You have to admit that it’s nice to have KMFDM still making music, even if the band’s relevance at this point is in question.
It’s hard to believe that German electro-industrial group KMFDM has been around for 30 years, barring a few years around the turn of the millennium when the band was inactive. The outfit has been fairly prolific this year, releasing a live album in September and now their 19th studio album, Our Time Will Come. There is a perverse irony in that album title, as KMFDM is credited with being one of the first, if not the first, band to bring industrial music to the masses during their early ‘90s surge. As a high schooler who was into Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, it was inevitable that I got a tape dub of KMFDM’s 1993 album Angst. Basically, in my small town, all roads led to Germany. Though the other aforementioned industrial bands were certainly more popular in my clique, owing probably to their North American base (it was what was fed to you on music television), KMFDM was a part of my formative years. It is interesting that they’re still around, considering that Ministry is basically now DOA (at least, as a recording band) and Nine Inch Nails, while still active and making great albums, is arguably more of a backseat these days to Trent Reznor’s film scoring work and whatever other fingers he has in other pies.
What might be most surprising is that Our Time Will Come is actually not all that bad. While it does have its lapses, and I’ll get to those in a moment, it is fun and tends to marry the return-to-electronics based sound of the group’s early years with the guitar crunch that teenagers of the ‘90s might be more familiar with. A sense of humor kind of permeates the album, or at least irony, which is a plus. Well, sometimes. However, Our Time Will Come is a bit out of step with the times, in a sense, because its songs railing against injustices of the world -- of which there are many, no doubt about it -- feel that they really belong as the soundtrack to an Occupy Movement rally back in October 2011. It does feel a few years too late to the party, the sort of thing that thematically might only really appeal these days to those who read Adbusters magazine. However, given what’s going on in Hong Kong at the time of this writing, you might hope that someone sneaks a copy of the record to those who are protesting. Still, if you can get past that aspect, and just enjoy the music, this disc does have its share of pleasurable dark synth hooks and heavy guitar riffage. Try to look at the record as anything more than that, though, and things slightly fall apart.
Granted, opener “Genau” is funny, being a barrage of popular German words and expressions, encouraging listeners to unleash “the German in you”. Complete with the group’s trademark Ultra Heavy Beat sound, the song is appreciable and may -- uncharacteristic for a KMFDM album, maybe -- bring a smile to your face. The techno-ish “Salvation” is unabashedly good, too, especially when the usual heavy metal guitars kick in. The song pretty much transported me back to 1993 and ‘94, when I would cruise around in my parent’s car with Angst in the cassette deck. And if you can overlook the seemingly dated themes of “Shake the Cage” and “Make Your Stand”, both are fun fist pumping anthems.
However, there are some missteps. “Respekt” is a particular head-scratcher, because I’m not sure if the band is shooting for mockery or not, particularly in light of the fact that the media has linked the Finnish school shootings of 2007 and 2008 with this band. The chorus? “I will punch your head until you say I respect you” and variations thereof. The band does appear to be role-playing in that they do try to make it seem that the lyrics take place in another reality, and they mention that they don’t want anyone to get hurt. But then they break in with that chorus. So what gives? I’m not sure. Perhaps my irony bone is broken or defective. I just don’t get the message that KMFDM is trying to put across. Getting true respect occurs, of course, through non-violent means. I guess that this is just the band trying to live up to its tough, industrial image.
Messages aside, Our Time Will Come is satisfying musically. There are some parallels between this and the sound of Skinny Puppy’s last album, Weapon, as both records (which share the same label) show two veteran industrial bands taking on a more techno bent than listeners might have been used to -- particularly if the bands had dropped off your radar for some 20 years, and you have a huge gap in albums through the intervening time. Speaking of which, has KMFDM’s time come? Well, I don’t know if they’ll ever extend beyond their past glories, particularly in North America, but you have to admit that the outfit isn’t retreading what came before, as it would be easy to make a full-on aggressive industrial album to appease the kids of yesterday. While the album does have metal touches, it’s interesting to hear how relatively contemporary the electronics are.
What’s surprising, then, is that the lyrical conceits seem to be past their expiration dates. Had this record come out, say, three years ago, it would be tapping right into the zeitgeist at precisely the right time. Coming out now, however, it just seems to be a repackaging of protest themes for the 99% who have been sent home from their camps by police. Maybe KMFDM is just trying to reignite a revolution? It’s possible. In that case, the success of this LP will hinge on the possibility of people taking up a cause and rallying against something, with this as a soundtrack. Yet, even if that doesn’t happen, you have to admit that it’s nice to have KMFDM still making music, even if the band’s relevance at this point is in question. Ultimately, KMFDM is doing it again. That alone should please the German in you.