German thrash pioneers Sodom are pretty much legendary at this point in their career. They’ve been playing old school thrash metal for over thirty-five. Tom Angelripper has been the man upfront since day one and, along with of Bernd Kost and Markus Freiwald, has recently released their latest album, Decision Day. Tom took the time to talk to us about the new album, the band’s legacy and more!
R!S!P! - Sodom’s latest album is out this month – Decision Day – what’s the significance of the title and what sets this album apart from other Sodom records?
Tom Angelripper - The title track is about the invasion of the allied forces in Normandy, but it is not a concept album about this historical event. I know that Germany is responsible for all the death and destruction during the war. It is a sensitive topic for a German to talk about it, but I don`t want to take up position for any sides, I just describe the war events.
I think the main difference is the way we produced this album. We worked the songs out without any pressure and we never talked about a release date with the label until the songs are written. That was a relaxed procedure. We recorded in different studios and rehearsal rooms.
Each song was pre produced and gave us the opportunity to chance something if it was necessary. The producer’s (Corny) studio is located near my hometown. That is also a big advantage in the recording process. Corny is an old school Sodom fan and knows exactly what to do to get the typical organic Sodom sound.
R!S!P! - Decision Day once again sees the band dealing with themes of war and violence – what’s the draw to the subject matter for you?
TA - The main topic describes the current state of our world. Bad news every day. Especially when you consider how much the world has changed since the latest album. Sectarian killing, cold war, nuclear armament, abolition of democracy in many countries, starvation and all the destructive …that inspired my lyrical mindset and fits so perfect to our music. That is sad but true.
R!S!P! - Decision Day also features a track named after Caligula, what inspired you to write this song and why choose to write a song dealing with such a controversial figure?
TA - The movie from 79 was a big inspiration. It`s about the most notorious and relentless tyrant who ever ruled the Imperium. One of his famous quotes reads as follows: “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me”. I love this song with the fast bass lines, the Ace Of Spades guitar melody and the speed. This song will make it to the next set list.
R!S!P! - Sodom has been around for well over three decades at this point. Not a lot of bands have that kind of longevity. What do you figure is the main reason you guys have been playing and recording for as long as you have? Do you ever get tired of it?
TA - Originality and hard work. We always tried to create something new…from the beginning. We never look back, or left and right. There is no inspiration in the song writing process. We just do the music we like to listen to, without influence from outside and NO dictation from labels, publishers or musical agencies. Do what you want and what you believe in, that is the secret behind success.
R!S!P! - Sodom has played live all over the world – what’s your favorite country to play in and why?
TA - There isn’t one. We love to play everywhere!
R!S!P! - What’s the creative process like for the band at this point? Do you do most of the writing yourself or are the other guys involved in that process too?
TA - Yes, they are. They fit perfectly to me!! And also the song writing and recording procedure has changed. We worked the songs out without any pressure and we never talked about a release date with the label until the songs were written. That was a relaxed way of working. We recorded in different studios and rehearsal rooms. Each song was pre produced and gave us the opportunity to chance something if it was necessary.
R!S!P! - Sodom has had a pretty big influence on the extreme metal and thrash metal scenes over the years – what are your thoughts on the current state of this music, are there any newer, current bands that you are really impressed with?
TA - No.
R!S!P! - Ok then. Likewise, what would you saw your biggest influences were as a songwriter, vocalist and bass player?
TA - I think Cronos was the biggest inspiration to me, but also Tom Araya. I am multifaceted in the ways I sing. I like this typical screaming, shouting and barking like on Sodomy And Lust. But I learned to sing also melodies when I formed Onkel Tom band. On the new album DD you`ll hear all of those styles, that makes this album so multifarious.
I also love the three pieces bands like Raven, old Motörhead and Vardis.
R!S!P! - The band has had a few lineup changes over the years, but the current roster of Bernd Kost and drummer Markus Freiwald really is impressive – how does it feel playing with these guys as opposed to some of the other lineups? Are you on good terms with the guys from the earlier versions of the band?
TA - These guys fit perfect to me. I am proud of them. Awesome musicians and good pals. In my opinion, Makka is the best German drummer. His drumming is accurate, superfast and always dependable. He had so many good ideas and came up with awesome drums to get these songs realized.
