Almost exactly one year ago, landmark industrial outfit KMFDM celebrated their 25th anniversary with the release of BLITZ – which also marked a big departure from the deep riff-driven metal sound that dominated most of their output of the past decade. For some this was a welcome return to the club-friendly “Ultra Heavy Beat” that Sascha “Kapt’N K” Konietzko and crew championed during their initial stint on the Wax Trax! label – before they found a new home at Metropolis Records, where their success continues today.
Legendary for their diabolical remix skills, KMFDM and their compatriots have mixed, mutated, mangled and modified their own beats – as well as those of countless other industrial, EBM and metal artists past and present – in so many different ways over the years that it’s sometimes hard to tell where the originals end and the re-spun versions begin. This tradition continues with KRIEG, their latest all-remix album, which I finally had a chance to hear for myself. Read on to find out if this collection is equal to (or maybe even better than) its source material...
First off, I gotta level with ya: I wasn’t quite as thrilled with BLITZ as I’d hoped... maybe because I wasn’t ready for such this particular l shift in tone, having been so completely blown away by the band’s previous full-length release TOHUVABOHU and its excellent remix compilation BRIMBORIUM (which still rank among my favorite KMFDM titles ever). I look fondly on their role in my disturbingly misspent youth, but I felt like a lot of BLITZ came out of an attempt to recapture that same vibe minus the raw, gritty edge that was the product of low-budget ingenuity and anarchic energy. If you’re wondering what I mean by that, pick up the singles collection EXTRA and do your homework.
But let’s look at what the Kapt’n and his cohorts have on the table this time around: with KRIEG, they’ve opened up their works to further creative input – much of which comes from outside the band. That’s nothing new, of course; the desire to work with KMFDM runs strong among both veteran and newly-minted acts… and for good reason, because these beats form a strong, solid basis for wild experimentation, and the lyrics are smart and powerful in just about any framework, from acoustic guitars to ambient soundscapes to screeching noise-rock. This time around, the lyrics and beats are as strong as before, but it was nice to hear a fairly diverse collection of guest artists rework the landscape and beef up the originals in ballsy ways.
On the harsher side, the distinctive sound of Combichrist is easy to spot, and Andy LaPlegua's minimalist hammer-smash rhythms completely dominate opening track Bait & Switch... a track which later threatens to set your face on fire when reinterpreted by Prong's Tommy Victor in a blaze of screaming lo-fi riffage. White Zombie alumnus Ivan de Prume's take on Never Say Never is slower-tempo and less complex, but still packs some incendiary old-school metal licks that blend well with vocalist Lucia Cifarelli's brash, sultry vocals.
That same track later gets the hard EBM treatment at the hands of Sebastian Komor (Icon of Coil, Zombie Girl) – who enhances the solid core beats with crunchy distortion & glitch effects – and gets a third spin by acclaimed producer Dave “Rave” Ogilvie, who manages to transform it into a fun, bouncy pop number that could pass for an early Brian Eno project. A dark, oily feel oozes from Assemblage 23's mix of Davai, which is definitely the most nightmarish interpretation of the bunch, but Tweaker's coarser version stirs clinical electro patterns with slappy organic drumming and spastic guitar chops into a spicy stew that's pretty satisfying.
The softer, moodier cuts are equally effective, like Seismologist's interpretation of Potz Blitz! – an incredibly dark, menacing and resonant down-tempo piece with a decidedly Nine Inch Nails feel. People of the Lie gets an inventive spin from Static-X guitarist Koichi Fukuda, who crafts a piano-based, pensive and moody interlude that showcases Lucia and Sascha's well-blended, softer-edged vocals and gives extra weight to the poignant lyrics. Mary Byker (est known for experimental group Gaye Bykers on Acid) visits the same track and does nothing particularly startling, but it benefits from a tight and crispy beat and colorful, sparkly synth textures. Vile Evils weave ambient arpeggios and swirly washes with tight, crunchy guitars to give Bitches a spacey, old-school feel that would probably conflict with the coy, fuck-off lyrics of the original, but they're so heavily treated that they take on a fairly innocuous tone.
Ironically, the only track that falls a bit flat is also the sole remix handled by a core member of the band – drummer Andy Selway's choice to play up the already odd disco elements of Strut is, to my ears, an intriguing misstep. But that's just one small speed-bump in an otherwise outstanding musical journey, and the whole project actually gave me some new perspective on the original BLITZ tracks, reminding me that the band's songwriting is as powerful as their ability to throw down a seriously seismic beat; it's reassuring to know they've still got the power.
KRIEG is currently available through the KMFDM website, but it’s about to get a wider CD release through Metropolis on April 27, so there’s plenty of options on the table for you to check this one out... and you damn well should.