KMFDM's Our Time Will Come - Album Review
OUR TIME WILL COME
Ultra-heavy-beat pioneers and industrial-rock legends KMFDM turned 30 earlier this year, and with no signs of stopping they also released their nineteenth studio album, Our Time Will Come, on Tuesday Oct. 14, 2014.
And, it's one of their best albums.
In my opinion, 2005's Hau Ruck is the best album they've released since the 2002 reformation, and I also consider it to be the second best album of their career (only topped by 1995's Nihil). Our Time Will Come may not be quite as good as Hau Ruck, it's really too early to say, but it's somewhere just beneath it - say, around No. 5 on a Top 5 KMFDM albums list.
So, with that all in mind - where it ranks, in my opinion, in relation to other KMFDM albums - let's move on.
Opening the album is "GENAU" (German for "exactly" / "precisely") which is a fun song, that's not a self-referencing "KMFDM song" like the past few openers. It's a humorous ride through the German language (some of the song is in English, too). Besides being fun, it's interesting musically: it's rocking, it's got some of the best synths the band has used in almost 15 years, and it's a family affair - featuring lead vocals by Sascha, trading off vocals with wife Lucia, and bookending the song are a few lines by their daughter (including the opening line, "Hello, teenage America," which also opened the 1992 song "Vogue"). In some ways, "Genau" reminds me of "Megalomaniac" meets "Juke Joint Jezebel," which isn't a bad thing at all. It gets better as it goes, and gets better the more I listen to it (like the album as a whole). By about halfway through the song it should be apparent that this album has a tightness of musicianship, an excellence of songwriting craft, and a crispness of sound mixing that elevates it above even some of their better work over the past few albums. In less than two minutes I was sold that this album wasn't just going to be good - it would be something special. "Genau" is just a well done song. One that, if they still decide to release it as an actual single, would be a great song to use to bring their new music to the masses. And if this is the sound of "the German in you," then my inner German sounds friggin' awesome! (5/5)
Following that, we move into "SHAKE THE CAGE," which is sort of KMFDM's thoughts on the whole Snowden/NSA thing. However, it's not beating anyone over the head politically. It's funky, (yeah, that's right, I said funky) with a killer bass line running through it straight out of something like "The Problem" from 1993's Angst, with an equally killer guitar riff straight out of 1994's Nihil runnin' over it. It's got a great 'softer' vibe through the verses, that starts to get punched up as it goes, and then it really kicks in for the rockin' sing-along chorus. Keep an ear out for a Jules guitar solo towards the end, too; a nice touch. This is such a good song. There's a maturity present that the band has sometimes eschewed in favor of fun, while this song maintains its fun and listenability. A standout song, "Shake the Cage" is hands-down one of the best songs of its kind that they've ever done. (5/5)
Track three is "RESPEKT," which is downright hilarious. I'm not completely one-hundred-percent sure, but it seems to be a sort of mockery of the trolling behavior online. It's funny, but musically it's this uber-pounding, hard-rocking ultra-heavy-beat 1996's Xtort-era craze. But I love that it so embraces it's goofiness, while still managing to rock your socks off. Think of a funny, sarcasm-fueled Combichrist song channeled through KMFDM. The music and lead vocals are aided by guest Tom Stanzel of the Seattle music scene. And, one of my favorite 'little things' is the metallic hammering of an anvil that pops up to echo the vocals, it's such a great minor detail that ultimately adds a lot. (4/5)
Up next we find the title track: "OUR TIME WILL COME." Like "Shake the Cage," this song is unexpectedly awesome. These types of songs may not be the ones that old-school fans want to hear mixed in with "A Drug Against War" and "Flesh" on a live set list, but they're the kinds of songs that perfectly demonstrate just how far the band has actually come over the years. Musically. Lyrically. Stylistically. There's depth here, both in the songwriting and how the song is layed out, that they just didn't have back-in-the-day. It's got a really cool slower-yet-intricate beat and groove, with some piano sprinkled over it, then some minimal guitar and synth arrangements, all building to a great chorus. Lucia's vocals, too, are amazing, as are the synth "breakdowns." This song is another standout, and while it may be softer and less in-your-face than what people sometimes want or expect, I think this album, by way of songs like this, showcases the band working to its strengths without feeling like they're repeating themselves. Being more creative without feeling like they're just experimenting. This song is also a great example of why I think the album is one of the best. (5/5)
