Style: Industrial Metal
Release Date: 15 Nov 2019
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I'm pretty sure I heard Die Krupps back in the day when they didn't sound at all like they do now, but I can't remember quite what. Going back to listen to their early music, I find that they've always been changing. Their first album, Stahlwerksynfonie, is avant garde industrial noise like Einstürzende Neubauten. Volle Kraft Voraus! sounds like post punk chiptune, while Entering the Arena is electronic pop music with alternative flavours.
It was in the early nineties when they began to merge synths with metal and they've continued to grow ever since. 1995's III: Odyssey of the Mind is an album that sounds like what I think of as industrial. By Paradise Now, they were as clearly industrial Metallica as it gets. Only here do they suddenly sound more like NDH. I'd say that this is a better Rammstein album than the one Rammstein put out back in May.
Just check out the title track that opens the album. It has all the driving guitars and dark electronic melodies that we expect from Rammstein, with an impressive hook for the chorus. The odd title is because it's a pun. It's a look at what's coming in 2020 with a pessimism drawn from looking backwards with 20/20 vision. That pessimism continues throughout, with revolution and apocalypse a common factor in the lyrics. Welcome to the Blackout, indeed.
What surprised me most was how simple everything seemed. The guitar tone is the same throughout, as is the primary keyboard tone, and there's only one vocalist, Jürgen Engler, who never varies his delivery much, so it's not an outrageous assumption that the songs are all similar. Sure, there's flavour infused through different riffs, different hooks and different samples, but the overall impression is similar.
Over time, with repeat listens, that impression starts to fall apart. There are different grooves here. Extinction Time works a Sisters of Mercy vibe. F.U., which stands for exactly what you think it does, is the most overtly political song, snarling at an unnamed but very clear Donald Trump with the backing of White Zombie-esque electronica. Welcome to the Blackout kicks off with cheeky electronic interplay before crushing riffs join in, and there's other synth work to throw melodies over everything. Destination Doomsday is faster stuff, almost groove metal.
Perhaps most memorable is Trigger Warning, which has a particularly playful riff, making for what's almost a Yello song but done as industrial metal. I liked that a lot, just as I enjoyed the contrast between the catchy riff and the abrasive siren over the top of the intro and chorus. This isn't an album that fades into background ambience, but Trigger Warning continued to grab me on every relisten.
Most uncharacteristic is The Carpet Crawlers, which is very much electronic pop with milder vocals over oddly hypnotising keyboard runs. It's the only track that doesn't have the guitar crunch and emphatic drive that makes this a metal album. It's more like David Bowie in a post-disco world showing the way forward. It's a good song that gets under the skin, but it's like a Die Krupps song from a couple of decades ago that doesn't fit any more.
As I mentioned, this is a better Rammstein album than the most recent album from Rammstein and it stands up to repeat listens, but it's not as catchy or as inventive as the best of Rammstein, say their Mutter album. The question, of course, is whether Die Krupps will sound like this on their next album or if they've moved on again to something new.