Sodom performing live at Rock Hard Festival in 2016
Frank "Blackfire" Gosdzik
Stefan "Husky" Hskens
Michael Wulf (deceased)
Dirk "Strahli" Strahlmeier (deceased)
Christian "Witchhunter" Dudek (deceased)
Bernd "Bernemann" Kst
Markus "Makka" Freiwald
Sodom are a German thrash metal band from Gelsenkirchen, formed in 1981. They have gone through many line-up changes, leaving bassist/vocalist Tom Angelripper as the only constant member. Along with Kreator, Destruction and Tankard, Sodom has been referred to as one of the "Big 4" of Teutonic thrash metal. While three of those bands (except Tankard) created a sound that would influence death metal and black metal, Sodom's early music style would greatly influence many late 1980s and early 1990s black metal bands more than others.
To date, Sodom have released fifteen studio albums, three live albums, two compilation albums and six EPs. They achieved their first commercial success with their third studio album Agent Orange (1989), which was the first thrash metal album to enter the German album charts, where it reached number 36. Their most recent studio album, Decision Day, was released in 2016. Sodom is one of the best-selling thrash metal acts of all time, having sold over eight million records. The band is currently working on a new album, which they plan to release in 2019.
Sodom's original line-up consisted of Tom Angelripper, Bloody Monster, Arius "Blasphemer", and Aggressor. The band was initiated by Tom as a desperate attempt to get out of having to work in coal mines in his home town of Gelsenkirchen. Though the band became a real working unit yet only when Chris Witchhunter (Christian Dudek, originally from Essen) had joined the band on drums (replacing Bloody Monster), having already had experience in writing music in some of his previous school-projects and thus coaching the remaining two members how to write proper songs (Arius had also been fired from the band). Taking inspiration from bands such as Motrhead, Venom, Tank, Accept, Rainbow, AC/DC and UFO, the group continued as a three-piece in the Motrhead-fashion and released two demos which led to a record deal with Steamhammer. Aggressor left the band shortly before releasing the In the Sign of Evil EP (which is generally regarded as an important early black metal release), and was replaced by Grave Violator, who himself did not last long, and left following the recording of In the Sign of Evil. Michael "Destructor" Wulf was found as a replacement, after which the band went and recorded Obsessed by Cruelty, their full-length debut featuring music that was mostly in the vein of In The Sign of Evil. Wulf did not last in the band long, and later went and joined Kreator (where he also only had a short stint; he would later die after a tragic motorcycle accident in 1993).
For the most part, Sodom was at first not taken seriously, with various press sources describing them as "a second-rate Venom clone with semi-inventive lyrics". One member would change that. Frank "Blackfire" Gosdzik came in to fill the guitar spot Wulf had left behind. Frank convinced Tom that thrash metal was moving beyond horror/occult/satanic themes of bands like Venom to embrace political, societal, and war themes. Tom was already interested in various wars yet remained a peacenik. New inspiration culminated into Frank's full-length debut with the band, Persecution Mania. The new lyrical approach and increased musicianship on the part of Frank gave the band great acclaim (as well as a gas-masked mascot Knarrenheinz, who appeared for the first time on Persecution Mania's cover). They subsequently toured Europe with the likes of Whiplash, Destruction and Coroner. After touring for the better part of 1987 and 1988, the band returned to the studio to make another album. The final product, Agent Orange (1989), sold 100,000 copies in Germany alone. This made Sodom famous, giving them worldwide critical acclaim, and secured their place alongside Kreator and Destruction as one of the great Teutonic thrash metal bands. To this date, Agent Orange has sold more than any other German thrash-metal album in the world. In support of the album, Sodom went on tour with a then-unknown Sepultura.
Problems were brewing inside of the band, however. Tom and Chris descended further into alcoholism. Furthermore, Frank had grown tired of composing music that his band-mates would often perform poorly live. Mille Petrozza offered Frank a position with his band Kreator, after they lost their second guitarist, and Frank accepted. Angelripper went out looking for a replacement and found Michael Hoffman, formerly of German thrashers Assassin.
With this line-up, the album Better off Dead was released in 1990. During the South American tour however, Hoffman decided to stay in Brazil and was therefore forced to quit. Andy Brings replaced him, and a new album was recorded, Tapping the Vein, with more of a death metal sound. This proved to be the last album with the drummer Witchhunter: He was kicked out of the band, and Atomic Steif formerly of both Holy Moses and Living Death became his replacement behind the drum kit.
On September 15, 1991, Sodom played in Sofia, Bulgaria. The show was notable for the band because the audience of fifteen thousand people was one of the largest they had as a headliner. It was notable for the audience because it was the first show of a Western metal band in Bulgaria after the fall of communism (the only remotely similar event being a performance of the hard rock band Uriah Heep in 1987).
The group recorded the album, Get What You Deserve. The death metal influences were out; the influence of punk came in. Get What You Deserve had an arguably grotesque album cover (featuring a dead man shot and lying in his bed with a woman tied-up nearby), and many fans did not take to the band's new direction. This period also marked the beginning of less international visibility for the band as thrash lost its commercial viability for the remainder of the 1990s. Angelripper also started a solo career doing metal impressions of drinking songs, German schlagers and even Christmas-type carols. A live album was recorded of the tour in support of the resulting album called Marooned - Live.
