Review Summary: If Phosphor was the litmus test, das 2. Gebot is the desired product. It just remains to be seen if the purity can now be surpassed.
Sometimes lessons can be learned fast. When you know you’re on the right track you do not even need a guiding nudge, you simply know change is a must. After all, the voice inside your head told you, and as we all know you must listen to the voice. Unheilig must have had such an inner voice speaking to them when writing their sophomore release (not counting the earlier Christmas-themed album Frohes Fest). The problematic issue of der Graf’s English capabilities maintaining a serious audience have disappeared from das 2. Gebot to make more room for his stronger German voice. Everything which showed positivity on Phosphor returns triumphantly, imbued with a solidification of previous influences and a new sense of purpose. Unheilig return not to craft some catchy new songs to fill the radio waves for a few weeks, but to forge an album worthy of dusting off in twenty years.
The NDH base of Unheilig never drifts far on das 2. Gebot as songs like Maschine and Jetzt noch Nicht revolve around the genre’s focus on mechanized, rhythmic, and distorted riffs to provide the circulatory flow necessary to keep the synth alive as der Graf chants and sings away over top to a well-fitting drum beat. The Gothic influences are noticeable through the keyboards and lyrical content, but unlike bands fully in genre they provide an additional layer of depth to keep the listener entranced in the music as the time wears on, providing something new to experience during each playback. Examples like Schutzengel and Rache let these influences outmanoeuvre the dominating NDH to create some truly remarkable ballads, never once degenerating into a mess of awkward, overpowering cheese as was present in Phosphor to leave one with a sense of pleasant contention. Das 2. Gebot can very much be classified as guilty pleasure music, able to draw the listener in with its gentle flowing nature, but retaining the desire to replay it by providing enough teeth in terms of guitars and drums.
Some tracks still fall short however. Krieg der Engel attempts to recreate the ambient catchiness and warm, embracing feeling of Schutzengel and Rache, but fails amid a lack of instrumentation capable of maintaining the listener’s attention. Without the necessary music to support his voice as seen over the rest of the album, der Graf cannot carry the track, leaving it as dead weight on an otherwise excellent album. Likewise the instrumental Herzland is superfluous, merging instrumental samples from previous songs to create a piece which serves no real purpose. Unheilig’s vitality comes from the synergy of all of its individual gears. Without der Graf a critical piece is lacking, a part necessary to elevate the track to the level of Maschine or Gibt mir mehr. What these tracks indicate however is more of where Unheilig’s strengths lie rather than in some ubiquitous failure in songwriting. The weaker tracks Vollmond and Mona Lisa show how even with lacklustre performance the merger of all parts of the music enables them to rise above the aforementioned songs. Although downing, these minor quirks are nothing that cannot be corrected with time.
What Unheilig have done between Phosphor and das 2. Gebot is quite remarkable. The problems of Phosphor have all but been replaced by the positives and expanded upon to create a truly unique example in the NDH genre. Choosing to focus on creating well-crafted atmospheric tracks resting on the foundation of fused NDH-Gothic influences while avoiding the overt aggression stereotypically common to the genre, Unheilig have managed to forge their own path. These are not songs to fight to, these are songs to drive to, dance to, hell close the door and sing along to. While their formula might not have been perfected yet as indicated by the album’s last two songs, the potential realized on das 2. Gebot shows Unheilig are not going to be disappearing anytime soon. If this album is any indication, they are just getting warmed up.
Jetzt noch nicht