SODOM “Architects of D-Day” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

On June 6, 1945, over 50,000 troops from Britain, Canada and the United States launched the greatest amphibious invasion in the history of the world. They landed on 5 French beaches with the intention of returning France to Allied control and using it as a base to defeat the Germans. After a ferocious battle that resulted in close to 5000 Allied casualties, the Nazis were beaten back and the liberation of France had begun. It was the first step in ending World War II in Europe.

June 6 was known as D-Day but surprisingly few people know that the “D” stood for “decision”. One man who definitely knows the details of D-Day is Tom Angelripper, a keen student of military history, who for over 35 years has been leading his own campaign. He is the founder and “general” of the German thrash metal band Sodom. War and the soldiers who fight it have always held a special significance for Tom. Hence, the title of the latest Sodom album is “Decision Day”, featuring a song about the invasion of Normandy.

Sodom’s battle for metal supremacy has been long and grueling, but “Decision Day” has all the fury of a band just hitting the battlefield. I compare Tom to the German version of the late Lemmy Kilmister…a working class hero who plays bad-ass metal.

General Angelripper recently took some time off his never-ending battle to tell me more about “Decision Day” and what keeps him in the fight. He really opened up about a lot of different things, so enjoy this dispatch straight from the field!

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings, Herr Angelripper! You have kept Sodom going for so many years now...are you still motivated by the same things that drove you in the early days or has your reason for doing the band changed?

TOM ANGELRIPPER: Yes, I am. I just love what I do. That's motivation enough, as long as I stay healthy and creative, I will continue to do it. When we started the band, we had no idea that we would still be alive after 35 years. In the beginning, our musical attitudes were just for fun. But we got our first real deal in 1984 already. That was amazing...recording in a professional studio for the first time. We were so lucky that Steamhammer believed in us, but being active after so many years is a result of hard work and the loyal support of our fans.

WC: "Decision Day" refers to D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe. As a German, your approach to this is going to be different than an American's or Englishman's. How did you decide to write about it and what were your thoughts on this greatest of all invasions?

TA: I know that Germany is responsible for all the death and destruction during the war. I saw a very interesting documentary about the Allied forces invasion. Despite very high losses, the war really ends with that operation. The song "Decision Day" is just one song about that historical but it also reflects some of the situation nowadays. So in my opinion, the next D-Day will come in the future but be far more ultimate the next time.

WC: Germany today is very caught up in the questions of terrorism and immigration. Is this a subject that influences your writing and what are your thoughts on it?

TA: Germany and Europe will always be haunted by terrorists. That never stops. There's so much bad news every day. When you consider how much the world has changed since our first album...sectarian killing, Cold War, nuclear armament, abolition of democracy in many countries, starvation and all the destructive frenzy...that inspired my lyrical mindset and fits our music so perfectly. That is sad but true. I am not politically active but this music gives me the chance to enter the stage and scream it out. This is like a therapy for me.

WC: Was "Decision Day" an easy album to write and record or did it take a lot of planning?
TA: We had a lot of time to write these songs after "Epitome of Torture". For the new one, we had no release date agreed with the label before the songwriting was finished, so we were able to record the songs during a period of six months. That was relaxing to work without deadline pressure. So we had time to do a pre-production and change parts we were not satisfied with. Our producer Corny did a great job. We recorded the drums and instruments with microphones, without any trigger signals or MIDI files. That keeps our typical Sodom sound organic and straight to the point. But yes, we recorded digitally, which is usual in these times. I like old production with "bigger" drumkits like old Venom, Kiss and Motley Crue...

WC: You've worked with your guitarist Bernemann for many years now. I think he is one of the most underrated guitarists in metal. Do you think he gets his proper respect?

TA: I don't think that he is underrated. But that doesn't matter as long as the band operates smoothly and the songs get respect and recognition by the listeners. Berni is a wonderful guitarist and songwriter. I love his hard riffing and melodic style solos!

WC: "Blood Lions" is a very unique lyric from Sodom, about the butchers who do "canned hunts" of lions and other rare species. What got your interest in this subject and do you take action to help these creatures?
TA: I saw the documentary "Blood Lions" on this subject. There are some hunters out there paying thousands of dollars to kill a male lion. These lions are "canned" in a cage so there is no danger for the hunter to shoot them. I am a hunter, too, but I select some of the deer and boars in my own district to keep control over the population. I also like the meat! But I would never pay so much money just for a huge trophy. This killing business is horrible!

