Review Summary: KMFDM have finally taken the band off of autopilot and return with a diverse album that maintains their core industrial sound while finally expanding on it as well.
Eighteen years ago KMFDM opened their new album with the line, “KMFDM, doing it again,” even though that particular release – Angst
– was actually a big step forward for the band. In fact, it is generally accepted that it was Angst
that truly solidified the band’s musical formula for years to come. Sure, the songwriting wasn’t perfected until the follow-up release, Nihil
, but that album was still just working from the blueprint established by Angst
. From that point forward any of their songs could have warned that KMFDM were simply doing it again, and fans could have just shrugged in reluctant agreement. By the time Blitz
was released in 2009 it seemed pretty obvious that the band had no intention of fixing a sound that was, honestly, never really broke, but that was two years ago. It turns out that the guys (and girl) in KMFDM were finally ready to make some changes to their signature sound and the result is WTF?!
. KMFDM have returned with an album that is much more dark and angry than anything they’ve done previously. They’ve also stepped outside of their comfort zone by crafting songs that make better use of guitars and electronics while also opening up to a little experimentation.
Those that have heard the album’s first single, “Krank”, might be wondering what part of that song is dark, aggressive or experimental, and the truth is that it isn’t any of those things. “Krank” is your average KMFDM-patented collection of self-referencing one-liners delivered over a basic riff and looped beat and nothing more; it is certainly not representative of the album as a whole. Beginning with the second song, though, the album takes a turn for the better. “Come On – Go Off” begins with a lone droning synth that eventually gives way to a thumping beat and heavy riff courtesy of Static-X
guitarist Koichi Fukuda. These elements are augmented by ominous synths, a handful of transitional sections and the gritty vocals that fans would expect. What they might not expect are the clean vocals, twisted piano and melodic synths of “Lynchmob” – in addition to its shredding guitar riff and powerful vocal shouts. They also might not expect such a dissonant vocal performance from Lucia Cifarelli on the funky, yet aggressive, “Rebels in Kontrol”. In fact, there are plenty of instances that could surprise the jaded long-time KMFDM fan.
For one, this is easily one of KMFDM’s most diverse albums – an album that twists and turns through an abundance of different styles and moods while still retaining that core sound. It’s an album that can transition from the Garbage
-like synth-pop of “Take it Like a Man” to the beat/riff heavy “Vive La Mort” without skipping a beat. There’s the surprising darkwave/electro style of “Spectre” to the trance-rock of “Amnesia”, and let’s not even try to put the twisted “Death and Burial of C.R.” into words. Part of this album’s diversity comes from the fact that Lucia Cifarelli seems to get more vocal time here than on any previous KMFDM album. She fulfills her role as backing vocalist on almost every track, but she is also the main vocalist on just about every other song. In addition, Sascha Konietzko has varied his vocals quite a bit; from spoken word to gritty shouts and even a little dose of Ohgr-style effects-laden delivery. The best thing is that even though just about every track is unique enough to fill its own little niche on the album, at the end of the day every song is still unequivocally KMFDM.
It has been a long time since KMFDM sounded this good and energized. They’ve come back from years of being on autopilot with a diverse album that can move from dark aggression to trashy electro-pop goodness without sounding forced or unfocused. They’ve also let Lucia Cifarelli take on a much larger vocal role which may or may not delight fans (depending on your opinion of her). Overall, the biggest highlight is that on WTF?!
the guys (and girl) in KMFDM sound like they’re actually invested in making new music that maintains the core sound while finally moving beyond it as well. Welcome back from at least a decade of sleepwalking.