Sodom

Picture of Sodom

In The Sign Of Evil EP

Sodom - In The Sign Of Evil EP ©1984 Steamhammer/SPV
1. Outbreak Of Evil
2. Sepulchral Voice
3. Blasphemer
4. Witching Metal
5. Burst Command Til War

In a time when metal still retained the image of finesse (the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest were reigning) and thrash was still a gurgling undercurrent of wretchedness, the sheer ugliness of Sodom's debut EP must have been like a festering sore to the underground, yet entirely welcome. Granted, Venom had already proven you didn't need talent to make a name for yourself, but their schtick was very much a cartoon of heavy metal that was taken a bit too seriously by the impressionable fans of the day. Sodom obviously came from that school of raw and ugly metal, as In the Sign of Evil aptly demonstrates.

The five song EP, released after some demo material had circulated around, is everything you'd expect for underground thrash metal in the mid 80s: poor production, meager ability and barely adequate songwriting skills. And these are precisely the reasons why In the Sign of Evil is an enjoyable little piece of metal history. The members had metal appropriate nicknames such as "Angel Ripper", "Grave Violator" and "Witchhunter". Vocalist/bassist Tom Angelripper spit out the vocals like he had just consumed a German sized stein of beer, glass and all. The guitarist sounded like he knew six chords total, but played the hell out of them. "Outbreak of Evil", by far the most impressive song on the EP, rips along at breakneck speed, barely allowing the listener a chance to breathe. The EP also contains spooky horror-house sound effects, which would become quite the staple in black and death metal in the future.

While In the Sign of Evil is very primitive, even by Sodom's standards, it set the stage for the band's eventual prominence in the German thrash metal scene. By 1987, the band would be in their prime (and at the point where new listeners might want to consider checking in), but their initial effort is one of those that deserves a little nod of the head.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2007

Back to top 

Obsessed by Cruelty

Sodom - Obsessed by Cruelty ©1986 Steamhammer/SPV
1. Intro
2. Deathlike Silence
3. Brandish the Sceptre
4. Proselytism Real
5. Equinox
6. Volcanic Slut
7. Obsessed by Cruelty
8. Fall of Majesty Town
9. Nuctemeron
10. Pretenders to the Throne
11. Witchhammer

From the outset, Sodom's first full length album, Obsessed by Cruelty, was not destined to be a metal classic. Although unknown at the time of its release, there were actually two version of the album in existence. The first version was rejected by their record company and the second recording featured a new guitar player. However, the US version featured the original session while the European pressing did not. To make things more confusing, the US version listed a track ("After the Deluge"), which was not even included on the album. To say the debut was a disaster is understating things.

Simply put, Obsessed by Cruelty is a horrendous recording. Sodom had not yet grasped their sound, technical ability or direction. They knew they wanted to be dark and evil in some regard, but this just sounded like a third rate Venom rehash with far less musical ability. There aren't many positive aspects to point out on this abortion of a record. Granted, Tom Angelripper was beginning to develop his lacerated larynx approach, but that was possibily the only notable detail on the album. The songs, such as they are, lack convincing arrangements. The band rips through them with about as much finesse as a third grade class putting on a Shakespeare performance.

When I first heard this album around 1989 or so, I was severely disappointed. I had become a huge fan of Sodom based on their excellent Agent Orange, but backtracking through their catalogue was thoroughly disappointing when I came across this dud. It's not quite as terrible as I remember it being, but that's because years of reviewing primitive black metal has most likely caused a deterioration in my standards. Compared to many of the disturbingly unoriginal bands that were influenced by bands who were influenced by other bands that at one time were influenced by early Sodom, Obsessed by Cruelty is practically Powerslave. But let's not get carried away here. This is a very weak debut. Had Sodom not put in some hard work and determination to improve, they could have easily faded away into one of the many forgetable terrible bands of the era.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

