There was a time when KMFDM were looked at as innovators for a genre. They had a sound that could get your body moving while still taking a stand on an issue. On the other hand, they were able to keep the mood light by utilizing sarcastic and fun songs that kept the albums from getting too intense. Another thing the band had going for them was their mixture of harsh, industrialized vocals contrasted with soulful female vocals that kept things from becoming monotonous. Somewhere along the way, though, the band realized that they had a winning formula and they simply stopped innovating. That might be ok for an album or two, but this is now album number sixteen and it’s just not cool anymore. While the song writing is strong enough to keep the album out of the realms of mediocrity, it still suffers from a lack of ambition or new ideas.
For those that have somehow not heard something from KMFDM over their 25-year history, their sound (and ultimately the sound of this album) can be described pretty easily. The band’s roots lie in EBM, utilizing waves of synths and samples over dance floor-friendly beats. Early in their career they also began to add fragmented, processed guitar riffs to their sound that have taken on varying levels of dominance depending on the album. On this one, they take a backseat to the synths but they’re still audible enough to provide a nice contrast to all of the electronics. The vocals have always fallen in line with the typical processed, gruff voice associated with the industrial genre (with occasional female backing vocals) and that is still the case here. Although, all of these elements come together to create a collection of enjoyable songs, there’s still nothing that is going to blow anyone away or surprise them and for long-time fans that holds even more true.
Despite the familiar tones and fundamentals that dominate the album, there are enough new elements to make this enjoyable - even if they really won't cause any excitement. The main thing the long-time fan will notice is the increased use of melodic synths and an increased emphasis on catchier choruses. In fact, this album has what is arguably the poppiest song in the band’s discography. The song, “People of the Lie”, mixes the harsh industrial sounds the band is known for with a very strong chorus that reminds me of something Depeche Mode might do, complete with the melodic, pulsating synth. The prerequisite self-parody on this album comes in the form of “Bitches”. The song begins with a slight surprise, an acoustic guitar melody, before finally breaking into techno beats, pulsating synths and the confession that they’re only in this for the money. Again, though, the song is helped by the stronger emphasis on a memorable chorus and a bit of melodic accompaniment.
Even though the album is extremely conventional with a very limited number of new elements, it’s hard not to recommend this to fans of the band and even industrial in general. The emphasis on melodic elements and stronger songwriting will probably be enough to cause the average fan to check this out and they shouldn’t be disappointed. With songs such as “Potz Blitz!” bringing in one of the more guitar-dominated performances in awhile, as well as the healthy dose of melody that filters through the album there should be enough to keep them coming back after the initial listen. Admittedly, there isn’t really anything special here musically speaking, but the fact that 25 years and 16 albums later this band is still going strong (if a bit predictable) is a testament to their musical skills and this album does not detract from that legacy in the least.
dark_inchworm from the Ultra Heavy Beat forums (theultraheavybeat.com) chiming in:
While Angst is a damn good album - despite this very website's piss-poor review - and one you should definitely check out, I'm not sure I would suggest it as an introduction to KMFDM. Or at least, not it alone. Angst focuses very heavily on the guitar/metal side of the band - I'd say it's without a doubt the least electronic-oriented album they've released. Each album of theirs, especially prior to the 1999-2002 hiatus, was drastically different from any other, and with that in mind I have to recommend checking out a few of their albums to understand what KMFDM is or was. The '93-'97 era is undoubtedly where you should set your sights: Angst (1993), Nihil (1995, widely regarded as their best), Xtort (1996), and Symbols (1997). I firmly believe you'll find something to like in that selection; hopefully you'll appreciate it all.
Here's hoping you can get into the band - they aren't quite what they used to be, but they remain my absolute favorites, and rarely does a day go by that I don't play some KMFDM in the car.
Yeah, the Angst reviews might not be the most well written in the world, but don't let that seal your opinion on this site. The reason I reccomend Angst is because (other than it being my favorite), a lot of people here are into metal and they're slowly moving into other genres such as this. So I try to make my suggested albums almost like "gateways" from one genre to the next. You are right about those albums you listed though. They're really good.
Yeah, I can't say that I'm deeply familiar with this site (if "Comments: 1" didn't make it obvious :P ). In fact, I wandered into it maybe half an hour ago via the Combichrist TWAAD article on Wikipedia. If you're into metal, then Angst and Nihil are undoubtedly the albums you should pick up. Then, if you decide you're open to a heavier electronic emphasis, look into Symbols and Xtort. Xtort's my personal fave, though it may be the worst KMFDM entry point you can find... it's goddamn weird. And that's what I like about it, personally.
If skull-crushing guitars and harsh male vocals are all that get you giddy, I would not recommend KMFDM as a whole. But if you can appreciate one song being a self-referential tongue-in-cheek ego-stroker and the next being a harsh political statement, if you can appreciate high-hitting divas singing with male screamers and guttural speakers, if you can appreciate mad guitar-riffing paired with delirious button-pressing... I would say you should consider them.
Yeah, I can't say that I'm deeply familiar with this site (if "Comments: 1" didn't make it obvious :P ). In fact, I wandered into it maybe half an hour ago via the Combichrist TWAAD article on Wikipedia.
Ah, my review too. I'm the resident industrial staff reviewer (it doesn't hurt that I have a contact with Metropolis and Crack Nation to get their promos). Not everyone on the site is into metal or solely into metal, but I've been around long enough to kind of know their styles and I can suggest based off of that. I think your description in the second paragraph will get a few takers, for sure.
I might check this out eventually, but very little post Symbols has really caught my interest.
The '93-'97 era is undoubtedly where you should set your sights: Angst (1993), Nihil (1995, widely regarded as their best), Xtort (1996), and Symbols (1997). I firmly believe you'll find something to like in that selection; hopefully you'll appreciate it all.
Regarding essential KMFDM i'd go a little earlier personally, Naïve and Money are definitely up there for me.
Hell, if we're talking essentials, you may be talking to the wrong guy. Fanboy that I am, I think they're all essentials, haha. I enjoy Naïve and Money both, but I think the period I cited above has the most even and effective distribution of what makes KMFDM. Guitars, synths, hooks, divas, screaming, lyrical wit, and so on.
And I can see how very little post-Symbols has captured you. The more firmly-established band of recent years can still put together a stronger record than most acts in music today, but in my opinion, the fact that they've almost completely shut the door to guest musicians has allowed new KMFDM to stagnate. People coming and going in the good ol' days is a large part of what kept KMFDM fresh and interesting (though if you have too many people involved, the music mostly blows; see: Pigface).