Review Summary: Half asleep...
The kings of consistency are back with another round of ultra heavy beats. Since reuniting under the KMFDM name in 2002, Sascha Konietzko has been operating like clockwork. The schedule is tight and clear, we receive an album every two years wrapped in similar artwork (always cool, by the way), a sturdy collection of tracks that follow a number of clear structures, plus the accompanying tour. As expected, this rigid approach regarding the music was bound to become a curse as well. It resumes to the ideas the band can craft within a rather fixed time frame, usually a good amount of safe, by-the-numbers tunes with occasional fails or excellent cuts. When they decide to experiment a bit, things can get better (remember Hau Ruck
, [i]WTF!?[i] or the polarizing Blitz
), however, at times they simply are on autopilot (Our Time Will Come
to a certain degree). In 2016, long time guitarists Jules Hodgson and Steve White left the group, as a result, there was a bigger emphasis on electronic elements on Hell Yeah
. Nevertheless, it ended up as the most interesting and catchy release in years.
Therefore, I was excited to listen to Paradise
, still, the latest LP ends up as a mixed bag. You can hear an effort to experiment (in KMFDM’s terms), yet parts of it don’t quite click. This year's band referencing opener, ‘K-M’F’ is unnecessary and even though the guys tried to enhance it with some rap sections, it remains forgettable. ‘Automaton’ is the hi-energy banger you can hear on each album, sharing pummeling beats and bright euro-techno synths. The vocoder used on Lucia’s vocals doesn’t help, the lyrics are often dumbed down, so I would recommend other variants of this type of track on previous albums (try ‘Murder My Heart’ or ‘Ave Maria’). Another useless addition is a remake of one of the act’s trademark songs, ‘Megalomaniac’ (Symbols
, 1997) under the title ‘Megalo’. It barely resembles the original, save for the shared lyrics and some sequencers. It doesn’t necessarily sound bad, but it would’ve fared better had they morphed it into a brand new composition.
A long time ago, KMFDM included some reggae elements into their music. We can witness a slight return on Paradise
, the title track sharing an intro, verses and coda that dabble into this genre, complete with percussion, saxophone, melodica and several dub-echoing sound effects. This is actually a cool feature that heavily contrasts the pounding riffs of the choruses. The song kicks ass, Sascha and Lucia sing powerfully, whereas the instrumental is on point. Unfortunately, ‘No God’ further elaborates the Rastafarian side, but the occasional distorted guitar leads don’t really fit in and the track doesn’t go anywhere. The number of missteps on the album inevitably drag it below expectations. Thankfully, things are slowly picking up with ‘No Regrets’, a solid cut where Konietzko goes the extra mile to pound his ethics in your brain. The programmed drums are punchy and the song boasts the necessary power to match the singer’s rage. Meanwhile, the partial ‘80s throwback, ‘Disturb the Peace’ is a quirky tune that goes through a number of phases during its time span. The Soviet synths are fun and the switches to playful bass/kick drum combos are refreshing. Lucia also helps with a smooth performance on the mid-tempo grooves of ‘Oh My Goth’, while Raymond Watts finally makes a swift return to the camp on the hard hitting ‘Binge, Boil & Blow’. It isn’t one of his top contributions, yet his eccentric style is always noticeable.
All in all, we can witness KMFDM’s attempts to bring something different to the table. Unfortunately, Paradise
won't turn many heads, but it reveals the fact that mastermind Sascha Konietzko needs some reliable partners to help him produce a strong collection of songs. Half of the LP is a good reminder why the band is one of the tightest in the genre, however, on the other, the engine shows signs of rust. Each new record comes with a question mark, maybe is good, maybe average. Maybe next time.