Track five is "SALVATION," which was released early to the band's Soundcloud page a week or so ago. It sort of - at first - appears to be KMFDM-by-numbers, but it's so good that that claim quickly becomes ridiculous. The band is playing with a lot of new ideas here in a sound environment that's familiar, and the resulting hybrid of old and new comes out feeling fresh rather than mashed-up. It's similar to songs like 2003's "Stars & Stripes" and 2005's "New American Century" where Jules' guitar riff magic is just allowed to drive the song. But, the effect-laden vocals from Sascha are unexpected, and then Lucia's pop-diva vocals come in for a bit to help lead in Sascha's overly-commanding chorus. The song weaves the electronics and guitars together nicely (especially towards the end), and moves from crushing hard-industrial-rock to poppy-dancefloor-electronica and back again in flawless fashion. By the time the familiar lyrics from 1990's "Naive" show up in the bridge, the song has become this awesome animal all its own. This is probably the best of the faster songs on the album, and while it doesn't do anything that might be strikingly outside the box, all of the new "little things" succeed in reminding us that sometimes feeling familiar is a damn good thing. (4.5/5)
Track six, "BLOOD VS. MONEY," is another slightly-political song (again, nothing too on-the-nose to put anyone off), featuring Sascha's anger over the way things are being handled in the financial sector post-2008's collapse. The synths are dark and the beat is strange, reminding me a bit of the cool-as-hell beat from 1996's "Ikons" mixed with something like 1999's "Rubicon" and "Adios," with lyrics and vocals that actually remind me more of some of the things Sascha and Skold were doing with side-project MDFMK in 2000. It's a heavy, dark song with screaming vocals, but it's not a very fast song (the beat is more interesting than that). Again, it could be at home on 1999's Adios, just with the amount of electronic stuff going on in the song. This richness of sound and attention to detail helps elevate several tracks on the album, that could have wound up being simply pretty good, to a much higher, better level. (4/5)
At number seven, "GET THE TONGUE WET" not only has the most interesting song title on the album, but might be the most creative song the band has had in quite a while. I'm not even sure if I like some of the choices, per se. (When you hear it, you'll know the part I'm talking about). I mean, it all works, but certain things are so... different, but at the same time that is exactly the appeal. And once the song gets going it's really badass. This is both a new-classic-KMFDM pop song in the vein of "Looking For Strange" and "Real Thing," while at the same time it's the most unlike KMFDM - in a more mainstream pop-song sort of way - that I think they've ever done. It ends up being one of the highlights of the album simply because of it's creative choices and how much it stands out. Plus, it is super-duper fun to listen to. I have a feeling that this song will either grow on me to become a favorite, or possibly the opposite, in the years to come. It's interesting, cool, fun, catchy, has a great guitar-noise solo (at home beside some of NIN's With Teeth-era stuff) and features some truly awesome vocal work from Lucia. (4.5/5)
The eighth track, "BRAINWASHED," begins with voices and samples and strangeness, and then opens up into a sluggish industrial metal monster that in some ways reminds me of a Skold-era KMFDM song (the way Sascha's vocals are sung). It's completely badass and I absolutely love it. It's the heaviest song on the album, and the guitar riffin' here is crunchy and catchy, the ultra-slow ultra-heavy beat is infectious (try to get through it without slow-banging at least a little bit), and the lyrics to this one were the ones out of any song on the album that were stuck in my head all day. I like that the song feels in some ways exactly like its title, like it's brainwashing you - just pounding and heavy and slightly-repetitous in a good way - as it builds in ferocity. Here and there the song adds these tiny little textures (there's a keyboard part that pops up briefly that I friggin' love) as it goes, just making it sound that much more complete. This one will/should be a staple of live shows from here on out. (5/5)
The ninth track, "PLAYING GOD," is sort-of another KMFDM pseudo-pop-song, in the vein of tracks 2, 4 and 7, but... it's also something else. There's a vibe that I get from this that, again, harkens back to the craziness and richness of Xtort and Adio. If you haven't noticed by now, there's a lot of referencing to their past on this album, not just in a fun fan-service-song full of popular KMFDM phrases, but some really interesting throwbacks to styles, particular sounds, re-using lyrics in alternate contexts, it's self-homage without the need of a wink and a nudge. It's like their whole career was building up to this album, and so I've tried to include as many of the references that I've caught on my initial listens, all of the things that reminded me of something from KMFDM-past, in hopes that you'll see that while the album is definitely new, fresh, and creatively showcasing the band at a peak, it also knows its own history and that's on display, too. "Playing God" is my favorite song on the album, and I don't even know if I can explain why. It's just a really great song; it's fun to listen to, it's interesting, and it stands tall over any other song of its kind out there in every possible way. It's got the guitars (some awesome riffs), the beats (I love this beat!), the synths and bass lines (the way these seamlessly intertwine with the guitars reminds me of why I love KMFDM so much in the first place), all of the weapons from the KMFDM arsenal. Yet, as I said, it's wrapped into a more pop-song package - while still managing to retain its badassness. And above all else, it's sooooo well done. The lyrics and vocals, in particular, stand out amongst the stand-outs. (If "Brainwashed" isn't stuck in your head, this one will be). The way the beat and synths/electronics work together building up as the guitar riffs kick in... it's just awesome. In my opinion, "Playing God" - more than any other song on the album - will be the one that I personally include on all my KMFDM playlists/mix CDs/whatever in the years to come. (5/5)
