Joined: 30 Jan 2003
|Posted: Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:24 pm Post subject: SODOM - PERSECUTION MANIA
|SODOM - PERSECUTION MANIA
(Steamhammer Records, 1987)
Ah, Sodom, Sodom, Sodom ... From their primitive beginnings of 1984's In the Sign of Evil EP and the almost un-listenable (so-bad-it's-good) Obsessed by Cruelty album - said to be deliberately sabotaged by producer Horst Muller - these two releases forever symbolised the name of Sodom. You either loved them or you didn't, or rather, you considered them to be one big, noisy, tuneless joke. Whichever side of the fence you stood on one thing is certain; as well as a handful of other bands mid-80's Sodom inspired many a Norwegian & Floridian teenager to pick up a guitar which set the foundations for Death & Black Metal as we know it today.
To get a more thorough insight into the complex history of Sodom and its revolving door policy on band members I'd recommend you watch Lord of Depravity Pt. 1. As well as giving you an in-depth look into early/mid 80's German metal it de-claws Sodom who for a brief period at least was labelled by the press as the 'worst' of the hardcore death/black metal bands at that time, the other culprits being Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost.
After Obsessed ... Sodom returned in 1987 with an EP entitled Expurse of Sodomy. This EP featured original core members Thomas 'Tom Angelripper' Such on bass/vocals and Christian 'Chris Witchhunter' Dudek on drums; it also was the debut appearance of one Frank 'Blackfire' Gosdzik on guitars, who brought a refreshing air of professionalism (not to mention talent) to the underground trio that perhaps was somewhat lacking on their previous efforts. The production on the EP was the band's first collaboration with long-time producer Harris Johns. This was a positive move by Sodom, for Johns captured a new sound that some thought improbable. In fact, such was the favourable (Re. surprised) reaction to this new-sound Sodom that they decided to use him again for their second album proper, Persecution Mania. Recorded at famous Musiclab Studios, Berlin (where many of those classic German thrash albums were recorded) in October 1987 and released December 1st, Persecution, after the success of the Expurse ... EP was eagerly awaited. It didn't disappoint.
''Cause no one ever knows/We are among you ...'
Nuclear Winter opens proceedings with nuclear aplomb (forgive the pun). A serious thrasher, time changes aplenty, from the gecko it was evident that Sodom had gone with old saying 'if it ain't broke, why fix it'? They had wisely harnessed the song structure and production of the Expurse ... EP and ran with it. Electrocution is a typical Sodom thrasher, taking the foot off the pedal mid-song for a stomp-along breather before all hell breaks loose once more: Time will come to balance the account/take you legally to hell/Electrical chair is reserved sure enough/Your death struggle rings the bell.
Back in the late '80's everyone was covering anyone and Sodom was no exception. Considering Tom's love of Lemmy and all things Motorhead it came as no surprise that they covered Iron Fist. Though it was fast and filthy as the original - You know me, etc - in hindsight it really offered nothing new and was just following a for-it's-time trend.
The title track Persecution Mania, about the Vietnam War was a theme which Sodom has delved into with gusto during their career - see 1989's Agent Orange - is a hard n' heavy pounder and a fine example of this new sounding Sodom. The German Big 3 - Kreator, Destruction and Sodom - started off as spotty-faced teens playing basic, primitive thrash and at this stage they were now developing their own sound. By 1987 they were releasing albums that sounded nothing like their demos, let alone their debut albums. The reason why Persecution Mania shocked and surprised was because this was a grown-up Sodom, now brimming with musical depth and lyrical maturity, even if, according to the press they weren't supposed to sound this way: Hostile crossfire finished 8 lives/Bowels bury me alive/Green hell swallows a silhouette/I could get away. This was a far cry from Masturbate to kill myself from an earlier song Blasphemer. Enchanted Land ends Side A with a typical heads-down-see-you-at-the-finish thrasher, Witchhunter's drums rolling all over this and Blackfire churning out a tasty solo that squeals and squawks for your listening pleasure.
