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Progress! - 38%

Felix 1666, September 24th, 2017

God bless progress! It makes our world so beautiful. Remember the times when our forefathers fought with sticks and stones. Primitive dimwits! The bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was much more effective, showed the Soviets who's boss and made much more fun, right? We see that progress is a value in itself, a kind of new religion, and everybody who does not fall on his or her knees is a heretic. Or, to use the German translation, ein Ketzer.

So here we have the third album of - and believe me, this is pure coincidence - Ketzer. "Satan's Boundaries Unchained" was one of the best black thrash debuts of all times and it awoke great hopes. A new star was born - but it did not shine for a long time. Already "Endzeit Metropolis" was a step back, because it did not have the energy of the first work and suffered from some small experiments. "Starless" is the result of Ketzer's further evolution and it sounds bittersweet. It has nothing in common with (black) thrash metal and it has not much in common with metal at all. Nevertheless, this is not a complete pile of shit. The talent of the band was responsible for the overwhelming debut and it is still not gone. Ketzer behave like a car driver who has everything under control (after having taken the wrong exit.)

Positive aspects worth mentioning are the dominance of the guitars, the fairly dark vibes of the riffs and the fact that Ketzer do not lick or kiss the ass of the mainstream. I respect their approach, but I see absolutely no link to their roots and I ask myself whether it was necessary to release this songs under the name of Ketzer. I do not want to put the occasionally occurring emotional parts in the focus, for example the slack sections of the overlong "Shaman's Dance". Come on, a small amount of uninspired, boring sections is no unique feature, other bands are prone to pretty superfluous ideas as well. What annoys me is the embarrassment that Ketzer act like new born children, without any past, without any tradition and completely innocent. Post rock is not my genre and if these pretty crude sounds fall under this category, there is absolutely no need for a change in this context. I can listen to this kind of music for ten or 15 minutes, but the longer the album lasts the more I feel that I am not a part of Ketzer's newly flattered target group. I admit that the production is very good, clear, sharp and somewhat spicy, but the song material is doomed to failure (compared with the rockets of the debut). This applies especially for the aimlessly meandering quasi-instrumental at the end of the album, but there are more numbers that fail to pull the audience into the song. The pretty lively "Godface" represents the better tracks. Its beginning sounds as if DeeDee Ramone gave Ketzer one of his riffs posthumously, but the song has a metallic fundament and does not emphasize despair, loneliness or agonizing uncertainty. These feelings are almost omnipresent on "Starless", while aggression has picked the shortest straw.

Apart from general aspects, some songs are slightly ill-defined. "Count to Ten" has pretty dramatic parts and some sharp riffs, but why do we have to count to ten? What kind of kindergarten is this? Or take the playful part of "The Hunger". The dark, demonic voice of the lead singer and the precise guitars create a more or less unholy aura, but the aforementioned section with its stupid background choir and the powerless performance of the instrumentalists kills the effect of the song. Due to the comparatively great amount of tranquil song parts, it was no big challenge for the band to lend most songs a dynamic structure. Nevertheless, too many sections are going nowhere. For example, more than the first minute of the actually harsh "When Milk Runs Dry" delivers nothing but sleepy notes and does not add any value to the track and / or the entire output. Even worse, some songs seem to originate from intellectual discussion forums but not from the heart. But maybe I am just not able to understand this kind of music in view of my primitive music taste. I apologize. I would even prefer a battle with sticks and stones before I would choose any kind of modern weapons.

The Star Is Gone - 30%

insidethegrave, September 22nd, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, 12" vinyl, Metal Blade Records

A few days ago I was revisiting this record just for the sake of giving it a few spins before putting it back in the shelf for another year. This time around I enjoyed the record a bit more than I did back in 2016 and I kept asking myself, why was this record not memorable at all when it was released? The short answer to it is the name Tribulation. Why did Ketzer moved from a basic black/thrash powerhouse to a band that can be classified as uninspired and maybe even a clone of another band that went the same path but in a more sophisticated and natural way.

When Metal Blade records revealed the signing of Ketzer to their ranks I felt it was a weird move from the band and label, as the visions were completely different, but as soon as the cover of the album was published and the first preview of “Starless” was posted online my doubts were cleared.

The reviews for “Starless” were very rough, people was shocked to hear Ketzer going the post-rock & post-punk path mixed with metal, while others praised the bravery to take a 180 degree turn into another direction risking everything the band built under their cult of underground followers.

So why so many negative feedbacks surrounding “Starless”? I will try to tell you why (in my own perspective). The album is not bad, but it is far from a good record. The passion is not there, no intricate playing, no challenging riffs, the powerful lyrics are no longer there and what’s maybe worst is that the album is very predictable. Ketzer went the safe way and created an album that will definitely remind you of In Solitude and Tribulation latest opus, Beastmilk, Grave Pleasures and Death Wolf. Songs have a solid base but they lack the impact and catchy, memorable sections the band had in their previous records. Lyrics are very silly (some of them even sound like they could be written by U2, see Count to Ten), and the vocals are just plain and simple, but something that kicks back the record a lot is also the production.

Based on the snippets and videos uploaded by the band and label, this time around the band recorded and mastered the album in a different studio with a new producer that is more related to rock, soul and hip-hop artists than metal. The volumes in the album sound a bit off place at time, like the drums and bass are leading the whole show, while the guitars and vocals are just adding a few ingredients to make it diverse and not the other way around.

I hope Ketzer and Metal Blade realize how big of a failure was to try to surf a wave that already passed, and most of the bands that added the post-metal tag to their name did it in a interesting way, not trying too hard to copy other artists or impress the fans with a completely different sound that they weren’t even comfortable with or didn’t know how to replicate it, which is what I think happened to Ketzer.