Wednesday 20 February 2019

Oomph! - Ritual (2019)

Country: Germany
Style: Industrial Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 18 Jan 2019
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Rammstein are certainly more famous and more successful, but their fellow countrymen known as Oomph! established the Neue Deutsche Härte style back in 1994 with their second album, Sperm, a year before Rammstein released their debut, Herzeleid. What's more, Oomph! are still recording together and this, perhaps their lucky thirteenth studio album, is out on Napalm Records.

I'm sure they're getting fed up of Rammstein comparisons, but it's hard not to go there and not just because they play the same sort of driving militaristic dance metal with crunch. Like Rammstein, they sing primarily in German, the English album title not being extended to the tracks on it. Like Rammstein, they have never changed their line-up, with the core trio of Dero Goi, Andreas Crap and Robert Flux remaining in place since 1989, though they do add extra personnel when playing live.

Like many, I'm relatively new to Oomph! and I found this a solid effort. I found it little less immediate than what I'm used to from NDH music, which frankly has been pretty much restricted to the first half dozen Rammstein albums. I wasn't sold on a first listen and felt that it ran long, though my copy has a couple of bonus tracks and a remix. I appreciated it much more on a second listen.

That lack of immediacy may tie to the fact that, while tracks do try to distinguish themselves from each other in little ways, from the airplane noises on opener and second single Tausend Mann und ein Befehl, the cow at the beginning of Lass' die Beute frei or the sharpening knives on Seine Seele, all the songs tend to end up in similar places. It takes effort on the part of the listener to find their different grooves.

Only if we persevere can we really start to find the different tones. The album kicks off with a powerful militaristic song in Tausend Mann und ein Befehl (or A Thousand Men and One Order) but ends with a softer lament in Seine Seele (or His Soul). In between it sometimes leans towards a radio-friendly commercial edge, on Europa or the first single Kein Liebesleid (No Love Song), but sometimes to a harder and more brutal sound, like on Das Schweigen der Lämmer, which has a lead vocal in the Nick Holmes style, clean but with a steady and sustained rasp.

Oddly, one of the catchiest songs on the album is the least likely to be heard on the radio because it's entitled TRRR - FCKN - HTLR and, as it's the closest to the English language you'll find on this album, it's about precisely what you think it is. And there's a big difference between the band and Rammstein; I believe that Oomph! have managed to avoid a whole slew of controversies, political and otherwise. Writing a song as blatant as this can't hurt that track record.

There are a lot of NDH bands out there nowadays and Oomph! are about to tour with a couple of them, Nervenbeisser and Heldmaschine. I can't see Ritual becoming a favourite like Rammstein's Mutter but it's a good album and it may finally prompt me to look backwards into Oomph!'s considerable back catalogue and sideways to some of the other NDH bands. Hopefully it will do same for you.

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