a couple of these songs in the next set lists. I know that a lot of bands never change their setlists over the years, but Sodom we can play over two hours to change the songs from show to show. Songs like “Equinox”, “Gathering of Minds”, “Body Parts”, I think these songs really work in a live set, we will see. The end of December in Germany we will play again. When we have a 45-minute show or festival, we have to put the classics in and promote the latest release. But in a headlining, two-hour show, we can do whatever we want.
Dead Rhetoric: You mention in the bio sheet that you’ll be taking special fan requests into account when touring to support this release. When looking back at the vast catalog of Sodom songs, have there been specific tracks that you’ve thought about airing live but for one reason or another, never came to mind that you believe those fans may want to hear live?
Angelripper: No, not really. When we talk about the fan request statements, there was one guy who was writing a story when he listened to Agent Orange for the first time, he met his first girlfriend. All the time when you listen to the songs, he gets all these memories flooding back. A couple of songs awake some emotions for the fans. When I listen to music, I want to feel some emotions, songs from the 80’s when I was growing up. I contact diehard Sodom fans and want to find out which songs they really want to hear live, songs we should re-record. We are going to record a live album for the fans, not just for the record company. The fans appreciate this when listening to Sodom. We know the fans will buy the concert tickets, they buy the albums, they will buy merchandise, and Sodom is a band that always wants to give back, give the fans a special platform. That was my idea to put statements into the Sodom book.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider some of those important early memories of Sodom developing during the 1980’s that still live deep within you today?
Angelripper: There are so many memories, so many ups and downs in a long career like this. A great memory in my life is when I stopped my job in a coal mine. I decided to be a professional musician. My record company helped me, I got my money every month so I could quit my job in a coal mine. I could spend more time with the band in a rehearsal room, in the studio, or touring. That was a dream come true. My father, my parents, they were really disappointed in this decision. They thought if I worked in a coal mine, I could get more money, the job is more stable, I told my father I didn’t want to work there anymore. I wanted to spend more time with the band. I want to start a career as a musician. In these days, that was easier to do because only a handful of bands did this kind of music. When I talk to younger bands nowadays, and they ask me what they can do to get more professional in the music business, they want to quit a job, school. You have to these days get a job, get your schooling, it’s very hard when hundreds of bands come into the scene every month. Try to do something outstanding, try to find an outstanding singer. That is really hard today.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you handled the extended downtime away from live performances during the pandemic? Has this given you more time to think and appreciate your musical pursuits, and do you believe people will have more appreciation for live entertainment and the creative arts coming out of this prolonged absence?
Angelripper: Yes, it has. These times were hard for all the artists in Germany, in Europe, and worldwide. We lost a lot of money, we cancelled so many shows, postponed so many shows and tours. We had a lockdown; we just met in the rehearsal room two or three times a week and wrote new songs. We wrote the complete album Genesis XIX during this time, and this is the only positive thing. We were not on tour. We had a lot of time to work really hard on the songs, arrange the songs, record the stuff. This corona helped us to get into the material, writing the songs, writing the lyrics, handling all the promotion. Now it’s gone, now we want to look forward. A metal band makes money from touring. I want to keep the band alive; we need more shows. I hope we get more shows next year, we talk about South America, we talk about North America, the USA. Or Europe, more festivals. We will see what happens. The politics will hopefully give us a chance to do my job. I’m a musician, I need to go out and play.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned in our last talk for the Genesis XIX album that you feel very energetic and healthy at this stage of your life. What have been some of the tricks or tools that you put into place to keep yourself sharp in terms of health and well-being?
Angelripper: I’m still healthy and creative. I’ll be sixty years old next year in February, I will be an old man. I never think about retiring, it’s too early. We still have big plans, so many projects that we want to do next year. What keeps me alive? The success, the fans keep me alive. I stopped drinking so much, I smoke too many cigarettes, that’s the next thing I want to quit if possible. I never think about retiring, but I know that some day the party’s over. I don’t want to end like Lemmy on a stage, I don’t want to die on a stage. I really appreciate what Tom Araya did, he is 56-57, it was his last show, and he went home. That is the best way to stop the party. For the next four, five, or ten years I will be able to do this.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal currently on a global scale? Do you have any advice for younger musicians as an elder statesman that you would like them to take into consideration?
Angelripper: When I talked before, there are so many younger bands, they want to be a part of a metal scene. The complete metal scene is getting out of control, there is something common nowadays. You see metal bands on tv shows, in more magazines, this is nothing special. The metal scene is getting too big in my opinion. That is a problem for smaller bands, to get better record deals, to get better slots on festivals. It’s really hard to do. If you try to create something new, as a musician, write good songs, find a good singer, it doesn’t matter what kind of music. You have to try to write good songs, that is something that we always try to do. Start writing songs, listen to them once or twice, and you never forget them. You have to write good chorus lines.
Nowadays a musician at sixteen or seventeen years old in the music scene, it’s very complicated. I talk to the fans – if you get a record contract from a record company, take a lawyer to check it. When we got our first contract, we just signed everything for a case of beer. That is failure. You have to get more into the business, the politics behind the business, it’s very hard for younger bands.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your thoughts on the war going on between Russia and the Ukraine – and how it effects Europe overall?
Angelripper: I’m not really scared about it. I’m scared for my kids, the next generation growing up. I don’t know what will happen in the next five or ten years. It’s a shame. This inspired me to write lyrics for the next album. That’s the only positive. I don’t know who the bad guy is and who is a good guy in all of this. There are so many questions, I never get an answer. We’ve played in Russia all the time, every year we have had a couple of shows in Russia and we have a lot of friends there. Also in the Ukraine, we’ve played four shows there. We can’t go, and that’s a shame. The problems are worldwide: economic problems, inflation, if you are going to buy bread, you pay five Euros ($5.11) for bread now, it’s unbelievable. I am safe, but scared for my daughter and my son, what they are going to do in the next years.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Sodom over the next year or two when it comes to promotion, activities, live shows, festivals, records, etc.? As I understand you’ve already got three songs ready for the next record, but plan on taking your time for the next release – where do you see the direction of this material heading so far?
Angelripper: We have three/four songs finished. These songs are so heavy. I think the next Sodom album will be the heaviest in my career. My dream is I want to book a professional studio in Berlin and go there for three to four weeks to record and mix the album. I want to be there with the band, recording in a professional studio, and get Harris Johns back. He was our first good producer in my career. He is interested in working on the new Sodom material. I don’t know if we will release this next year, we need to get an option for the next record. I want to work this out without any pressure from the outside. When the songs are finished, everything is written down, then we talk about recording and a release. It could be in 2024 maybe. I want to record a live album. We start recording a couple of shows at the end of this year into the beginning of next year, we’ll see what happens. We have so many festivals booked for the next year; I want to come back to the USA. That’s important to me, personally. We played a festival in Mexico last month, a lot of US fans showed up. We need to find a serious promoter who will help us get over there. And then we’ll go. It’s easier for American bands to tour in Germany or Europe. When we go to America, we need a working visa, papers, sheets, and we do that before we go. And the promoter has to pay for it. When we tour there, I think we will sell out shows, everywhere.