Review Summary: All there for better as is it is for worse.
Guns, power, aggression, decay, festering, mutilation, crime…
Don’t mind me. I was just doing that thing cyberpunk media does where it throws in a bunch of scary and hard sounding words to sprinkle flavor, season the setting. Doesn’t that set the mood? Well, let me set the scene some more…
The year is 2009. It’s the tenth anniversary of Y2K and the new millennium. The Electronic Revolution has more or less occurred, and it’s… Kind of boring, isn’t it? In the 80’s and 90’s we were thinking THAT could look like just about anything. It was certainly a lot more exciting -- and more importantly more palpable. Our attempts at rebellion would once look like grand revolts against THE POWER but something in the air has pacified America to believe that late stage capitalism in the West is either “just the way it is” or something that we would somehow benefit from even more of.
It isn’t any wonder so many EBM acts flirted so much with fascist and militarized aesthetics and it isn’t any wonder some listeners took the reappropriation and subversion as ringing endorsement. These same people will listen to music like KFMDM or Front Line Assembly refusing to believe the status quo is dystopic, taking musical stories of rebellion as a game people play, loving the sympathy they extended to them because it allows feasible separation from real-life counterculture rebels. Queer and marginalized people have always led the way for real-life revolution and KMFDM and industrial is a sound that fits that glove a lot more than many people realize.
- - -
Onto the album itself: it’s pretty good! Is that any surprise? Well, sort of. If there’s one thing KMFDM is known for, it’s doing the same thing over and over again but from slightly different angles. Skold did the one thing for Sascha K that he needed most -- provided a fresh set of tools on which to make his blood-seeped sculpture. It seems for the first time in many, many years KMFDM was sounding truly fresh. The fact Sascha has been in this biz since the early 80’s means he has become adept at delivering his message in ways he knows are powerful, utilizing these old techniques with the new sound to great effect.
'Why Me' is a perfect opener that establishes the dystopian megacorp vibe out of the gate - it, like the rest of the album, does not beat around the bush. The chorus is simple but succinct:
I love this track because it does what all great industrial music does - it motivates you to accept your oppressive surroundings rather than rejecting them - telling you to make an active change in your world for the good of others as well as yourself. At the same time, though… Feel free to indulge in any of the degeneracy and subversions said environment instilled in you -- because not only is doing so logical, but it’s beautiful in its own right.
'Bloodsport' is the easy highlight of the album and I would argue is the basis point on which all its strengths stand. Featuring a powerful, thumping beat, an incredibly evocative synth melody for a chorus, and Sascha’s vocals that bellow and and beckon for the listener to fight like an otherworldly sports announcer. This is truly the main event - it’s time to throw your hands up or die trying. But at no point does the song seem defeatist or pessimistic - in its moments of quiet it opts for flashes of clarity and melancholy.
The undertones of grief and introspection on this record are surprising given the genre’s pre-contemporary trope of “pay no mind and press on.” because 'Bloodsport' is a track that is just as much about mightily pressing on as it is about stopping to examine the chaos you’ve wrought. As the album reaches its highest highs it uses this time to explore a nuanced angle on the message of “power in the face of oppression” that KMFDM has preached about for decades. An exclusion of 'Bloodsport' on this record is one that’s hard to imagine -- its presence ties everything together and makes the package not only feel cohesive, but exhaustive.
The rest of the album succeeds in less notable and more straightforward ways -- 'Love is Like' is a fun hardsynth romp, 'It’s Not What' is an abstract collection of metallic noises arranged in a pretty peculiar fashion for an album that one would otherwise approach for club hits. The album settles into a bit of a steady groove in its middle, failing to hit the highs of its start or ones it would soon hit near its finish and instead serving as an effective industrial setpiece that takes its roots and contextualizes them for a more modern age.
Skold VS KMFDM
wraps up quite well on its final moments, flirting with hedonism in fabulous ways and fleshing out its vision. 'Porn, Kitsch, and Firearms' is as good a portrait as of its title as it gets and leads into 'Gromky' (Russian word for "loud") whose sound and lyrics perfectly capture how plain fun industrial music can be:
I think we might be having a little, too much fun
If it feels so ***ing good, then it must be wrong
'All or Nothing' is a wonderful closer, with a slow swelling atmosphere that stays steady, steady, like you’re on your own two feet for the first time. You are not what breaks you - you are stronger and working to become even stronger. One day, you’ll take the world by storm. Skold VS KMFDM
, even at its lowest points, maintains a tangible and highly-distilled antifascist theme that has been carefully honed over the course of decades. Tim Sköld, in almost all cases, is able to heighten KMFDM’s highs and mask their lows.
What did I say before - that this album doesn’t beat around the bush? Well, it doesn’t. It BEATS THE BUSH -- quite a lot, too. To a bloody pulp.