Each member has the same right to be heard. What would I do without a creative band? Berni came up with the guitar-riffs and gave me the initial sparks for the basslines, vocals and the lyrics. I just love his hard riffing combined with melodic solos.
R!S!P! - You also have a few different side projects and solo projects - Onkel Tom Angelripper, Dezperadoz, Bassinvaders and Die Knappen – are these on hold for now to focus on Sodom or are you going to be involved with any of these in the coming months?
TA - Onkel Tom band is still busy. Have a couple of shows in next times and we also start writing songs for a new album. But Sodom is my main band and will always be.
R!S!P! - Cornelius "Corny" Rambadt produced the new album, this is not the first time you’ve worked with him. What is he able to bring to a Sodom record or Angelripper project that other producers are not?
TA - He is a big Sodom fan since 86. Before we started the pre- production, we had a lot of discussions about, how we could keep the spirit of the old days. Some of the songs sounded very well with the “Sodomy & Lust” barking. We went away from that screaming like “Tom Araya”, that we used on “War & Pieces” and “Epitome Of Torture”. These typical “Angelripper” vocals fit perfect to the new songs. But we never think about what we do next, there is no direction during the song writing process. We just had some jam sessions and started to collect all ideas that came out.
We recorded the drums and instruments with microphones, without any trigger signal or midi files. That keeps our typical Sodom sound so organic and straight to the ears. But yes, we recorded digitally, which is usual and payable in these times. I like old productions with “bigger” drum kits like old Venom, Kiss and Motley Crue etc….
R!S!P! - Joe Petagno did the art for Decision Day. He’s probably best known for his work on a load of Motorhead albums. Why the decision to use him for the cover painting?
TA - When I got in contact with him by email I was so surprised that he’s known the band since the beginning and was a follower of our career. He is the godfather of rock and metal covers. I sent him some lyrics and song from the pro-production. I discussed the state of our world with Joe and after the finished the artwork he wrote some very interesting lines that help to understand:
“After having spoken with tom about the current state of world affairs I wanted to
Visualize the history of man from the dawn of creation to the mess we have today.
This cover art is a picture of the archetype of the apocalypse which is hidden in us all.
The eruption of unconscious material happens from two directions simultaneously from
Above and from below.
I used Knarrenheinz as a symbol for the countless numbers who have soldiered on thru’ the centuries in one guise or another just to get us here anno 2016 where we seem to be on the
Brink of another possible eruption.
Knarrenheinz’s head is exploding due to his inability to hold these unconscious contents
Hidden or suppressed any longer. He’s in the throws of a dissociation of the upper and lower realms of the psyche much like the world today.
Pictorially this is a nuclear explosion which turns into a goats head with horns (hidden but there) forming a symbol of the lower realms erupting.
The barbed wire crown a symbol for oppression and incarceration that was keeping his head / psyche from erupting is now a crown of thorns.
The snake skeleton on the left is symbolic for USA whose bones spiraling downwards morph into human DNA and form the North American continent.
The bear skull on the right is symbolic for Russia and the European continent with the Middle East leads down to the falling victims of war and mass destruction.
The cave painting at the bottom left is the Neander Valley and our humble ancestral beginnings as well as our first encounters with warring against one another.
The valley of death is depicted on the right side.
Historically the painting reads from the bottom up or from the quagmire to the present, if we aren’t careful it could also read from the top to bottom.
That having been said; all is not lost, there is hope seen in the crosshairs of the sight pointed at Knarrenheinz’s heart.
This circular shape can also be a mandala / quaternity symbol for wholeness - if we can kill off the lower instincts it’s possible achieve transformation and a new world or aeon.”
R!S!P! - Lastly, what are Sodom’s touring plans for the new album? Any chance you guys will be doing a US tour?
TA - We hope to find a serious promoter next season to help us over. We had a lot of chances for a tour or just some single dates in US, but we were always fucked up by some locals and stupid entry requirements. It`s like a curse, but it`s always so sad for the fans, when a band is announced and get canceled in cause of faults, that others are responsible for. It’s a shame, but the day will come to return.
Thanks for supporting us so loyal and hope to see you soon…