Masquerade in Blood, saw the death metal influences return, as well as some groove metal elements kicking in, but still was pretty much in the same vein as their previous studio effort. It was released in 1995. Again another guitarist had to be found. The new choice, Strahli, did not stay very long with the band. He was arrested and imprisoned on drug-related matters, and the band had since lost contact with him, until January 2011, when they learned he had died in Dsseldorf. Atomic Steif also left and again Angelripper needed to search for new members. These were found: a guitarist in Bernemann and a drummer in Bobby Schottkowski. This line-up stabilized the band significantly and lasted until December 2010, when Schottkowski left.
The album 'Til Death Do Us Unite featured a controversial album cover, depicting a woman's pregnant belly and a man's beer gut pressing in a human skull together. This album marked the beginning of Sodom's return to thrash but was still more along the lines of a thrash-crossover sound and had much in common with bands like Suicidal Tendencies. It also spawned the song for which Sodom would make their most famous music video, the highly-controversial song "Fuck The Police." After this album, Sodom returned to the studio and released Code Red in 1999 which marked a full return to the Teutonic thrash metal sound of the 1980s, and it was met with praise from fans and press alike. A limited edition featured a bonus CD containing a tribute to Sodom album, Homage to the Gods. With 2001 came the release of M-16, a concept album about the movie Apocalypse Now, which took its title from the famed M16 assault rifle.
In 2003, a double live album was recorded in Bangkok, Thailand, titled One Night in Bangkok. A new album simply titled Sodom was released in 2006, in the same vein as M-16. The title was chosen - as Angelripper explained it - "because every band needs a self-titled album", and the band had never released one. The album was delayed however, because the DVD Lords of Depravity took more time to compose than initially thought.
In 2007, Tom was asked by the record label Steamhammer for any tracks to be released on the In The Sign Of Evil EP. Tom believed there were, and the label floated the idea to Tom to get ex-members Chris Witchhunter and Grave Violator (real name: Franz Josef "Peppi" Dominik) to re-record the EP with the bonus tracks. The result became The Final Sign of Evil. Chris "Witchhunter" Dudek died on 7 September 2008 from liver failure after a long battle with illness.
In 2009, Sodom returned to the UK to play their first show in 20 years at Bloodstock Open Air.
In War and Pieces, Sodom's thirteenth studio album, was released in Europe on November 22, 2010, and released in North America on January 11, 2011. On November 30, 2010, it was announced that Bobby Schottkowski would be leaving the band, due to "personal and private problems" between Tom Angelripper and Schottkowski. On December 8, 2010, Markus "Makka" Freiwald was announced to be Sodom's new drummer.
In late January 2012, Sodom began writing their fourteenth studio album, which they planned to record in May 2012 for a late summer release. On December 17, 2012, the band announced the album would be released on April 29, 2013. The album is titled Epitome of Torture and features 13 tracks. The album was released in Germany on April 26, and in the US on May 7.
In November 2014, Sodom released the EP Sacred Warpath as a preview of their fifteenth studio album. The EP contains one original studio track, and live versions of three previously released songs.
Sodom released the compilation album, Demonized, on September 1, 2017. Available only on cassette and 12" vinyl, it features the band's first two demo recordings, Witching Metal from 1982 and Victims of Death from 1984.
Shortly after the release of Decision Day, Angelripper stated that Sodom has "some ideas for [their] next album which [they] want to bring out in 2018."
On December 3, 2017, Sodom announced that they would reunite with three of their former guitarists Josef "Grave Violator" Dominic (who performed on In the Sign of Evil), Frank "Blackfire" Gosdzik (Persecution Mania and Agent Orange) and Andy Brings (Tapping the Vein and Get What You Deserve) during their 35th anniversary show on December 26 in Bochum, Germany, marking the first time since Dominic, Gosdzik and Brings left the band in 1985, 1989, and 1995, respectively, that either guitarist had performed live with Sodom. Their previous performances were at Wacken in 2007. They performed three songs separate from one another's appearances from the respective albums they appeared on.
On January 5, 2018, Angelripper announced his partings from Bernemann and Makka "to pave the way for new challenges." He then said that he would introduce the new members on April 7 at the 2018 edition of the Full Metal Mountain festival, and that they would work on a new album together. Bernemann and Makka later said that they were fired from the band via WhatsApp without Angelripper listening to the new material they were working on for the band's next album. On January 22, 2018, Angelripper announced that he had expanded the band's line-up as a four piece. He was rejoined by guitarist Frank "Blackfire" Gosdzik and added Stefan "Husky" Hskens and Yorck Segatz as the band's new drummer and second guitarist respectively. A new single featuring this new line-up would be released in the summer of 2018, with a new full-length album to follow in 2019.
On February 26, 2018, Sodom cancelled their appearance at the Full Metal Mountain festival "due to the short-term change of line-up and the restructuring of my band Sodom", as explained by Angelripper. He then said that the time was "simply too short to put the new line-up in a solid live set". The new line-up of the band made their live debut on May 18 at the 2018 edition of the Rock Hard Festival.
In the early days Sodom's lyrics focused on Satanic and occult themes but war soon became their main subject. This led some people to think that the band was militarist, but on closer observation the reader would find the lyrics actually being anti-war. In an interview with Metalkings.com Tom Angelripper said: "Why are we writing about war? Because we don't want war. We wanna describe how bad the war is." The chorus of the song Ausgebombt also gives a very clear message: "No trade with death, No trade with arms, Dispense the war, Learn from the past."