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Metropolis (2013)
Rating: 9/10

Germany’s KMFDM have been around so long they should be household names. Maybe in some households they are. If that household includes members of Mortiis, Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Prong or Rob Zombie’s band, it’s hard to believe that the progenitors of industrial metal aren’t spoken of in reverent tones on a regular basis.

The supremely talented multi-instrumentalist Sascha Konietzko founded the twisted art project that is KMFDM in 1984, fusing the new wave inspired keyboards with metal guitars and a heavy dose of creativity. The band’s debut album, Opium, hit the streets the same year. In the decades since KMFDM has always existed in one form or another, sometimes under spin-offs and side projects have been released to make the band almost a scene by itself.

Kunst is the 18th album under the KMFDM moniker, and it’s everything fans would expect from the band that birthed industrial metal. The title is German for “art” and the songs within fit the description well. Walls of distorted guitar provide a backdrop for keyboards that skate the line between melody, experimental ambience and noise. The end product is brutal and beautiful, often in the same song.

‘Hello’ mixes a relaxing blend of melodic keyboards and calm female lead vocals courtesy of Lucia Cifarelli, which turn into a fury of violent drums, screams and thick distortion at each chorus. The juxtaposition of dissimilar styles is a trademark of the KMFDM sound. ‘Next Big Thing’ mixes programmed drums with edgy rhythm guitar and keyboards that sound like a nightmare inspired by the Nintendo Entertainment System games of years gone by. Part electronic dance, part ear splitting metal, part goth, KFMDM continues to meld styles into a cohesive whole that when described seems shouldn’t fit together.

What is most impressive about KMFDM is their ability to continue to create new songs. Despite a lengthy career and an ever growing legion of imitators, KMFDM has not returned to simply rehash old sounds. Kunst sounds as a KMDFM album should, considering that the band’s sound is an unexpected shifting thing.

‘Pussy Riot’, paying tribute to the actions of the Russian band of the same name, uses sampling to great effect, as does ‘I (Heart) Not’, a song which is as catchy as any dance track, with vocals as creepy as a stalker following you down a dark ally. Konietzko’s menacing whisper is unsettling, to say the least. Songs like ‘Ave Maria’ show exactly where Trent Reznor has been getting his inspiration from for years. This track, as well as others, sound like Nine Inch Nails and Christian Death in a jam session from the infernal pit.

KMFDM builds upon their long history with Kunst. While the band has gone through a number of line-up changes over the years, resulting in periods of more metal sounds and periods of softer, ambient music, this release lands squarely in the middle. This may be the most balanced, and maybe for that reason, the most pleasing KMFDM album to date. Longtime fans will recognize the band’s distinctive sound, and new fans will find that the music is fresh and modern.

Throughout their career KMDFM has been ahead of the trends, and Kunst is no exception. Buy without fear, my noise loving friends. KMFDM is as fierce and experimental as ever, and we, the music buying public, have much to gain from their current release.

Jim McDonald

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