Rock ‘n' roll has been known for its peace-loving messaging since its invention, with songs like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” serving as genre staples. So, it makes sense that metal, with roots so closely intertwined with rock ‘n’ roll, would have a similar anti-war sentiment sprinkled with a little more anger.
Metal’s genre-wide anti-war stance goes back to the very beginning of the genre. In 1970, Black Sabbath — one of the first metal bands — released the song “War Pigs.” “War Pigs,” released in the middle of the Vietnam War, loudly decries the profiteering of war. With lyrics like “Politicians hide themselves away / They only started the war / Why should they go out to fight? / They leave that role to the poor, yeah,” Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler wrote metal’s unflinching stance on war into existence.
As the ‘70s led into the ‘80s, more and more metal bands began to form and take on the mission against war and government actions that supported it. Thrash metal — a genre that combines elements of New Wave of British Heavy Metal with punk — heralded the most overtly political bands. Genre staples, ranging from Megadeth’s “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” and Slayer’s “South of Heaven” both have several songs raging against the military-industrial complex and the killing of soldiers, respectively.
However, there is no band from this era that encapsulates metal’s anti-war and anti-politician sentiment more than Sodom. The band’s distinct mix of thrash metal, death metal and hardcore with strong political messages puts it at the forefront of bands that protest unjust violence.
Led by the only original member left in the band, bassist and vocalist Tom Angelripper, Sodom has been releasing raging songs against the powers that be since 1987 with the release of “Persecution Mania.” From that album onward, Sodom had found its niche: writing songs exclusively about the injustices of war.
While to some this may seem like the members of the band are glorifying or fetishizing the violence of war, this is not at all what they intend with their music. If you look beyond the surface level of the meaning of the band’s lyrics, the deeper meaning is revealed.
In “Nuclear Winter,” the opening song on “Persecution Mania,” Angelripper sings “Run up the spiral staircase to the annihilation / Deserted neglected into the dark / Devitalised souls cripple the planet in greed.” Angelripper and co. are not trying to glorify nuclear war in any way; the band is very clearly pointing at the evil that it takes for politicians and global leaders to get to a point of nuclear war.
Angelripper has even commented on his stance on war outside of his music. In an interview with Loudwire about the rerelease of the 2001 concept album “M-16,” Angelripper was asked if he considered himself a pacifist, to which he responded, “I think so — I hate war. Wars can't help.”
While Sodom’s lyrical content and name — which was inspired by the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah — have stirred controversy since its inception, it has also inspired several other politically charged metal acts.
Sepultura is perhaps the most famous of the bands inspired by Sodom, with a similar sound and similar themes throughout its discography. Songs like “Mass Hypnosis” and “Territory” take a page out of Sodom’s thrash metal sound while also incorporating hardcore and death metal-influenced vocals and highly political lyricism. Other bands of the late ‘80s and ‘90s that can be attributed to Sodom include Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and Rotting Christ, which all took musical and lyrical inspiration from the group.
In addition to making an impact on bands in the 1990s, Sodom has also had a lasting impact on modern metal groups across genres. Bands like Toxic Holocaust and Havok take incredibly heavy and political approaches to thrash metal and owe much of their respective careers to the band. With song lyrics like “Weapons technology increasing in force / It's killing for pleasure with no remorse / A man-made machine built just for war,” from Toxic Holocaust’s song “War Game” and “Treasonous / Unable to uphold an oath that they swore to us / Traitors / Selling us down the river to the big business / Greed / They get richer while their policies ruin the lives of millions / Criminal,” from Havok’s song “Hang ‘Em High,” the penmanship of Sodom is still alive and well in metal.
While all genres of music have songs that protest the huge wrongdoing that is war, no genre has taken as hard of a stance against it as metal. And, though Sodom may not have been the first band to write an anti-war metal song, the band arguably does it the best. Right now, we are living through two highly-publicized armed conflicts. Now is a more important time than ever to listen to Sodom’s message and hold the governments accountable for escalating these wars and committing mass human rights violations.
Jackson McCoy is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Jackson know by emailing or tweeting him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @_jackson_mccoy_.