Review Summary: Muscle and hate!
Formed in Essex, England in 1982, Nitzer Ebb were a key force in helping to develop the industrial subgenre of Electronic Body Music (or EBM for short) into its modern day incarnation. Alongside groups such as Front 242, Die Form and Klinik, Nitzer Ebb found themselves inspired by the more danceable elements of the first wave industrial scene and post-punk (which often overlap) such as Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, Killing Joke and Bauhaus, creating their own unique niche in the largely new wave dominated music scene with their unique brand of militaristic fist-pumping synth and drum machine based anthems.
That Total Age
was the groups first album, released in 1987. This album is full of beans, to say the least. The stomping pace of opening track Fitness To Purpose
sets the scene, a mechanical drum machine and fat analogue bass hook placing an immediate emphasis on energetic, rhythmic grooves that just don't let up. Vocalist Douglas McCarthy is the most impressive component here however, his voice lends something of a stadium rock quality to the music which gives the impression of a band that would put on a hell of a live show. Along with its opener this works best on tracks such as Violent Playground
, Smear Body
and Join In The Chant
, all based around simple repetition of lyrics and music to strong effect. The catchcry of "Where is the youth"
and its arpegiatted synths are hynoptic, capturing a rare brand of 80's energy that has been unrivalled in EBM since. Join In The Chant
is a similar story, and is perhaps Nitzer Ebb's most well known track with its militaristic vocal delivery popularising one of the most iconic phrases in industrial music to date ("Muscle and Hate!
These few tracks are a crowning achievement, but unfortunately That Total Age
loses it way slightly partway through and Alarm, Let Your Body Learn, Let Beauty Loose
and Into The Large Air
all have the air of a rehash which results in the album tailing off a little. Fear not however as these songs are still good and don't feel out of place, they just have trouble living up to the precedent of energy the first half set so high. Some great remixes of Join in the Chant, Murderous
and Fitness to Purpose
are thrown in towards the end, which helps pick things up a little. Still, these later tracks feel like a slight blemish on an otherwise excellent release.
That Total Age
is a superb debut from Nitzer Ebb, introducing the music world to their unique, energetic brand of pulsing EBM which has influenced countless acts over the years. The album has its flaws and its thin 80's production will certainly turn some modern listeners off but the sheer energy which manages to bleed through despite this and the few industrial standards present elevate this to a release that is more than worthy of its cult status.