Review Summary: KMFDM's arguably most aggressive album. No Ultra Heavy Beat but numerous Ultra Heavy Bits though. A strong effort if you give it a chance.
Only one year after “Attack” which had seen their resurrection, KMFDM released “WWIII”, a furious, aggressive, mastodon of an album. Maybe, the band even made a step too far into metal because “WWIII” really seems to be quite underrated amongst KMFDM fans. True, the most appreciated “Ultra Heavy Beat” strikes as completely absent here. Instead, the rhythm section is held by Andy Selway and his live drums. The electro/industrial aspect of the album is thus a bit rubbed out which gives it an edge, from the point of view of aggressiveness, the band couldn’t have before. Things could have stopped here but we’re in 2003 when the album is released, the war in Irak has just started and the whole band seems quite pissed off about it. Jules Hodgson guitar riffs are nasty and Sasha Konietzko and Lucia Cifarelli deliver their angriest performance.
From the point of view of guitar work, “WWIII” differs a lot from “Attack”. Jules Hodgson gratifies the album with rapid riffs saturated with palm-muted semiquavers and epic solos (WWIII, Bullets bombs & Bigotry, Revenge, Last Things), something he had already done for the band on their previous album for the track “Dirty”. Incidentally, “Blackball” really sounds like “Dirty” without the two unsubtle chords striken while Raymonds Watts shouts the two syllables of the chorus. Repetition is, again, dragging the song down but as for “WWIII” or the later “Hau Ruck”, the band shows a true skill at distracting the listener from it. Vocals from Sasha and Lucia and electronic sounds spring around the monotonously repeated word and with the beautiful guitar riff, they strangely manage to prevent a feeling of boredom from growing until before the last chorus. Just one too many.
Luckily, it is not the case for the killing opening track. “WWIII” is easy to dislike for its repetitiveness but if you give it a chance, you will notice the numerous noises, sounds, shouts, samples, breaks and the solo that will distract you from the everlasting main riff which is like the trunk of the song on which all the other elements are attached. Truly, “WWIII” can be listened to without any feeling of boring repetition. It is noticeable that rarely had KMFDM sounded so pissed off. The guitar disappears for the chorus to let Lucia shouts harshly “WWIII, be all that you can be” only accompanied with sounds of machinegun shots and cartridges piling up as if they wanted to make the wrath stand out.
Sadly “Stars & Stripes” doesn’t succeed that good in making the listener forget the repetition of those two words. But it is still solid. The mixing of Sasha’s growling and Lucia’s shouts or mellow vocals work quite good here (It usually does). Sasha starts by giving his definition of a tyrant before the song blast into a wonderful riff. It will be supported by three different accompaniments of electronic sounds before the chorus. As usual, it is the attention given to those sounds that give KMFDM its replay value, its depth. KMFDM rarely give the feeling that they haven’t done everything to give the track its chance to be good. Even an average track is coherent and finished. Their artistic choices can be questionable and they simply can make mistakes but it is hard to accuse them of sloppiness.
“Intro” has a similar erm… intro to “Star & Stripes”, Sasha starts chatting accompanied by some drumming until the guitar throws itself into the mayhem. One by one, the singer introduces the different members of KMFDM. It makes the song sounds unimportant and shallow which is sad because it is very good. The bridge and the chorus are so catchy that they succeed in inspiring some mindless enthusiasm towards the band.
Lucia’s vocals really add to the chorus in “intro”, and on a general scale, to the album. Her contribution to the band divides the fans though. KMFDM used to add warm female back vocals, not replace the male growling by them. Here, Lucia is still the main vocalist on only two songs. Also, Lucia isn’t that good as a back vocalist, her voice doesn’t have the warm texture of Dorona Alberti’s or Abby Travis’ whereas she is really good at conveying a feeling of desolation, of anger, of peevishness, of arrogance or simply of lack of emotion. Her voice is like a cold breeze on “WWIII” and from that point of view, it reinforces the industrial side of the album (even though female vocals in industrial are often used as a counterpart to the mechanical sound). “From here on out” and “Last things” are thus two desolate songs, the guitar here is less aggressive and there is much emphasis on the ambient sounds. The latter is blessed with a very nice structure, a strange chorus and a very welcomed long bridge before the last chorus.
Indeed, “WWIII”’s quality is also due to the numerous little unexpected instrumental bits and only passages that can be found here and there when the songs depart from the usual structure. The verses are often good, the choruses are often good too but what is even better is when you come across something like that passage in “Blackball” where violins join in with Sasha spoken words in German before the song goes back violently to the bridge. This is something valuable that disappears in album like “Hau Ruck, “Tohuvabohu” or “Blitz” where you sometimes have the feeling that you’ve already heard the entire song although you are half way through.
“Bullets, Bombs & Bigotry” also has his nice long bridge (with a harmonica solo, maybe they went too far here) and is a very heavy hasty song with vocals by Lucia and Raymond (singing his verses in a what-could-be-described-as Elvis style). As for the banjo on “WWIII”, Sasha wanted to mix old american conservative musical elements and topics with dirty social-communist libertarian industrial ones.
But this track isn’t the one on which Raymond Watts shines most. “Revenge” is the pain of a brute, it is moving to hear this incredibly deep voice expressing something like sensitivity. Lucia helps here of course, a lot. The 30 seconds 65 words chorus is catchy and quite original, the lyrics are as dark as they can be and from a man who is not afraid of being a bad person anymore. “Pity for the pious” could be the best track if it was what one can be looking for on a KMFDM album. It’s sensual, vicious, dark, crude and nasty. The slow rhythm will allow the guitar riff to pound your brain and leave you in a state of hypnosis, lost in the ambiance, your confusion fed and increased by the obsessing noise made by the hasty palm mute at the end of the song until the last shout delivers you. You won’t know if it was delicious or painful or both. And Oh ! You’ve never heard the word “squeal” pronounced that well.
“Jihad” and “Moron” apply the KMFDM recipe with more or less success. “Jihad” is good, but there is nothing special to say about it. The only problem would be a lack of originality and a totally boring structure. “Moron” starts with a nice little introduction that gives the song a “from the street” feeling, before a punchy guitar riff kicks in and, what is agreeable, a little bridge before the verse. It is the usual underground anthem, very lively and enjoyable and punk. Sasha and Lucia combine their effort for a very good result once again.
KMFDM rarely does a very good album because most of their defects are also a part of their style. An album with many spoken verses and without a melodic chorus does not inspire a very good critique easily, even if each song sounds great on its own. But “WWIII” is very good, it is not as catchy or appealing as “Hau Ruck”, but it is a lot more solid. The guitar riffs are really a pleasure to listen to and the synths and electronic sounds that support them are always very accurate and make the whole sounds very original. If you just listen to a passage of the album randomly, there are very few chances that you will not hear a very well crafted passage with its own atmosphere based on a combination of guitar and electronic sounds which does not sound artificial.
Older fans will dislike the use of the female voice, or the approach of the guitar and rhythm section. It is true that some former qualities have disappeared. “WWIII” isn’t a new “Angst” or “Nihil” and cannot pretend to be as innovative and historically important but it is still a strong effort which shouldn’t be neglected.
Oh ! And of course, if you are a blinded conservative warmonger, pro-capitalism, pro-consumerism who would really feel like spitting at those people who dare criticize society, well this album is not for you.
From here on out: 3.5/5
Last things: 3.5/5
Pity for the pious: 4/5
Stars & Stripes: 3.5/5
Bullets, Bombs & Bigotry: 3.5/5