Album review : STAHLMANN – Quarz

AFM Records [release date: 10.12.21]

7th album from German band, Stahlmann.
When Rammstein released their first album, in 1995, the German music press coined a new phrase, Neue Deutsch Harte.

NDH became a cutting edge calling card for other bands like Stahlmann, whose later  adaptation of the genre softened the industrial rock harshness, discarded the politics and added danceable electronic elements ripped from warehouse all-nighters.
That didn’t meet with the universal acclaim of hardcore NDH fans.

With Martin Soer (writer/ producer/ singer/ programming) leading the way, Stahlmann carried on regardless. Vindicated by the fact that all 6 of the band’s albums over the last 10 years have made significant inroads into Germany’s Top Forty album charts.

Quarz is no different. The band’s MO on each track is a simple one. Get in quick, hit hard and get out again. Soer’s gutteral growl talks its way menacingly, convincingly, through the industrial grind of ‘Sunder’ (Sinner) and the Gothic undertones of ‘Gottmachine’ (guess), the album’s first trailers. In both cases, accessible melodies emerge from the aural gloom, and charge headlong into sturdily Teutonic, one word choruses.

The band offer up these sounds like surges of raw emotion, powerful and hard hitting, modulated by cold, programmed instrumental precision.

Surprisingly, on several tracks, they move away from the macho, machine turned soundscapes. In places, the relatively subdued arrangements of ‘Krahen Der Nacht’ (Crows Of The Night), and ‘Herz Und Tranen’ (Hearts And Tears) may well remind you of Jascha Richter’s or Jean Michel Jarre’s cultured instrumental tones. Both tracks are shrouded in swirls of colourful synthetic textures, whipping up an hypnotic, hard rocking beat. Then ‘Sonnenreich’ (Sunny) goes a step further, flirting with industrial powerpop.

The band is taking risks with this material. But isn’t that what cutting edge means? ****

review by Brian McGowan

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