Back to top 

Persecution Mania

Sodom - Persecution Mania ©1987 Steamhammer/SPV
1. Nuclear Winter
2. Electrocution
3. Iron Fist
4. Persecution Mania
5. Enchanted Land
6. Procession To Golgatha
7. Christ Passion
8. Conjuration
9. Bombenhagel
10. Outbreak Of Evil
11. Sodomy And Lust
12. The Conqueror
13. My Atonement

Longtime thrash stalwarts Sodom arguably peaked around 1987-1988 with their two albums, Persecution Mania and Agent Orange. Invariably any Sodom fan will pick one of those two albums as the favorite, depending on which they heard first (well, usually). Sodom at that essentially figured out to play basic aggressive high speed thrash with Tom Angelripper's spittin-razor-blades vocal approach that excelled in its simplicity. I still consider Frank Blackfire's guitar contributions to be the key in what made Sodom so great. Using nothing but simple chords and riffs while adding some pretty firey solos, Blackfire was exactly what the band needed. The pacing was also quite impressive, being some of the speediest thrash I can recall at the time. The band also smartly chose Motorhead's "Iron Fist" as a cover, quite possibly one-upping their masters. This CD also contains the very good Expurse of Sodomy EP, which should be enough enticement for you to make this an essential purchase. Many of today's extreme metal bands owe a debt of gratitude to Sodom for inspiration and influence so thus it behooves you to explore at the very least the two best albums of the band's career.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

Back to top 

Mortal Way of Live

Sodom - Mortal Way of Live ©1988 Steamhammer
1. Persecution Mania
2. Outbreak of Evil
3. Conqueror
4. Iron Fist
5. Obsessed by Cruelty
6. Nuclear Winter
7. Electrocution
8. Blasphemer
9. Enchanted Land
10. Sodomy & Lust
11. Christ Passion
12. Bombenhagel
13. My Atonement
14. Conjuration

Mortal Way of Live is a very basic, rough document of the 1988 Sodom live unit. Featuring the "classic" trio of Tom Angelripper, Frank Blackfire and Chris Witchhunter, this album finds the thrash band in not quite their prime (which was to come with 1989's Agent Orange). Insofar as live albums go, this one somehow escapes being utterly useless, despite the somewhat low quality production. Let's just say it's neither A Real Live One or Live After Death. Instead, Mortal Way of Live comes across as a good soundboard recording that is a couple steps up from a bootleg copy but untouched by any post production polishing. As a result, the guitar is entirely buried in the mix and often, in the speedier songs, it's hard to pick out more than the drums and vocals. Things such as electrical buzzes from the amps are audible. This makes Mortal Way of Live about as authentic of a live document as you can get, particularly for a commercial release.

The setlist covers the band's early era fairly evenly. Highlights include a truly breakneck "Outbreak of Evil", crowd pleasers "Bombenhagel" and "Sodomy & Lust", and the cover of Motorhead's "Iron Fist". Some of the other songs tend to blend together a bit and unfortunately you get the mandatory guitar and drum solos, which hardly add to the album or even the live experience. Play more songs, dammit! Extended solos are such a relic from dinosaur rock. Let Jimmy Page wank around. Thrash bands should bash out the songs.

This release is certainly for the more dedicated Sodom fans out there. The rough sound quality may scare off certain listeners, which is understandable. I personally enjoy the energy of some of the songs, but in general I'd much rather listen to the studio counterparts of these songs.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2010

Back to top 

Agent Orange

Sodom - Agent Orange ©1989 Steamhammer/SPV
1. Agent Orange
2. Tired And Red
3. Incest
4. Remember The Fallen
5. Magic Dragon
6. Exhibition Bout
7. Ausgebombt
8. Baptism Of Fire
9. Don't Walk Away

What a steamroller of a thrash album Agent Orange was back in 1989. I had heard the title track and "Remember the Fallen" on this ultra-cool weekly radio show that played thrash on Sunday nights for an hour and immediately had to get my paws on the album, posthaste. Enscapulating everything I wanted to hear in a thrash album in those days, Agent Orange proved to be worth every second of hassle and effort I put into finding it.