And now we come to the end. The album's closer, "MAKE YOUR STAND," is over six minutes of club-stomping coolness. It's repetitive - musically and lyrically - in that electronic music way, but it works so well. Featuring lead vocals by William Wilson that lend the song a different feel to the rest of the album, and guest musicianship by Tom Stanzel and composing by Seattle DJ Paul Aleinikoff that all aids in the sheer amount of stuff going on in this song. KMFDM haven't had a song like this since probably... actually, I don't know if they've ever done a song like this. 1990's "Freide" maybe? Some of the remixes of "Megalomaniac" from the MDFMK single? This song is almost like a love-letter to certain type of electro-industrial that KMFDM generally has one foot in, but never two. But there are most-definitely those KMFDM moments, never letting the song get away from "their sound" too much. In particular, the badass slide-guitar that creeps over the track occasionally, very 2003's "Bullets Bombs & Bigotry" or even 1995's "Ultra." As an album closer, it is completely kickass because of the fact that it just goes. In electronic music, having great forward momentum can never be over-stressed. And I love that sort of "big finish" in a final track, because, though we live in a digital world, I still love it when an album feels put together right. Pay attention to how the song goes from being a love-letter to something like Front 242's "Headhunter" club remixes to something akin to a Nitzer Ebb song at around the five minute mark, and then back into the club jam. Damn that's nice. (4.5/5)
The more I think about it (and listen to it, as I write this it'll mark my fifth full listen-through), Our Time Will Come might end up being higher in the band's career Top 5 than I originally thought. I mean, if my initial song ratings are in any way 'correct,' then that means that the worst songs on the album are the 4 star songs; "Respekt" and "Blood vs. Money." But, honestly, those two songs, while maybe they aren't as stand-out as the rest on this album, are better songs than many of the band's most well-known and "classic" tracks. What does that say about those songs, or this album, and how the band has evolved?
(It says that this album is damn-near flawless from start-to-finish, and the only reason not to admit it is because of some foolish stubborn nostalgia for the classic albums).
I think that might be right, I'm afraid to say that the albums I grew up with and consider to be part of the band's Golden Era - 1993's Angst, 1996's Xtort, 1997's 'Symbols,' and 1999's Adios - aren't quite as good as I claim them to be. I love 'em, but I'll freely admit that not one of those albums is amazing from start to finish. Each of them has songs that I either tend to skip or flatout just don't like.
1995's Nihil may still be their high water mark, and it probably always will be, but I was willing to admit to myself when 2005's Hau Ruck kept getting better and better the more I listened to it. Hau Ruck, like Our Time Will Come, has no songs that I dislike or skip. So, who knows... Our Time Will Come, almost two decades later than Nihil and almost a decade after Hau Ruck, might join those ranks as KMFDM masterpiece No. 3.
Regardless of where you or I end up ranking it amongst their other 18 albums, KMFDM has made a statement of sorts with Our Time Will Come. They've said, "This is KMFDM in the year 2014, and we're just as alive and relevant as we've ever been, if not more so. We're just as creative and musically inventive as we've ever been, if not more so. We've matured, but haven't lost our sense of play. We've moved into new territories, without forgetting the plethora of components that led to our success over the past thirty years. We are constantly evolving, moving forward with momentum, while always maintaining one foot firmly rooted in the past so that we never forget. We are KMFDM, and our time has come."
In summation, Our Time Will Come is as close to perfect as an electro-industrial-rock album can get, and that it happened in 2014 and not the early-to-mid 90's is probably the most amazing thing about it (when was the last Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, or Skinny Puppy album released that you'd seriously even consider saying was equal to their best work. Yeah, that's what I thought. That's not a stab necessarily at the later output of those groups, but... it is what it is).
Our Time Will Come is well worth picking up, I cannot recommend it enough. It's a great place to start if you're just now getting into them, a great place to pick 'em back up if you've been away for a while, and if you've maintained your fandom to the fullest throughout the years... then honestly what the hell are you even reading this for, just go pick it up already and enjoy.
It's now available in stores and online, or for purchase through the band directly via the KMFDM Store (www.kmfdm.net), in several formats and options: digital download, CD, or as a CD plus T-shirt & poster bundle.
5 out of 5
- gARTh -