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Monday, August 4, 2008

Nachtmahr - "Feuer Frei!"

Artist: Nachtmahr
Album: Feuer Frei!
Year: 2008
Label: Vendetta Music
Genre: EBM, TBM

NACHTMAHR! crunchy militant shell with milky trance inside

Packaging: 8.5/10
Alright! Finally a band that isn’t content to do the bare minimum when it comes to packaging. I was excited to find that this album contained a nice thick booklet with a bunch of cool (and militant) digital artwork, militant women, lyrics and quotes. Unfortunately all the lyrics and quotes are in German so I have no idea what they say, but I’m sure they are interesting. Nonetheless, the artwork is a perfect visual representation of what this project is supposed to be about. In reality the visual aspect is about the only thing that is actually militant about this band.

Composition: 5/10
When I think of militant music, minimalist hard techno drums and repetitive trance synths don’t come to mind. However this is apparently the opposite for Thomas Rainer. “Feuer Frei!” is absolutely chocked to the brim with the above elements, plus some pitched shifted vocals and the occasional air raid siren (e.g. one, used on the title track). The quasi-militant aspect aside, Rainer knows what he wants to do with this project and goes for it, full steam ahead. Nachtmahr is a club-oriented machine and like a machine it knows only one thing: how to destroy a club. Every song on the album is basically the same thing: a minimal but hard and pounding rhythm, a couple of big trance synths, an arpeggiated bassline and Rainer doing some evil german vocals. This works really well for the first few songs. They come across as big club anthems, where everyone can stomp and chant along to repeated chorus of the song’s title i.e. “NACHTMAHR” or “FEUER FREI!”. However after a couple of songs, it gets old. The songs are all about the same speed and the sounds used in each are overly similar so that the listener can pretty easily forget which track they are listening to (until the chorus hits and the track’s title is repeated 2-4 times). The album has about the same ratio of vocal ebm : power noise as the EP did. I really liked the noisier tracks on the EP such as Ein Spiel, but the ones on the album come across as trite and rushed. For example in “Leistung” he uses the tried-and-boring method of huge beat playing, then everything drops out, sample plays, everything comes back in. While this isn’t inherently bad there are no transitions in there which comes across as just lazy. But yeah anyway the non-vocal tracks here are pretty boring, as they are just a beat, a bassline and a synth or two looped for 5 minutes with some militant samples sparsely interspersed. It’s been done by countless bands and nothing about these tracks is superior. It was boring when they did it and it’s boring when Nachtmahr does it. The only song that is different is "Hochmut", which is slightly slower (e.g. bass kick only on half notes instead of quarter notes). It’s a cool track which actually has some dark atmosphere to it and interesting futuristic beeping noises, however it’s basically just the elements mentioned looped over and over and over for four minutes.
I would really, really, really like to hear Rainer incorporate some actual militant/martial elements into this music. I think it would help it infinitely to transform this project into something unique and memorable, while still sounding big in the club. It would be awesome to hear a club –oriented band incorporate some militant snare rolls or horns or what have you. I mean he didn’t even use samples of planes or tanks or marching or cheering or anything. Lame. I feel like if that approach was taken, this project would have so much potential and individuality, but as it stands this is basically just another TBM album.

Production: 9.5/10
The production on “Feuer Frei!” is top notch, and I would expect no less from someone as prolific as Rainer. The drums absolutely stomp and the synths are all perfectly clear. The vocals are extremely well produced: thick, distorted yet distinguishable and they sit perfectly in the mix, all of which tasks spell certain doom for many terror ebm bands. The album has perfect club production: huge sound that conveys and emphasizes the more driving elements.

Artistic Merit: 3/10
Yeah not really, sorry. “Feuer Frei!” is a very straight forward brute force club album and nothing more. Every element on here has been done before by every other band that makes this kind of club anthem oriented EBM.

Flow: ?/10
It’s kind of hard to rate the flow of this. I guess one could argue that it’s good because every track is similar and thus sounds good next to another. There aren’t really any notable progressions or builds in the music and the entire album plods along in it’s mid-paced mission to destroy clubs everywhere.

Overall Rating: 5/10
“Feuer Frei!” seems to have one goal in mind which is to be a great club album. I think that is absolutely satisfies this goal. This is a great club album full of potential club hits, and nothing more. It is successful in everything that current trends dictate: great production, huge driving beats, catchy trance synths, and repetitive vocals that people can chant along to. Songs like “Nachtmahr” and “Feuer Frei” are instantly recognizable and will drive the masses onto the dance floor to sing along. However, the one-dimensional-ness of the album is its ultimate downfall. While it sounds great in a club, it’s not that great in other settings. Why does a modern “industrial” club album have to sound like hard techno? The ‘what could have been’ kills me here. What if he had used martial elements and still made a great club album? That could have been very interesting, not to mention progressive for the industrial genre. But instead what we got is a collection of emotionless songs suffering from tunnel vision that sound too similar for repeated listens at home. In the car it would be fun, but hearing what is very-nearly the same song over and over would get tedious. If you’re a big fan of the current trend of hard techno/TBM like combichrist, modulate, faderhead etc etc etc etc etc etc than this album will interest you. If you like to listen to more intricate and diverse music than just hit your local clubnight and you’ll get plenty of chances to hear pieces from this album.

-dan barrett
date 08-04-08

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