Thursday, 9 September 2010

Rammstein - Mutter (2001)

1. Mein Herz Brennt
2. Links 2 3 4
3. Sonne
4. Ich Will
5. Feuer Frei!
6. Mutter
7. Spieluhr
8. Zwitter
9. Rein Raus
10. Adios
11. Nebel

Bombastic Industrial, with a dash of Mediocrity – 6/10

It’s been four long years since Rammstein’s previous effort Sehnsucht. Why on earth they waited so long with their third effort is beyond me. I guess they were working hard on a new sound to depart from the basic industrial metal they created on their previous releases. But the times changed to 2001 and so Rammstein updated their sound a little. Would this band work with a different sound or did this mean the end of the band?

Yes it worked and blimey this sounds so refreshing. It’s still undeniably industrial in terms of riffs and samples. These are still riffs to dance to while banging your head and in essence this all still sounds very Rammstein. Perhaps not all songs are alike this time, but there’s definitely some formula stuck in the band’s heads again. But first the sound. Where Sehnsucht mostly featured a killer riff with some nice grooves and then the monotonous vocals by Lindemann, Mutter has a lot more depth in the songs. The use of synthesizers is a little more refined than just the samples this time. A good example is the chorus of “Links 2 3 4”. The riffs are less notable this time, but contribute more to the overall sound of the song. This combination of slightly more dominant synths and pushed-to-background guitars results in a bombastic sound. With some tracks this even leads to a slightly gothic sound, like on the choruses of “Sonne”, “Mutter” and “Ich Will”. Now, about the formula, even this formula tends to get old in terms of the band’s creativity. After the sixth track “Mutter”, the album goes downhill quickly and that’s where the mediocrity part comes in. A refreshing sound is one, but if one uses it with mediocre tracks it only gives the listener headaches.

The album opens with the bombastic “Mein Herz Brennt”, which begins gently with Lindemann’s trademark monotonous voice muttering a few words before the chorus bursts out with an evil synth melody on the lead. The march-like “Links 2 3 4” also has its verses gently with a more bombastic marching riff in the chorus. Then some new aspects to Rammsteins repertoire are the sing-along tracks “Sonne” and “Mutter”. Both have quite unimportant verses but shine in the catchiness of the choruses, which are, perhaps, even epic. “Ich Will” is another high quality standard industrial track, with some highly entertaining lyrics. One of the finest tracks would be “Feuer Frei!”, the famous hard-industrial up-tempo anthem. This is truly a great kickass song, except for the annoying vocal performance at the break. Lindemann is not a singer, he should just be monotonous and not try to sing. If he’d just do that, Rammstein can’t go too wrong on the vocal department, except for the metrics. The metrics in his vocals are often similar and formulaic, which makes many tracks from this album predictable. After “Mutter”, the album goes downhill fast. The riffs have suddenly become boring, the vocals predictable and the synths have disappeared... It suddenly lacks all the catchiness, all the inventiveness and all the quality. Maybe only the narration at the beginning of “Spieluhr” is worth a listen. Even “Nebel”, what instrumentally is not that terrible, is totally ruined because this ballad would require a singer, and when somebody who can’t really sing takes the job... you’ll guess the result. It’s a bit of a “Klavier II”.

In the end, Mutter is not a bad follow-up to Sehnsucht, but gets so damn weak after track #6 that I can’t call it good. The first six tracks on the other hand are worth checking out if you like Rammstein. The other tracks will be reserved only for those who like everything the band releases. But to new ones it’s not recommended.

Strongest tracks: “Feuer Frei!”, “Mutter” and “Ich Will”.
Weakest tracks: “Zwitter”, “Rein Raus” and “Adios”.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Linkin Park - Hybrid Theory (2000)

1. Papercut
2. One Step Closer
3. With You
4. Points of Authority
5. Crawling
6. Runaway
7. By Myself
8. In the End
9. Place for my Head
10. Forgotten
11. Cure for the Itch
12. Pushing Me Away

An Innovating Combination of Genres – 75%

When you think of Linkin Park these days you immediately think of hits like “In the End”, “Breaking the Habit” or “What I’ve Done”. You can’t help to think of the commercial rock meets rap combination that somehow works remarkably well. But once, Linkin Park were a part of the nu-metal movement and one of the most innovative bands in that very genre. A combination of DJ, rap and raw metal screams... how on earth would that work commercially?

This band did it. Where Rob Bourdon delivers some solid drums, Brad Delson and Mike Shinoda take care of some asskicking guitar riffs and to top it off there’s Joseph Hahn adding keys and samples to give the music a more DJ-like approach. Vocally we have Chester Bennington with his aggressive screams and at the same time his beautiful singing voice, nicely varied with Mike Shinoda’s rap. Normally I don’t like rap, but Linkin Park proves anything can be cool as long as the song that features it is cool. And that is the strength of this band. The songs are simple in structure, but undeniably catchy and heavy. Opening song “Papercut” gives us a perfect overview of the potential of this band’s formula. Computer drums open the album, soon to be accompanied by catchy lead guitar melodies and some rap. Bennington shows up two words at the chorus and at the bridge. The song is rap, metal and a bit of trance all within three minutes! And then they didn’t even show their full capability of voice combinations. Shinoda’s rap and Bennington’s screams are varied so greatly they finish eachother's sentences and feel as one. It’s highly unique and I haven’t heard anything like this anywhere else.