With pacing along the lines of a meth junkie's heart rate and guitars blazing away with at breakneck speed, Agent Orange is a rush of exceptionally straight forward aggression and power. Guitarist Frank Blackfire was captured in prime form on the album while Tom Angelripper and Chris Witchhunter set down a blitzkrieg pacing. With but one exception (the fairly bland "Baptism of Fire"), every song here rips your innards out with glee. The title track opener allows you just a minute's notice before jumping in full speed. The most notable thing is the band had a good sense of throwing some dynamics and breaks into the music, such as the acoustic interlude in "Tired and Red" seguing into a prototypical thrash passage that finally builds into a killer solo, thus elevating the song some more. "Remember the Fallen" is the anthemic focal point of the album, giving a nod to all those who died in senseless wars. "Ausgebombt" is a very aggressive, almost punkish song that is guaranteed to get you bouncing off the walls of your bedroom. The final notable song is the cover of Tank's "Don't Walk Away", which allows the band to close out the album on a rather fun and silly theme, rather than the heavy war oriented topics of the rest.

Still one of my all time favorites from the mid to late 80s thrash era, Sodom's Agent Orange is a shining moment of a trio in a lull between member changes. Blackfire joined Kreator after this album's release and Sodom vanished from stateside attention not long afterwards. Regardless, Agent Orange offers some of the most ripping and wonderfully frills free thrash metal you'll ever find.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/2000

Back to top 

Better Off Dead

Sodom - Better Off Dead ©1990 Steamhammer
1. An Eye For An Eye
2. Shellfire Defense
3. The Saw Is The Law
4. Turn Your Head Around
5. Capture The Flag
6. Cold Sweat
7. Bloodtrails
8. Never Healing Wound
9. Better Off Dead
10. Resurrection
11. Tarred And Feathered
12. Stalinorgel

After building a full head of steam following two excellent thrash metal classics (Persecution Mania and the outstanding Agent Orange), Sodom squandered all their momentum with Better Off Dead. Of course, it should be stated that guitarist Frank Gosdzik jumped ship to join Kreator (just in time to be part of their creative slide of the early to mid 90s), which very well may have undermined the dynamics and chemistry of the band. Sodom, as they've always done with their guitarists, simply found another guy. Unfortunately, that's all they found: just some guy.

For Better Off Dead, Sodom recruited Michael Hoffmann from Assassin. Apparently he did not rate a cool stage name like Blackfire or Grave Violator, which should have been the first warning sign not all was well. His contributions on Better Off Dead demonstrate he's a competent guitarist, but nothing more. The chemistry was obviously awry and Sodom seemed somewhat directionless, which seems strange considering how complete and cohesive Agent Orange had been. One can picture the leather-clad and somewhat grimey Sodom fans scratching their heads at the orthodox cover of Thin Lizzy's "Cold Sweat" or the bizarre attempt at traditional metal choruses on "Resurrection". The album contains a couple full speed ahead thrash numbers, but does an awful lot of meandering. "The Saw is the Law" is an attempt at a headbanging anthem while "Turn Your Head Around" features Tom Angelripper trying to be moderately melodic.

Needless to say, the disjointed nature of the record and overall inability to capitalize on the enormous strengths of Agent Orange relegated Sodom to obscurity for a number of years. Better Off Dead did not receive distribution in the United States. Originally, back in 1990, this was a sore point for me as Agent Orange was so great that I couldn't wait for its successor. As it turns out, I really wasn't missing a whole lot. While not utterly terrible, Better Off Dead is just a bit of a misstep for Sodom. It comes as no surprise that Michael Hoffman did not appear on another Sodom record.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/2009

