Review

Review

KMFDM: 'KUNST' – CD Review [NSFW]

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Industrial legends KMFDM have been dealing in their own brand of “ultra-heavy beat” for nearly three decades, across nearly twenty albums, and their 2011 release WTF?! (check out our review here) proved that their axes are still plenty sharp, and that their post-millennial lineup – founder & frontman Sascha “Kapt'n K” Konietzko, vocalist Lucia Cifarelli, guitarists Jules Hogdson & Steve White and drummer Andy Selway – remains their most durable and powerful incarnation in my book. After the misstep of BLITZ, which felt like a half-hearted attempt to recapture the band's late-'80s club vibe, the team wisely returned to the workshop to craft another metal monolith, and that form is still firm for their latest full-length studio album... in fact, it's actually moved into an even darker range, with a rebellious fervor matching that of angst-ridden works like WWIII.
 
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All the band's lyrical signatures are still in play in KUNST, including their well-known political views: the track “Pussy Riot” is an anthem dedicated to the Russian punk rock activist group, two of whose members were imprisoned last year for staging a musical protest at an Orthodox church, and the album's controversial artwork by Aidan Hughes, alias “Brute!” (who has created nearly all the band's promotional art since their inception) was intended as a visual tribute to that group. But if you know KMFDM at all, you'll know that their frontal attack also comes with a heavy dose of often self-deprecating humor – for example, the chant “KMFDM Sucks,” which appears in many of their songs, has become an ironic battle cry adopted by the band's dedicated fans.
 
The decades-running joke that the band's name stands for “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode” (it actually stands for “Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid,” which translates kinda sideways as “No Pity for the Majority”) is finally acknowledged in the opening/title track, which has a similar rolling rhythm to many of their popular crowd-rallying anthems. They also sing out every one of their previous album titles, so there's a little history lesson in there too. The dance-metal comes stomping in with “Ave Maria,” a syncopated piece with a bouncier, lighter electro side and more mid-range guitar riffs, making for a solid club single:
 
 
The band picks up a little glitchy electro-house in “Quake,” but don't expect any bass drops; this is one of their more frantic, up-tempo rock tracks, with soaring bullhorn-treated vocals by Sascha, whose melodic chops come though especially well. Chunky metal riffs bracket “Hello,” counter-balancing Lucia's sensual, ghostly vocals amid glassy synth patterns, which give way to some of her most fearsome screams. “Next Big Thing” packs some of the chunkiest, sleaziest riffage on the album as a backdrop to sneering vocals by William Wilson that are strongly reminiscent of KMFDM alumnus En Esch; the end result is a potent cocktail of the band's old and new phases. Lucia takes the lead on the scrappy dedication of “Pussy Riot,” summoning the defiant, revolutionary energy that characterizes the band's best work. 
 
There's a cool punkish edge to “Pseudocide,” which also sports the album's hookiest riffs and chorus, plus Selway's incredibly heavy drums, making it a definite keeper all around. Darker synth atmospheres and lurching beats propel “Animal Out,” another strong entry with twisty high-speed riffage recalling past hits like “Juke Joint Jezebel.” “The Mess You Made” is a gargantuan, cinematic collaboration between KMFDM and Swedish experimental-industrial outfit Morlocks, which is soaked in dark ambient production and alien synth effects, and bristling with knife-edged electro metal beats and burnt vocals by J.Strauss. “I (Heart) Not” closes the album on an extremely dark note, with Sascha growling an eerie sort of anti-love ballad over a thick, sexy electro bass line.
 
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The same frantic energy that infused WTF?! continues in KUNST, but with a slightly more malicious edge; while it's not as skull-crushing as some of their more ferocious metal efforts, it possesses a dark emotional undertone that actually makes it feel more sinister – an inviting new direction for the band, and I'm hoping they continue further down that path.
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