Review Summary: When those searches for new music pay off, it sure does feel good.
You know that feeling when you find a band you really like. The sense of excitement as the different tracks pass you by, the knowledge you came across something which will stick with you for years to come. Yes you know that feeling, but when it starts to ebb and the excitement dims you also know it’s time to find new music to keep the sense alive. One of the first places many of us look is to similar groups playing in the same genre, bands we can easily get into without any hassle. Like countless groups before and after them Unheilig came up in a similar manner to me, popping up in a Limewire search back when grade 9 was brand new, System of a Down and Rammstein were blaring in my speakers, and I realized what trying to catch a girlfriend really entailed. Composed almost exclusively of der Graf as singer and songwriter, Unheilig are a unique entity among NDH groups. Straying more towards to the pop Gothic soundscape rather than industrial metal, even approaching EBM at times, Unheilig have all but defined the other half of NDH as originally crafted by Rammstein and Oomph!, a journey begun with their debut Phosphor.
Within the first seconds of die Macht the general sound of Unheilig can be gleaned. Based upon keyboards and drum machines, the flowing industrialized synth becomes permeated by synthetic beats, coupled occasionally by the distorted guitar riff and audible bass lines. There is no randomness in the song writing, as der Graf forms well rounded, catchy songs with excellent hooks easily capable of becoming glued into one’s mind. Tracks like die Macht and Sage Ja! are the easiest to get into as the guitar riffs and synth form the necessary foundation for the drums to take off and expand the music beyond the stereotypical pop-Goth club fare. Others like Willenlos take a more subdued approach, abandoning the standardized hooks for an eccentric industrial feel, letting the keyboards dominate on top of an easy bass line and simple drum samples to make the head want to bounce back and forth. Even Komm zu mir has something to offer, keeping things short while maintain the energy of Sage Ja! to demand chanting along to as the chorus steams along at a comfortable speed.
That is not to say all things are peachy however. The vocals of der Graf can easily polarize listeners as his bass-like voice leaves almost no comparisons, with only Laibach seeing a vocalist with a deeper range. In the German-sung die Macht, Willenlos, Sage Ja!, and Komm zu mir this poses little problem, as those already fans of Rammstein, Oomph!, Stahlhammer, or even Megaherz should have little trouble getting into such vocal soundscapes. It is in the English-sung tracks where things become problematic. For native English speakers like me it can be a little strange hearing a native German speaker sing in English, especially when they revolve around Gothic topics. At points during songs like My Bride has Gone and the Bad and the Beautiful the vocals can border on the edge of cheesy, completely depressing the song’s atmosphere. Others like Stark and Skin lose any strength they might have had due to the vocals, especially in Stark where the English lyrics cause the track to fall flat compared to the instrumentally similar Willenlos. Yet tracks like Ikarus and Close your Eyes seemingly end this problem, depending on your tastes being completely listenable and punching above their weight. It lies ultimately in one’s tastes whether the tracks will be listenable or throw-away giggle fits (as my ex loved to constantly remind me through giggling hysterically with detestation whenever Unheilig came onto my iPod while driving).
Phosphor might not be a perfect release, but as a debut release Unheilig have shown potential. Once past the deep bass-like voice of der Graf and any suseptible cheese on a few of the English tracks (I am looking at you My Bride has Gone) there are some well done songs such as Sage Ja! and die Macht on here which can easily be liked by anyone on the scale from Gothic and darkwave to industrial metal. If Unheilig can figure out that their strength lies more in German-written songs rather than English tracks it is not unreasonable to assume that Unheilig can become a force to be reckoned with in NDH.
Close your Eyes