After the rap dominated “Papercut”, Bennington gets his proper introduction in the metal dominated “One Step Closer”. “With You” is more of a combination between the two with Shinoda and Bennington swapping vocals in the verses. The downside of the album is perhaps the alikeness between the songs from number four to nine. However, since the formula is so inventive and never heard before, the album loses almost none of its greatness. The instrumental “Cure for the Itch” is the moment of Mr. Hahn to show off his DJ skills. And then the last song “Pushing Me Away” is a true highlight with its epic chorus. Lyrically, the entire album is very depressing, dealing with adolescent problems, which commercially would connect perfectly to their adolescent fans.

I cannot find more words to describe the content of the album. It’s a really good album and I would definitely recommend this album to fans of nu-metal and to people who seek innovating albums. This one is definitely one to check out.

Strongest tracks: “Papercut”, “Place for my Head” and “Pushing Me Away”.

Disturbed - The Sickness (2000)

1. Voices
2. The Game
3. Stupify
4. Down with the Sickness
5. Violence Fetish
6. Fear
7. Numb
8. Want
9. Conflict
10. Shout 2000
11. Droppin' Plates
12. Meaning of Life

Music for Children with ADHD – 45%

In the late nineties, a lot of industrial metal and nu-metal acts came up. Most of them were seen as a threat to “real” metal, as they were more commercial in style and a lot less riff-based. One of the nu-metal acts you can not have missed would be Disturbed. Whereas their debut album The Sickness is generally looked upon as the bands best effort so far, I must disagree heavily.

Today, Disturbed is quite far from their roots, from The Sickness, and I’m glad they are. The four-piece from Chicago are definitely renewing and innovating within the genre, but on this album their lack of experience makes the whole sound way too crowded, too raw and too filled up. The entire music is build around the rhythmic and charismatic voice of David Draiman, who really likes to make odd choppy guttural sounds, which is unique to this man. He is the one who carries each and every song and he rarely shuts up. Then there are the chaotic riffs of Dan Donegan, the man behind the guitar. His riffs on this album are mostly quite wild and unoriginal, with some exceptions. For example, his riff on the lead single “Down with the Sickness” is simplistic but so damn effective and unique with the use of natural harmonics. Bassman Steve Kmak is hardly hearable throughout the mix and mostly just follows Donegan in the accompaniment. Drummer Mike Wengren is a bit more notable though. At times he can be modest and just guide the song like on the groovy “Stupify”, but he also knows how to make the song rise above the others with his drums like on “Down with the Sickness”. This sounds like a band that at least can create a decent album.

Well, that moment is not now. Most songs sound a lot the same and are very crowded, in short. Within the nu-metal genre, this is not uncommon. Riffs often are carried by a groove you’d normally hear in RNB music. Also, there are almost no tracks that really blow your mind. The opening track “Voices” for example features some wacko chaotic riffs and some harsh shouting but fails to deliver a good song. The same problem features in “The Game”. Even in the instrumental parts of a riff, we have Draiman making stupid noises. These tracks are also way too compact and lack calmness. “Stupify” is a much better track with a good groove but doesn’t sound right. It’s a lot better live. Then there’s the lead single “Down with the Sickness” with its genial drum intro and great riff. It’s just a killer riff with the harmonics and Draiman’s voice shows a more mature side in the verses. A true letdown is its interplay, where we would want a solo or perhaps something calm, but over a crowded and chaotic riff Draiman continues to shout manically which perhaps fits the lyrical theme of the song, but only adds to the chaotic nature of the album. This way the album continues with some nice riff here or there but with almost only shouting choruses and crowded song structures.

The point when the album reaches its worst is two tracks. “Conflict” is the only song that annoys me so much I’d want to delete it from my memory. It misses every direction and lyrically Draiman never stops shouting ‘enemy!’. Then there is “Dropping Plates”. As the song is nothing special, just another chaotic failure, Draiman, again, decided to ruin the song even further by using harsh language in the lyrics. He also does that in the interplay of “Down with the Sickness”, but that one is saved by its great verses and chorus. “Dropping Plates” has nothing decent to it. Then there’s the Tears For Fears cover “Shout 2000”. Disturbed has a talent for doing covers. It really changes an 80s pop song into a modern metal track. But if I remember correctly the original had a synthesizer interlude... unfortunately Draiman can’t shut up even when that interlude begins. It would add so much more depth if he would just shut his mouth for a few seconds.

In short, this crowded and chaotic debut album of every child’s favorite metal band is worthy only of the trashcan. Perhaps you should get “Down with the Sickness”, but for the other tracks, don’t bother. And don’t even think about getting the 10th Anniversary edition... it features two more of these tracks... what a way to treat fans. As if these twelve weren’t enough yet. ‘Nuff said.

Strongest tracks: “Down with the Sickness” and “Stupify”.
Weakest tracks: “Conflict” and “Dropping Plates”.