The popularity of the ‘70s rock sound with modern musicians and record buyers alike has been in direct response to the over-reliance on technology as a means to attain “perfection” on record. But, as we all know, perfection is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. Making sure the recording is technically precise and having the vocals Auto-Tuned to the desired key, in the major instances, leaves a bitter, emotionless noise lacking in humanity. In genres such as death metal, such precision and inhumanity is paramount to the music. When it comes to good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll however, the spirit is found in the slight fluctuating tempos, the bulge of amplified distortion, the musty draw of the recording equipment and its temperamental nature.
What gives a record personality and distinguishes it from multitude of releases that are thrown out by labels on a daily basis is not something that can be easily put into words. It can be attributed to the magic that exists between the musicians, but it can also come from the warmth of a certain guitar tone, or even a vocal that, while not technically in tune, hits a nerve inside the listener. The possibilities are endless, yet we all know when we come across magic caught on tape. One band that can channel the elusive magic through bare instrumentation is Berlin power-trio Kadavar. The band’s eponymous debut, released last year, nailed the aesthetics and musical phrasing of seminal bands such as Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Cream, and Blue Cheer. The Blue Cheer influence, in particular, was a definitive one—especially when it came down to the choices taken when mixing the LP. Kadavar’s decision to place the guitars on one side of the mix and the bass on the other with the drums providing the middle ground brought the ‘Cheer classic Vincebus Eruptum to mind. And this stylistic mixing choice has rolled into their second LP in less than a year, Abra Kadavar.
Abra Kadavar also happens to be the band’s debut for Nuclear Blast, who, after hearing the first record, signed Kadavar to their mammoth metal label. Produced, mixed, and mastered by drummer Tiger in his own studio, this collection of songs, when compared to those of Kadavar, sound fuller while remaining fixated on heady, vintage vibes. Kadavar—who are rounded out by guitarist and vocalist Lupus Lindemann and bassist Mammut—have kept the music as stripped down and as much in line with the live nature of the recording as possible with only a few embellishments. The songwriting chemistry gleams through a deep daze of bluesy, proto-metal riffs and deft drum-work, slight dashes of Krautrock—as heard on “Rhythm for Endless Minds”—with trickles of Hawkwind mysticism dripping through the synth-splashed closer, “Abra Kadavar”. It’s music without pretence, and Lindemann’s vocals have an illicit charm to them that only singers from days-gone-by possessed.
As the cover would allude, the complete package is tied entirely to the late ‘60s and early to late ‘70s. But what is crystal clear is that Kadavar’s love for the music of this era lacks ulterior motives: You get the feeling this trio would rock out these exact tunes regardless of who thinks this style of music is popular. “Doomsday Machine” takes us back to the origins of metal, both “Dust” and “Fire” captivate in the way that only ‘70s Sabbath could, and in the end it’s altogether intoxicating and cripplingly addictive. Those who claim that Kadavar haven’t an ounce of originality are clearly miss out on the point here. This is not about reinvention, this is reinterpreting the masters—and few bands are this convincing. Thankfully Kadavar now have a larger audience waiting to tune in and trip out on their “Liquid Dream”, and there is no reason why this band’s blues-bruised, proto-metal stomp won’t shine bright beside Witchcraft, Orchid, and Graveyard on Nuclear Blast’s budding roster of retro rockers.