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I'm usually a big fan of the German pioneer gothic metal band Crematory but this record is probably the weakest one in their discography. The album heads for a modern sound with melodic keyboards samples, a bigger focus on clean vocals and rather catchy hooks. But the band performs without much conviction and especially the clean vocals by Mathias Hechler which I usually like a lot sound quite weak and pointless on most of the tracks. Let's add to this that the German lyrics are filled with stereotypes and sound rather embarrassing to me. Especially the fact that they try to make a lot of simplistic rhymes in almost all songs is quite annoying and proves the low lyrical skills of the band.
The worst example is probably the annoying "Kein Liebeslied" that has horrible lyrics and a really cheesy hook. The potential catchy but soulless hit single "Hoffnungen", the softer and pointless "Ein Leben lang" and the horribly boring and artificially sounding ballads "Der Nächste" as well as the closing "Spiegel meiner Seele" remind me a lot of more commercial bands of the genre such as BlutEngel, Wolfsheim or even Mono Inc but at a lower level than the mentioned groups. The band abandons almost completely their metal roots on this album as this tries to please much more to the gothic and dark wave scene than to the metal and rock fans. That's why I can't only recommend this record to a more limited fan base that rather likes modern and commercial gothic music than the early gothic and death metal material of the band.
But nevertheless which style you prefer, nothing excuses the lack of passion and conviction in both clean and harsh vocals and in the exchangeable lyrics. Let's add to that that there is not one great guitar solo or haunting keyboard line in the entire record. I can't find one single truly catchy, addicting and memorable song even though most of the tracks concentrate on simple, catchy and commercial choruses. It simply doesn't feel as if the band does what they would like to do on this record. Thos doesn't sound like Crematory but like some commercial and soulless clones of them. The whole thing sounds numb and pointless. The album varies only from mellow to acceptable from the beginning to the end. Only the memories, some fragments that remind of the band's glorious past efforts and the great gimmicks included in the lovely special edition (including an average remix version of the entire record, a patch, an autographed postcard and a poster) keep me away from giving an even harsher rating to the album. This record is only for true fans and collectors. Anybody else should avoid this at all costs and try out the albums "Revolution" or "Pray" just before or after this disappointing release.
Crematory has truly come a long way since the band’s inception. What used to be a unique kind of death metal with solid gothic influences (that made the band’s music, especially around the middle of their career, very catchy) has now become a more modern-sounding mix of those same gothic elements with some industrial music. Klagebilder might be the most industrial-sounding of their albums, and the entire thing is a bit disorienting: on one side it’s enjoyable and many of the sounds are awesome, but the blatant bid to make accessible catchy music is truly evident.
The beginning is extremely promising. The album starts with a self-titled two-minute instrumental intro track which has an undeniable underlying industrial tone to it, mainly caused by the melodies produced by the keyboards. Thus, the entire thing prepares the listener for an advanced and intelligent industrial gothic metal album. Alas, that listener is in for quite a surprise, as the first few full tracks so clearly demonstrate. However, Die Abrechnung is perhaps even more misleading than the intro track. It starts with an aggressive (by Crematory standards) industrial-lined intro, then it shamelessly dives into a poppy, fully clean-sung chorus that makes the insanely catchy stuff on Believe seem like death metal.
The tone of the music changes little during this first half of the album: it consists of an instrumental side primarily based on relatively simple guitar riffs, a few of which are pretty memorable but which, from an overall point of view, do little to help the album seem consistent or even very metal. Many of them are poor thrash metal imitation riffs, rendered repetitive and a bit useless. However, none of the guitar work is actively irritating or bad, just bland at times. The drumming is also fair, and pretty good from an overall standpoint. The patterns are relatively simple and constant throughout the album. Finally, there are keyboards, and I’m glad to say that they’re used with actual moderation here. There’s a short passage here, a little melody there, but all is done to enhance the album’s atmosphere subtly, and with good taste. The melodies created are often album highlights, such as the ones lining pretty much all of the Kein Liebeslied song, as well as the instant highlight ballad, Der Morgen Danach.
The element which truly makes itself manifest as being responsible for the Crematory sound is Gerhard "Felix" Stass’ vocal work, aided by guitarist Matthias Hechler in that department. Here, the traditional Crematory trademark of contrasting death metal-like growls and flowery clean vocals is still at it, but a bit different. The death metal growls are still largely unchanged, but the clean vocals seem a bit… softer, even mellower, whenever they appear (mainly during each song’s chorus). A third kind of vocals, rarer, is a type of whispered growl they sometimes add for additional atmosphere, and it works relatively well.
While the above is a complete description of the first half of Klagebilder, and those elements never really leave the album until its end, the latter half is a bit stranger. It consists of more industrial elements and in moments with various different sounds. For example, some tracks remind much more clearly of older Crematory, while others remind the listener of a harsher Rammstein (for example, Nie Wieder) whenever the clean vocals aren’t used! That said, the same general album formula continues even here, and while it still is good, and there are unique, varied moments, the album does seem to be on a search for its own identity a bit.
Crematory did a pretty good job with Klagebilder. They succeeded in infusing their traditional gothic metal sound with industrial elements and the result isn’t too bad. However, it’s definitely not their best moment, due to the choruses which sound a bit forced and the overall sound that doesn’t seem too well established. Still, it’s worth hearing.