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Lords of Depravity Part One DVD

Review by Mike Korn

In 1982, young Thomas Such was facing a lifetime working in the coalmines of his blue collar German hometown Gelsenkirchen. His father and grandfather before him, like most men in town, had spent their lives toiling away beneath the ground and Tom expected that would also be his lot. For an escape from such a bleak, well-defined existence, he submerged into the world of underground heavy metal, the world that included such fierce and ferocious names as Motorhead, Venom and Hellhammer. Tom's desire to play in the fastest, heaviest, loudest and most evil band ever became an obsession and soon he teamed up with two like-minded kids from the local metal scene to form a band. Thomas Such transformed himself into Tom Angelripper and his band became known as Sodom.

Angelripper could probably have never guessed that in 2006, the sloppy and frankly amateurish band he put together in 1982 would be the subject of one of the best, most thorough and exhaustive DVD's ever created for a metal band. In fact, in 1982, who would have known what a DVD even was? But strange things come to pass and Lords of Depravity is an outstanding chronicle of a band that refuses to quit or compromise. This is a standard that all other metal DVD's should aspire to.

Two DVD's are actually on display here. Â "History of Depravity" painstakingly examines the history of Sodom from 1982 to 1995 while "Live of Depravity" is a record of some of the best and biggest Sodom gigs in the last few years. Both are directed and produced by Ronald Mathes, with assistance from Tom Angelripper himself.

"History of Depravity" is simply the best band history I have ever seen presented in any format. What makes it unique is that all the ex-members of Sodom are interviewed, even the ones who split from the band in acrimony. In addition, journalists, fans, managers, record company executives and even Tom's fellow coal miners are interviewed for their insights on Sodom. The result is exhaustive and in fact, I don't recommend watching this disc in one sitting, because its length of over 3 hours is massive. But the DVD's chapters are arranged by year, so if you wanted to see what was happening to Sodom in 1987, you could easily check out just that portion of their history. You will need to bring up subtitles, because the vast majority of material is in German.

The raw energy and craziness of the 80's German thrash scene, one of the biggest in the world, is captured here. We see the primitive and laughable beginnings of Sodom as a Venom rip-off featuring young Tom wearing a "Moe Howard" haircut and what has to be 50 pounds of spikes and chains. The story is related how he bought his first bass and had it literally taped to his back as he rode home from the music store on his cheap moped. The early members are examined, including first drummer "Bloody Monster" ("very obese and almost blind, but a nice guy", according to Tom) and guitarist Peppi (aka Grave Violator), who went on be the star of an infamous German TV show on punk rock, "Verlierer."

With the addition of long-time drummer Chris Witchhunter and guitarist Frank Blackfire, Sodom began to emerge more as a real band and less as a joke. This was the period when they released their classic efforts "Persecution Mania" and "Agent Orange," which got into the Top 50 of the German charts. It was also a period of frequent personnel turmoil. Blackfire jumped ship from Sodom to Kreator, causing problems with Sodom's first European tour. Angelripper and Blackfire both are candid about the split. In fact, Tom has a remarkably straightforward and honest way of speaking throughout the DVD...warts and all. The bitterness over his split with long-time accomplice Witchhunter is still plain to see, with Tom describing it as "the most difficult decision I ever made in the band" and Witchhunter sarcastically saying "I will hate him to the grave!" Tom is brutally honest but as the DVD unfolds, he does emerge as something of a "tyrant" concerning other personnel in the band.

To go over all of the various incidents recounted on the DVD would be tedious and time-consuming, but two stand out and are worthy of comment. First, in probably the biggest Spinal Tap moment that any band short of the Tap themselves could ever experience, there's a hilarious story of how Tom stepped out of a tour bus to take a leak on the Austro-Hungarian border...and was left behind in shorts and flip-flops, completely without money, when the bus took off without him. The bus was more than half-way to the concert venue when it was noticed "Tom's not here!" Angelripper was forced to "shang-hai" a driver to take him to the gig, where he pulled up to find the band had already started without him with a substitute singer bellowing nonsense into the mike. This story almost had me in tears laughing at its absurdity.

