Review Summary: When the tribute band jumps off the bandwagon . . . and breaks its jaw on the way down.
What happens when you think of the tribute band? Imitating the original group in style and appearance? Playing the aforementioned group’s tracks to audiences? Professing your love to them at every turn? How about turning that obsession into an original creation? Bet that never crossed the mind. Yet Völkerball are breaking the mold of the typical tribute band by doing exactly that. Originally formed as a tribute group to Rammstein (it can only be assumed the band name came from Rammstein’s Völkerball DVD and concert picture book), Völkerball decided to turn their passion into-for all intents and purposes-a tribute album. While a unique idea and not one poor in quality, Weichen Und Zunder ultimately becomes another forgettable album in the world of Neue Deutsche Harte.
Unfortunately for Völkerball the problems start early. Once Alles was du Brauchst begins to play the Rammstein correlations begin to form and only solidify the further Weichen Und Zunder drags on. Song structure is very similar to Rammstein and similar acts, using simplistic distorted guitar riffs and drumming to add power over top a series of synth lines. Vocals become the adhesive, adding a layer of depth over top the basic structure. Song structure is not the real problem, however; acts such as Eisbrecher and Oomph! have certainly showed their ability to expand upon it and add their own touches. What Völkerball suffers from is too much conformity with their song structure. The vocals of René Anlauff remain very close in style to Lindemann, never straying from the spoken singing style and occasional barked delivery of Herzeleid and Sehnsucht. There is no strength behind the riffing, overlaid with too much production that removes much of the harsh, raw characteristic needed to carry a sense of aggression. Even the drumming suffers, given a slightly lower volume that eliminates the power behind the bass and snare. What ends up holding each track together is the vocals, both of René Anlauff and a female sample. Enough melody and groove is provided to promote one to listen through each track, but unfortunately it is not enough as Völkerball ends up running extended track times. Four tracks see times between 5-6 minutes, becoming chores to listen through when the listener is presented with nothing else to go on but repeated choruses and the occasional refrain. Erfroren und Verbrannt is the perfect example of a track which could have easily had 2-2:30 shaved off its running time, chugging along too slowly to keep the listener’s attention. When success is encountered, such as in Gammelfleisch, Völkerball ends up dissipating the likeability by causing it to run on too long. Not only has the act not successfully differentiated itself from its idol, but it becomes a victim in its limited areas of success by trying to push it further than it can be supported.
Some credit is deserving towards Völkerball, however. Songs such as Radioactiv and Heldmaschine are capable of holding their own alongside Du Hast, Viel zu Tief, and 5. März. Others like Weichen und Zunder and Gammelfleisch do not trail far behind. The problem lies in attraction with these few slightly flawed gems. For those already familiar with Rammstein and other NDH acts, Völkerball brings nothing new to warrant listening. If anything Weichen und Zunder becomes something for the true NDH fan, an album for those individuals seeking new music in a genre where acts can be very difficult to locate outside of Europe. If Völkerball was seeking nothing but to emulate Rammstein, they have certainly accomplished that task. However, if the act desires to grow into something akin to Megaherz, Eisbrecher, or even newcomer Stahlmann, then they must begin to turn on their creativity and identify their own sound. Only time will tell which direction the band desires to go.