Berlin heavy rockers Kadavar stuck in the morass of heavy rock's conventions.
Over their past few releases, Kadavar have made a case for being their generation's inheritor of 1970s, Black Sabbath-inspired rock. The band is obligated by virtue of talent and destiny to keep the proverbial metal torch burning like Saint Vitus, Sleep, Pentagram and others before them. After a successful debut and two proceeding albums both increasing in quality, it seemed the riff-rock titans of the 2010's would be Kadavar. Their new album though, Rough Times is a significant misstep in the band's discography.
Each of Kadavar's albums has carried a level of authenticity and earnestness that made them irresistible listens. Their debut packed a lo-fi, psych rock punch, Abra Kadavar had a lively and joyous sense of discovery, and Berlin, the band's best album, was crammed with urgency and sticky hooks as if the band were channeling these songs and couldn't record them fast enough. On Rough Times, instead of searching for the room to expand upon their sound like every preceding album, Kadavar retreads almost all their old ideas into a mostly lifeless and dull listen that hardly justifies its existence as an album.
The album opens with its best track, “Rough Times", which begins with an explosion of noise, power, and discordancy that throws you off kilter every time you listen. The next track, “Into the Wormhole" downgrades to tired, mid-tempo, Sabbathian doom sludge that can't escape its own lack of momentum. The rest of this album pretty much follows suit. Lead singer Christoph Lindemann sounds as bored and uninspired as the songs he is singing and even borders on unlistenable in “Die Baby Die". A few times it seems as if the band may have struck some chord of life like in the blasting intro of “Skeleton Blues" or the creeping instrumental intro of “Vampires" but the verses and choruses feel so forced and suffocated that these songs can't live up to their potential.
It is unsurprising to learn that Rough Times was conceived as a cathartic release of band members' anguish of the state of the modern world. Says drummer Christoph Bartlet on the album's influences, “something's missing in this world. We don't really fit in or want to, but at the same time, we're stuck in this. The times are rough when you wake up and just want to die, but times can also be rough for very trivial reasons." And as interesting as an album of world-weary warlocks of heavy metal venting about the degradation of mankind sounds, its construction must complement its ideas. The project becomes much like its cover art, sloppy and artificial. Not enough time and care has been put into the craftsmanship of these songs which leads the album astray, too lost in its own ambiguity to maintain any real influence.
Rough Times is a dud, no way around it. However, it is not a detriment to Kadavar's career. There are solid moments on this album, especially the title track and the album's psychedelic avant-garde closer “A L'ombre Du Temps" which features somber, spoken word lyrics over top noodling medieval melodies. However, too often it sinks in the morass of heavy rock's conventions so that no chorus sticks, every guitar solo sounds reluctant and obligatory which results in a project that seems ironically cursed by its title.