Back to top 

Ten Black Years--Best Of

Sodom - Ten Black Years--Best Of ©1996 Steamhammer
CD one:
1. Tired And Red
2. The Saw Is The Law
3. Agent Orange
4. Wachturm/erwachet
5. Ausgebombt
6. Sodomy And Lust
7. Remember The Fallen
8. Nuclear Winter
9. Outbreak Of Evil
10. Resurrection
11. Bombenhagel
12. Masquerade In Blood
13. Bullet In The Head
14. Stalinhagel
CD two:
15. Shellshock
16. Angel Dust
17. Hunting Season
18. Abuse
19. 1000 Days Of Sodom
20. Gomorrah
21. Unwanted Youth
22. Tarred & Feathered
23. Iron Fist
24. Jabba The Hut
25. Silence Is Consent
26. Incest
27. Shellfire Defense
28. Gone To Glory
29. Fratricide
30. Verrecke!
31. One Step Over The Line
32. My Atonement
33. Sodomized
34. Aber Bitte Mit
35. Die Stumme Ursel
36. Mantelmann

Right off the bat you know this huge compilation of Sodom in most of its heinous incarnations was an effort by SPV/Steamhammer to cash in one last time as Sodom had signed to G.U.N. Records. So much hate and disgust will be directed at the record label for not putting as much effort and care into as this amazingly long running thrash trio deserves. The second disc's track order is completely wrong and the booklet contains a few photos of the band, but no real substantative information that a long time fan would like to see. Things such as a famous metal writer adding some comments (such as Tomas Pascual did with the Celtic Frost tribute) or acknowledging which track came from what album would make this collection a whole lot better. So SPV/Steamhammer should be spanked soundly for this obvious attempt to wring a few last dollars out of the fans.

Rant aside, this is a killer collection for someone who hasn't been able to find any new Sodom releases in the 90's (due to the stateside general apathy towards metal). Containing thirty six songs, you get a total overview of Sodom. Seminal releases such as Agent Orange get quite a few inclusions, some studio and some live. You also get to hear some of their more punk-ish songs such as the final few songs on disc two (don't ask me the names since the track listing is completely wrong) plus their earlier thrash standards. Sodom has never been a band to wow one with their technical ability (they're relatively talented at their instruments, but not overbearingly so). Rather their dedication to rough pummellings of ripping guitars, hoarse gravelly vocals, distorted bass and drums careening on the edge of control is what makes them special, like something akin to a thrash metal Motorhead. Tom Angelripper deserves credit for sticking to his guns all these years and if you, like me, haven't been able to catch up with Sodom in the past few years, this compilation is a perfect place to catch up with them.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1998

Back to top 

'Til Death Do Us Unite

Sodom - 'Til Death Do Us Unite ©1997 GUN Records
1. Frozen Screams
2. Fuck The Police
3. Gisela
4. That's What An Unknown Killer Diarized
5. Hanging Judge
6. No Way Out
7. Polytoximaniac
8. 'Til Death Do Us Unite
9. Hazy Shade Of Winter
10. Suicidal Justice
11. Wander In The Valley
12. Sow The Seeds Of Discord
13. Master Of Disguise
14. Schwerter Zu Pflugscharen
15. Hey, Hey, Hey Rock'n Roll Star

Throughout the 90s and after the outstanding 1989 release Agent Orange, Sodom managed to release multiple records to a relatively indifferent music audience that deservedly fell through the cracks. There was of course an obligatory live album (Marooned Live) and rather haphazard compilation (Ten Black Years), alongside several studio albums that simply weren't all that captivating. Part of the problem may have been the revolving lineup behind Tom Angelripper, as the band had gone through multiple guitarists throughout the 90s. Anyhow, by the time 1997's 'Til Death Do Us Unite rolled out of the ugly morass that is no doubt Sodom's practice space, it's fair to say there wasn't nearly as much attention on the band's activities as there was in, say, 1989.