WC: "Who Is God?" is the biggest question a person can ask. What is Sodom's answer on the song of that name?

TA: There is no God! So I am shocked that people kill each other because of their religious orientation. Paris was one of these terrible attacks. So many were slaughtered in a place packed with innocent people who just wanted to have a good time by watching a rock concert. These things are getting out of control. Religion causes most of the conflicts in the world, but it seems this is just the beginning...

WC: Some of the new tracks like "Rolling Thunder" and "Refused To Die" are very much old school Sodom. Did you want to reach more into your past with this album?

TA: I don't think so. We never talk about what to do next when we start composing a song. There is no musical direction before we record. But yes, we always try to keep the spirit of the 80's alive. Songs like these are just snapshots and reflect our present emotional state.

WC: There are aways hardcore "fans" who say Sodom was only good when they did real raw, under-produced albums like "Obsessed By Cruelty" and "In the Sign of Evil". How frustrating is it to hear this kind of talk?

TA: I don't know, but these albums were the spark to the powder keg and still a big influence on the scene. There was a big chance between "Obsessed" and "Persecution", but I think we chose the right way. In the past, I had a lot of books from Aleister Crowley. I was very interested in all the magical and Satanic things. But later, I realized that my personality changed in a negative direction, so I felt better when I stopped it. Life and the state of our world brings enough motivation for all our lyrical themes.

WC: You got the great artist Joe Petagno to do the cover art on "Decision Day'. How did you come to collaborate with him?

TA: I am so proud that he did this job. He is a great artist and a pioneer of rock and metal covers. When I got in contact with him by email, I was so surprised that he knew of our band since the beginning and was a follower of our career.

WC: The cover art on "Decision Day" is the most detailed ever for Sodom. What's the meaning behind this image?

TA: I discussed the state of our world with Joe and after he finished the artwork, he wrote some very interesting notes that help us to understand the art:

    "After having spoken with Tom about the current state of world affairs, I wanted to visualise 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, Sodom's "mascot", as a symbol for the countless numbers who have soldiered on through the centuries in one guise or another just to get us here in    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 supressed any longer. He's in the throes 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 goat's 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 the USA whose bones spiralling downward morph into human DNA and form the North American continent.

   The bear skull on the right is symbolic of Russia and the European continent with the Middle East leading down to the fallen victims of war and mass destruction.

   The cave painting at the bottom left is the Neander Valley which represents 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 the 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 seen as a mandala/quaternity symbol for wholeness. If we can kill off the lower instincts, it's possible to achieve transformation and a        new world or aeon.

WC: Sodom has had a lot of trouble playing shows in America. Is there any chance you will be coming over here to play soon? 

TA: We hope to find a serious promoter next season to help us come over. We had a lot of chances for a tour or just some single dates, 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 gets canceled because of faults that others are responsible for. It's a shame but the day will come for us to return.

WC: Is your "Western metal" band Desperado still in action and if so, will we hear anything from them?

TA: Yes, they are still around but I am not in the band anymore. I am still proud to be a part of their history. The first album was very strong but underrated. I love that Alex Kraft produced a new album, which tells the story of the famous gunfighter Billy the Kid. I did some guest vocals on it.

WC: How about the Onkel Tom band? Anything coming from them?

TA: We released a new album last year and have some plans and ideas for the next one. There are also some shows booked in this year. I still love this project.

WC: If you could have dinner with any 3 people from history, who would they be?

TA: Of course, Lemmy, Bon Scott and my good old friend, Chris Witchhunter.

WC: What's the last release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

TA: I bought the last Slayer album. This is the only band I spend money on whenever they release a new album. Hope they keep on going for the next decade!

WC: Do you think about the end of Sodom? Is there a certain point where you know you will hang it up?

TA: I never think about that. I am still healthy and creative so there is no reason to retire. The music is the biggest part of my life. To top doing this will be a great loss for me.

WC: Any last words or thoughts for American fans?

TA: Thanks for supporting us so loyally. I really hope to see you all in the US as soon as possible. Love you all!