Much more serious is Tom's dilemma concerning his "real" job in the Gelsenkirchen mines. During all the early years of Sodom, Tom continued to work in the mines, taking time off to tour. As Sodom's popularity increased, the tours became longer and so did Tom's leaves from work. As a form of punishment, Tom was put on the most grueling and inconvenient work schedules. One day in 1989, he finally left the mines - where his family had worked for generations for good. We see interviews with Tom's work colleagues - all blue-collar guys and not metal-heads at all - speaking out. "He did what he had to do and we respect him for it!" comes one comment. This is where the DVD transcends being a story just about a rock band and emerges as a very poignant look at the difficult choices in a working man's life. It's gripping stuff to watch even if you can't stand the band.

"History of Depravity" contains a ton of footage of the band's past tours, including the incredible shows in Poland and Bulgaria where they were greeted almost like the second coming of The Beatles. Their trips to Japan and Mexico are also covered in depth and there's a look at their 10th anniversary concert, which featured tons of "guest stars" on stage.

By the time this DVD ends, you'll know as much about Sodom from 1982 to 1995 as the band members themselves. It's also a great look at the metal scene in general, with comments from luminaries like Kreator's Mille, Six Feet Under's Chris Barnes and even Lemmy and Mikkey from Motorhead! The most amazing thing is that this is only "Part One!" The band promises an equally lengthy look at their history from 1995 to the present later.

The "History of Depravity" disc by itself would be a monumental achievement, but here we also have "Live of Depravity" as well and it is equally massive. This is a spectacular look at how well tuned the recent version of Sodom is on the stage. Also directed by Ronald Mathes
and Angelripper, this mixes footage from several large-scale shows like Sodom's concert in Sofia, Bulgaria (described by Tom as their "best ever" gig), the massive Wacken appearance, the Rock Hard festival and the "With Full Force" show which took place in a driving downpour.

The band's raw style of "Motorhead meets Slayer in Venom's backyard" metal rips across the scene in frenzied, quick-cut fashion that would probably induce epilepsy in the unwary. It's a well-selected mixture of old classics like "Witching Metal," "Sodomy and Lust"(a total killer) and "Ausgebombt" with newer grade Sodom favorites like "Tombstone," "The Vice of Killing" and "Napalm in the Morning." Angelripper's latest Sodom recruits, guitarist Bernemann and drummer Bobby Schottkowski, are clearly the most professional yet and this version of Sodom seems like a solid team, which couldn't be said for earlier configurations of the band. But as always, it's Angelripper's harsh, gravelly vocals that garner the most attention. He is a great no-nonsense front-man in the tradition of Lemmy and Cronos.

It helps immeasurably that each concert (but particularly the Bulgarian gig) is filmed in front of rabid old school thrashers and metal-heads. These are people who live, breathe and sleep thrash metal in the classic sense...there are no "Hot Topic" fashion plates or Gothic kiddies here. The head-banging is constant, the horns are many and the pits are deep. Oh, what I'd give to be a metal fan in middle Europe!

To add even more bang for the buck, this disc also includes three promo videos of Sodom over the years, each exhibiting a different facet of the band. "Ausgebombt"is a cheesy late 80's performance video that nevertheless is full of raw energy while "Silence is Consent" is a grim and somber black and white video concerned with the slaughter of whales and showing some graphic footage of the same. In a complete turn, "Die Stumme Ursel" is a hilarious "concept" video about a guy's love for an inflatable sex doll which features Tom and the band made up as gangster-like lounge singers. It's absolutely rib-tickling and believe it or not, this video was used for actual sex education purposes!

Add in two lengthy booklets where Tom describes his thoughts on each album and Sodom's career in general and fantastic pseudo-military packaging and you have enough of the band to satisfy even the hungriest Sodomaniac!

This band emerged from humble and horrible beginnings to become a true force on the international metal scene. It's a shame that America is so slow to catch on to Sodom, but "Lords of Depravity Part One" will bring anybody up to speed in a hurry. This is an indispensable look at a great and underrated band that gets my highest recommendation.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at

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