Music

Sodom: In War and Pieces

Not much has changed on Sodom's 13th album, save for the fact that they sound truly inspired this time around.


Sodom

In War and Pieces

Label: SPV
US Release Date: 2011-01-11
UK Release Date: 2010-11-22
Artist Website
Amazon
Amazon
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Although Sodom is always spoken in the same breath as Destruction and Kreator as the progenitors of classic 1980s German thrash metal, they're a decidedly different band than their peers. Destruction and Kreator have soldiered along just as Sodom has, putting out records to this day, but in Sodom's case, founding member/bassist/vocalist Tom Angelripper has been churning out the new music with such reliability and predictability that it's more appropriate to compare his band to the likes of Motörhead. You know exactly what every Sodom album is going to sound like going in, and the only thing that matters is whether they're completely on their game or not. Their last couple albums, 2006's Sodom and 2007's The Final Sign of Evil, while workmanlike enough, didn't exactly measure up to such a high water mark as 1989's Agent Orange; a bit of a shame considering the renewed interest in classic thrash metal in North America these last four or five years.

With their 13th studio full-length comes another shot at proving to everyone that Sodom can still put our relevant music, and remarkably, In War and Pieces does just that. Interestingly, this renewed sense of vitality has been recorded by one Waldemar Sorychta, a producer best known for putting together slickly recorded, goth-tinged metal efforts by the likes of Lacuna Coil and Moonspell. Such a pairing would immediately raise the suspicions of longtime Sodom fans, but Sorychta does the right thing on this record by simply letting the band play. Better yet, In War and Pieces doesn't try to blow up the band more than it has to. Sure, Bernd Kost's guitars are layered a little bit, but Sodom still sounds very much like a trio, Angelripper's bass as prominent as you would hear it live.

As good and understated as the production is, it always comes down to the quality of the songwriting, and the 11 tracks on the new album sound very strong, as if benefiting hugely from the long layoff between albums. Unlike the Destructions and Kreators of the thrash world, who really emphasize ultra-tight instrumentation and often intricate riffing, Sodom relies more on groove, and that combined with some excellent dynamic songwriting this time around makes for their best record in at least a few years. The down-tuned title track could even pass for a Black Label Society tune, with all its pinch squeals and Markus Freiwald's mid-tempo drumming, but as soon as Angelripper enters the fray with his distinct snarl, it becomes a Sodom song instantly, and a very good one at that. "Hellfire" cranks up the tempo to a Slayer-like pace, but again the arrangement is a whole lot looser, letting the central hook lead the way and not worrying as much about how tight the performance is.

The closest thing to a big surprise on In War and Pieces is the heartfelt "God Bless You". It's not exactly commonplace to hear compassionate lyrics in a genre as outwardly aggressive as thrash, but Angelripper pays homage to soldiers with effective eloquence atop an arrangement that deftly shifts from mournful to proud: "They've gone to sleep, lain down the fight / Carry the weight of the land to the sky / The holy ground sacred by their blood / helmets resting on the gun's butt." Still, for the most part, Sodom gives Sodom fans exactly what they crave on this album: plenty of tracks like "Storm Raging Up" and "Soul Contraband" that expertly combine pure, palm-muted, fist-pumpin' heavy metal with moments of blazing thrash speed. It's nothing new, but in its own way, it's as satisfying as any innovative metal album can be.

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White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

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Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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