After the brooding instrumental Forward to Golgatha which opens proceedings on Side B this leads nicely into album (and up to that point) career highlight, Christ Passion. This track has everything; fast bits, slow bits, vocal effects and an awesome riff which is the backbone of this most amazing song. Conjuration (not to be confused with Megadeth's The Conjuring) thumps to a start with a fine drum roll from Witchhunter, and even boasts a grinding bass solo from Tom. Musically it kinda goes nowhere, but sounds powerful despite this.
And then we have album closer Bombenhagel, which caused some controversy for its WWII lyrical content and *that* guitar solo at the end, namely the German national anthem. Sodom was accused of having pro-Nazi political views and all sorts of nasty what-not. However, when you look at the track as a whole, the lyrics are by no means pro-war - Waiting for the painful decision/Senseless action of Germans on and on/Only subsides delivered us from suffering/What does the future have in store? - and musically well, if Sodom, as Germans want to play the German national anthem then why not? Unfortunately, having it in a song titled Bombenhagel perhaps wasn't the wisest choice, and the band caught a lot of flak (sorry) because of it. Consequently, they went on to state on the follow-up studio album Agent Orange that the record was '... dedicated to all people - soldiers and civilians - who died by senseless aggressions of wars all over the world.' And if that wasn't enough, the band declared on the Ausgebombt EP sleeve, 'To avoid any misunderstand past or future: Sodom is against any suppression of minorities practised by any government in the world.' So there.
The album artwork was painted by two individuals, Johannes Beck and Agentur Schluck, which featured the first incarnation of Knarrenheinz, AKA the armed, helmeted figure in the gasmask. Much like Destruction's Mad Butcher and Maiden's Eddie Knarrenheinz has become the band's mascot and has appeared on numerous of their album sleeves (and my left calf).
Reviews at the time were, typical for Sodom (and nothing has changed since) mixed. Kerrang! scribe and avid Anthrax supporter Howard Johnston gave the record 2 K's out of 5, slagging the production and comparing the over-all album to the UK's Sun newspaper (and that's not a good thing). 'I don't really find anything challenging in Sodom,' he wrote, before adding '... correct me if I'm wrong, but just 'cos it's hard and heavy it doesn't give a band the right to put out inferior quality records!' I can remember at the time wondering why on earth the Kerrang! editors gave certain albums to certain journalists who had no interest in a particular band or genre to review. After all, there was no way Johnston was going to give a Sodom record the thumbs up; in his own words, 'Sodom don't have the Metallica ears. They don't have the Anthrax ears either.' Metal Forces, however, were more generous, giving it 95/100 and commenting that Sodom has ' ... abandoned the torturous complexity of 'Obsessed by Cruelty' and gone for a more conventional 'headsdown and thrash' approach ..' The reviewer, one Carl Williams, also stated that ' ... there are very few thrash LP's coming out nowadays that I would recommend, but this is definitely one of them.' Solid words indeed; I remember one Saturday morning buying Persecution Mania and Bathory's Blood Fire Death for a friend of mine who was involved in a nasty motorcycle accident. Bathory and Sodom - good for what ails yer.
Interviewed by Kerrang! journalist Don Kaye a year later on the eve on their first ever live album, Mortal Way of Live (the headline of the interview ran 'Sodom if they can't take a joke') Tom stressed the importance of Persecution Mania to the band's career: "We are very definitely proud of the way PM turned out, because it didn't sound like anything we had done before, yet it kept the Sodom sound intact, was well-produced, and just sounded much more professional." At the time of the interview, Angelripper boasted that despite the naysayers PM had also sold 50,000 copies.
Tom and the boys went on to huge success with the aforementioned Agent Orange, also produced by Harris Johns, but it was PM which thrust Sodom into the metal mainstream. With the crushing Persecution Mania and the fondly remembered trio of Angelripper, Witchhunter and Blackfire Sodom was playing with the Big Boys now, and deservedly so.