Review Summary: The Hirsch, complacent.
Modern music fans are constantly clamoring to designate certain acts as those immune to the influence of time, their amassed talent and laudable discography becoming unforgettable regardless of how many years pass by. Far from being a Radiohead in terms of recognition, The Hirsh Effekt were well within that conversation; the German trio had, over the course of the recently-passed decade, released four incredible albums, one after the other, that demonstrated such a captivating stylistic evolution. It was a unique sound to begin with—post-hardcore sensibilities meshed with metalcore, post-metal and post-rock, pop, rock, jazz, indie, classical, name it and they’ve probably got it—but the band never seemed satisfied with their output. Complacent was practically a curse word when expressed to describe this group. With Agnosie
, that experience sharing the stage with The Dillinger Escape Plan amounted to an expansion on chaotic, intricate, math-tinged riffs, while still managing to build upon electronic elements and ambient, mood-centric forays. Then came the progressive metal behemoth that was Eskapist
where the gents fine-tuned everything that helped their prior work click, containing themselves in some instances and offering their trademark explosive creativity in others. Stacked alongside this upward trajectory, the singles released ahead of Kollaps
should have been a suitable warning that the 2010s were officially over and a new era was to be shepherded in. Leading the misguided charge was “Noja,” the first Hirsh tune to feature English vocals in the form of a misplaced nu-metal verse (that’s not a joke). In the context of previous records, the song’s distressing linearity and reliance on basic heaviness could be excused—advancement would occur, surely—yet “Noja” never progresses anywhere notable or makes a stunning transformation. Similar to fellow numbers lining the listing of Kollaps
, “Noja” exhibited a trait that the collective had once been vehemently opposed to.
The only surprise offered by Kollaps
is the realization that complacency is the new status quo.
The majority of the LP presents The Hirsch Effekt as if played by a cover band doing their best impression of what the crew should
be. Consider the music video of second single “Bilen”; each member is engaged in being oh so weird
and toying with green screens—look at how zany they are!—completely missing the point that their genre-bending musical product was enough proof of their unconventional approach. There was never a need to cement that message through such an overt method provided the content of the individual album could stand on its own. However, exactly like “Noja,” little can be used to describe “Bilen” outside of a hard-hitting central riff serving as a crutch. While the record has essentially purged the most compelling and exceptional traits from their catalog, it is this erroneous sacrifice of progressive factors for nauseatingly invariable formations that is the critical flaw, as the complaints attached to the singles dominate subsequent songs; very rarely is there a moment to cling to or a truly memorable climax, an immersive atmosphere, or an otherwise divergent songwriting section. A given tune generally stays true to a specific course and never deviates from it. Although sporting a reasonably appealing introduction with a strong post-hardcore guitar, “Deklaration” completely loses momentum after concluding its refrain, a series of dull chugs simply lumbering off into another iteration of the chorus, which lacked power to begin with and falls flat without an instrumental explosion behind it. Afterwards, the entry abruptly ends without having accomplished anything of importance, its finale acting as a bridge into “Allmende” where once again the single characteristic of value is a crunchy, bass-supported riff that is forced to bear the weight of the creation. An awkward breakdown preludes djent strumming, which is about as uninspired as is expected from djent in 2020—uninspired being another adjective now applicable to this regressing version of the Hannover unit.
