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Drumming masterclass - 93%

MikeyC, January 19th, 2019

This band has come a long way in their career. After the well-received debut album Altered States of Divinity, the band took a 9 year break before releasing the second album Enemy of Man. In that period the band members’ other band Mgła had taken off and recorded two albums in that time, both of which have received pretty positive reception. Once Kriegsmaschine came back, it seemed clear that they wanted to differentiate the two bands, and Enemy of Man saw the band move into a more rhythm-centric style of black metal. Now, on their third album Apocalypticists, that style has been upped yet again and I reckon this band is going from strength to strength because of it.

Of course, comparisons to the sister band Mgła are inevitable. The two members here are also in that band, and play a similar style of dissonant black metal. There is a distinct difference between the two bands, though. Mgła’s style is a lot more hard-hitting with crazy blasting permeating the dissonant riffing. Here, the emphasis on groove is ratcheted up, mostly by way of the drumming. Instead of feeling like you’re getting hypnotised by repeated riffs, a trait that Mgła uses and makes them sound good, Kriegsmaschine opts for the intricacies of the music, the subtler side of this style of black metal. You don’t feel like you’re getting rigorously pounded. More like…rigorously massaged. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me?

Like a good massage, the flow of this album is something to behold. Each song has its own identity, but the album as a whole is interconnected and well organised. The 50 minutes fly by, which is a testament to how appealing each track is, and how it all comes together. It has extensive replayability and listening to the album twice back-to-back wouldn’t be exhausting.

I mentioned the drumming being the main instigator of the groovy, rhythmic feeling of the music, but it can’t be emphasised enough. The percussion here has an almost blackened jazz feel to it throughout a lot of the album. With not a blast beat in sight over the album’s 50 minute run-time, drummer Darkside fills that void with amazing cymbal patterns (see “The Pallid Scourge” for wonderful jazz flair on the ride) and lots of tom fills that don’t just accentuate the beat, because they are the beat (“Lost in Liminal”). He also has no problem switching to something straighter, such as “Apocalypticists” and mostly seen in the song “The Other Death,” which is about as close to a blast beat as the album gets, but even then the drumming still has flair to it with its subtle hits and ghost notes in between the snare hits. This shows a great songwriting skill to make each song interesting, versatile, and coherent all in one breath, and the drumming brings this all together in one awesome package. It also shows the chops of Darkside, cultivating his creativity and shows he’s not just a one-trick-blasting-pony.

With the brilliant performance from the drumming, and the fact that Apocalypticists has decided to bring more emphasis on the percussive groove element, it’s obvious that the drumming takes centre stage and the dissonant riffs are relegated to a secondary instrument. That’s not to say the riffs here are sub-standard, or unimportant in the progression of the album. They keep things rolling along with their droning patterns. The opening riff to “Apocalypticists” is quite nice and sets a great mood for the rest of the song. The vocals are the same as what’s presented in Mgła – throaty yells that give the album a harsh quality to it, but still works well in tandem with the music. Lyrically, the band talk about cryptic subjects that appear to have their bases rooted in Nietzscheism, although if anyone can get a better grasp on what the hell they’re talking about, I’m willing to hear it out. What I do know is that it does give the album an extra dimension on its bleakness, which fits the musical motif.

Again, though, the drumming is the main drawcard to this album, and I implore anyone that enjoys intricate and flowing drums in their music to check this out. Kriegsmaschine have evolved quite nicely since their early days and this is a wonderful direction for them to be heading in. One of the best albums of 2018 and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.