However, 'Til Death Do Us Unite, featuring new guitarist "Bernemann" (who is still with Sodom today, making him the longest tenured guitarist by far), happens to be the surprise hidden gem in Sodom's extensive discography. The band still was exploring the world of thrash'n'roll metal, which had been more or less the approach used on the previous couple of albums. Up to this album, the songs felt by-the-numbers and barked out, lacking the songwriting hooks to make them actually interesting. That got recitified in a hurry on this album. Often utilizing a very simple "four chords and we got a song, mofo" approach, Sodom chucks out catchy song after catchy song throughout. At times you get the sense that they were listening to the Ramones and Motorhead right before writing their own songs. Sodom of course still retains their own fast paced thrash sound. Their best moments are the ridiculously basic yet catchy songs like "Gisela" and "Polytoximaniac". There's even an amusing cover of "Hazy Shade of Winter" that is both punked and thrashed out in appropriate fashion.

Admittedly when I recently put on this album for a listen, it was on the heels of wading through their rather unimpressive 90s releases up to that point. 'Til Death Do Us Unite manages to overcome all their mediocrity to finally re-emerge as a solid act, and thankfully without resorting to "groove metal" or whatever else 80s thrash bands resorted to in the 90s to attempt to stay relevant. If you're the type to cherry pick through a band's recorded output, I can definitely say this one should be acquired in some manner as it represents a solid reboot of their career with a new lineup.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2013

Back to top 

Code Red

Sodom - Code Red ©1999 Pavement
1. Intro
2. Code Red
3. What Hell Can Create
4. Tombstone
5. Liquidation
6. Spiritual Demise
7. Warlike Cnspiracy
8. Cowardice
9. The Vice Of Killing
10. Visual Buggery
11. Book Burning
12. The Wolf And The Lamb
13. Addicted To Abstinence

Code Red is a return to form of sorts for this long running German thrash band, finally receiving a decent US licensing deal after years of being regaled to import-only status as well as a resurrection of their very classic late 80's sound. Though the lineup has been entirely in flux around band leader Tom Angelripper, Code Red's membership follows the Sodom sound true and narrow. In fact, the first two songs are a blitzkrieg of speed and blinding thrash assault, with nary a letup in intensity until the intro of "Tombstone". Much of the album rolls along in a somewhat precise, Sodomatic way. Frankly, Tom Angelripper essentially has a sound that he has stuck with faithfully throughout the years. This particular album sounds a bit less hardcore-ish than some of the other 90s material I have heard and more along the lines of what you might expect from Agent Orange. Code Red lacks some of the strong material of that particular album. Regardless, Sodom is still rock solid and rumbling along as if the entire decade of the 90s never happened. For that alone, thrash enthusiasts need to find this one.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2000

Back to top 

M-16

Sodom - M-16 ©2001 Steamhammer/SPV
1. Among The Weirdcong
2. I Am The War
3. Napalm In The Morning
4. Minejumper
5. Genocide
6. Little Boy
7. M-16
8. Lead Injection
9. Cannon Fodder
10. Marines
11. Surfin' Bird

Yes, it's another Sodom release. It's hard to believe this trio (albeit with various lineups) has lasted for so long and for so many releases. But it's true. Tom Angelripper and his crew have somehow persevered for quite some time and still have retained a consistent, recognizable sound throughout their existence, regardless of whoever was manning the guitar and drum positions. M-16 is the band's latest release and features a barrage of tracks concerning themselves with the Vietnam War. War obviously has never been an unbroachable subject for Sodom, so the lyrical nature should come as no surprise to anyone. Moreover, Sodom's musical approach for M-16 shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone either. Much like 1999's Code Red, M-16 rattles forth with typical Sodom speed and heaviness. The sound developed long ago on Agent Orange and Persecution Mania is in effect here, with only a trace of the hardcore-ish elements that found their way into the band's sound during the 90s. And although the band has been around for so long, they sound no less fervent or harsh as they did over a decade ago. Tom Angelripper's vocals are still strong as ever, which suggests he has the most calloused vocal chords this side of Lemmy.

M-16 is definitely a solid, consistent release that will most certainly please Sodo-maniacs. Considering how hard it is to find legitimate thrash releases in 2001, M-16 is a good effort from one of the more defining German thrash bands of all time.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2001

Back to top