No longer is the band capable of featuring an extensive list of contributing genre elements. Discarded into the past are any jazz forays alongside correspondingly forgotten mathiness. The post-rock and post-metal portions are incredibly limited in their scope, causing ambient endeavors to be quite nearly extinct when they used to function like a key component. Even the classical interludes, string arrangements, and occasional brass additions are defunct, save for what amounts to a cameo in “Moment” and “Agers.” Even then, their inclusion, despite formerly operating as a cornerstone of The Hirsch Effekt, is incredibly contradictory to Kollaps
; there is a melancholic mood established that was not so much as hinted at in the release’s initial half. Much of this dilemma can be pointed towards the relatively miniscule track durations. For the expansive vision of the trio to be realized, songs need to be able to explore a sizable space so that individual ideas have room to breathe. Excluding the bland “Bilen,” the second half of the album does make an effort to breach the 4-minute watermark adhered to by the aforementioned segment. However, these too fall victim to a forfeiture of tone—no emotional journey is portrayed by the vocal delivery or the accompanying instruments—and the one-trick-pony songwriting. Since heaviness inevitably supports Kollaps
, preventing it from being an unsalvageable wreck even when exasperatingly abused, its restrained appearance in the title track hurts more than helps. It’s especially terrible when it’s unceremoniously tacked on the latter part, its dull, plodding nature capping off the directionless ambience comprising the majority of the product. It’s a miniature representation of what the record stands for: Safe, streamlined, and static.
Without a label attributed to it, Kollaps
would be yet another disposable post-hardcore disc among a massive heap of average conceptions. Instead, this is a Hirsch Effekt album. Labels exist not because they simply are there
, but because they had been established by a brand, provided the strength of context, and then imbedded into culture to a degree. It’s the reason why a bottle of Jim Beam gets a tag price of thirty dollars or perhaps less, while the same dose of Pappy Van Winkle carries a cost akin to a house down payment. An over-exaggeration, admittedly, but the assertion stands: A label means something
. A Pappy logo recalls years of (probably embellished) history, and that label directly influences expectations. Which is also to say that products cannot be viewed in a vacuum; each release from any given creator of content—even a musical artist as comparatively obscure in the public conscious as The Hirsch Effekt—is scrutinized in part by overall perception. Thus, the plain riffs and nonexistent atmosphere of starting tune “Kris” are not only unexciting in of themselves, but even more so if the audience recalls the breathtaking technical assault of “Lifnej” that announced the oncoming goliath that was Eskapist
; the one-two punch of Agnosie
’s horn-imbued “Simurgh” and the manic “Jayus”; the intriguing strings of “Anamnesis”; and the delicate melancholia of the criminally underrated Hiberno
’s “Epistel.” Then there are the diminished song lengths and the consequential loss of adventurous musicianship a la “Bilen,” which is certainly a curious phenomenon when, upon stepping back three years, the listener can cite the 14-minute titan “Lysios” and its impeccable mixture of a multitude of categories. Measured against the bliss of “Natans” or the beautiful piano of “Tombeau,” nothing positive can be offered for the minimal ambience featured on Kollaps
. Even a debatable filler track like “Tardigrada” nails heaviness far better than ever demonstrated here.
There remains a profound sensation of disappointment when time runs out for “Agers,” its existence incredibly hollow; it contained no exhilarating configurations, no novel embellishments, and worst of all, possessed no personality. Evaluations by using other discography material could continue, though it wouldn’t assist in much else outside of belaboring the already-tired point: The Hirsch Effekt are another face in the crowd, their emerging ability to overcome the passage of decades left decimated by an album incongruous with their sonic identity. If correctly implemented, a generally straightforward presentation and/or a heaviness-focused showcase are not poor by definition; it’s a simple task to observe the success of Meshuggah and Gojira for mainstream evidence. In the realm of post-hardcore, there’s always been Eleventh He Reaches London or Rinoa, both of whom benefitted from sizable song lengths and an emphasis on making a massive, epic construction rather than fleeting ventures. What Kollaps
holds is far removed from the commendable efforts of peers. Possibly the worst observation is the fact that it is also distant in the setting of four amazing, progressive-minded records that were constantly in motion, transitioning from one piece to the next by employing increasingly diverse methods, the results failing to come across as jarring. The only special occurrence brought to the table by Kollaps
is that, for the first time in their career, The Hirsch Effekt is walking backwards. Rather than ushering in a new era of post-hardcore, the band has relegated themselves to sitting in the bleachers as peer groups, once in the rearview mirror, start to pick up the slack and impress. There is a collapse, to be sure—that being the weight of time taking one more victim that tripped at the finish line.