KMFDM: Hell Yeah

Photo: Franz Schepers (earMUSIC)

KMFDM's 20th studio album is a stirring, brutal rally cry against fascism, conformity, and America’s new administration.


Hell Yeah

Label: earMUSIC
US Release Date: 2017-08-18

Few projects are as brashly political as KMFDM. Throughout their three-decade career, the rabble-rousers have continued to deliver aggressive industrial music that opposes rampant injustice and corruption. Keeping with the Bush-era critique WWIII and the Arab Spring-influenced Our Time Will Come, the band’s 20th studio album Hell Yeah is a stirring, brutal rally cry against fascism, conformity, and America’s new administration.

This time around, the studio team is simplified to a duo. Frontman Sascha Konietzko is again joined by frequent collaborator and wife Lucia Cifarelli, the firebrand vocalist who has co-written a third of the songs. The selections feature electro barrages (“Murder My Heart”, “Rx For the Damned”) industrial rockers (“Total State Machine”, “Burning Brain”), and cuts with breakneck-fast guitars (“Hell Yeah”), a pillar of the band’s sound.

As always, the band’s messages are as combative as the music. Just listen to the wall of guitars on “Total State Machine”, with verses like “Barren words, abject deeds / Paranoia to the nth degree / Despotic rule by fire and sword / Lady liberty’s been raped and cored." Its blistering chorus screams, “Your government hates you.” “Fake News” contains the cynical lyrics “Detached from opposing points of views and values / The top of the food chain will decide what they'll tell you.” Kellyanne Conway’s notorious “alternative facts” television interview is also sampled and buried deep in the mix. Taking a somewhat poppier approach, the anthemic “Freak Flag” asserts individuality, positioning the marginalized as true individuals against conservative normalcy. The rhetoric gets hammered home in a pair of short interludes recalling Xtort’s “Dogma”, where the band spouts their paranoiac thoughts in the most direct manner possible -- though these exaggerated claims could, in fairness, soon become reality.

KMFDM’s music is often self-deprecating, providing levity with such serious subject matter. This comes into play when the band writes songs about themselves, a frequent exercise. In the past, they’ve quoted their album titles in “Inane” and “Kunst”, referenced their German heritage in “Genau”, and released the tongue-in-cheek “Megalomaniac” and “Sucks” (today, saying “KMFDM sucks” is an in-joke salutation among the band’s fans). This braggadocio gets old, and sometimes comes across like the songwriters are low on ideas. Refreshingly, Hell Yeah contains little of these detours, though reliably true to form, “Rip the System” updates the band’s 1989 tune, adopting its chorus “Black man, white man, yellow man / Black man, white man, rip the system." Of all previous material to choose, this particular quote feels dated in 2017, a rare misstep for a band who must be intimately aware of political correctness.

Hell Yeah alternates vocalists between the industrial couple on nearly every track, with Cifarelli exhibiting range in her technique. Her most striking performance is “Rx for the Damned”, where she belts out the chorus with a gravelly howl. Juxtapose this with her ravey ballad “Murder My Heart”, the closest the band comes to a love song on this release. Konietzko tries his hand on singing on the title track, but seems more at home in the propaganda recitation of “Rip the System” and “Fake News”.

KMFDM hit a sweet spot in the '90s with the trio of albums Nihil, Xtort, and what has become known as Symbols. These all feature pounding industrial workouts like the classics “Juke Joint Jezebel”, “Power”, and “Megalomaniac” kickstarting each album, and serve as touchstones for how thrilling the music can get when the band is hitting on all cylinders. Hell Yeah provides some material sure to get the adrenaline pumping at first, but there is little that sustains its power. The tracks feature few memorable hooks, with the cuts near the end of the album, “Burning Brain”, “Only Lovers”, and “Glam Glitz Guts & Gore” being especially forgettable. Overall, the Hell Yeah experience falls short of some of the truly great material the band already has in its catalogue, and sometimes retreads their post-2000 material -- “Murder My Heart” sounds like Kunst’s “Ave Maria”.

KMFDM are German industrialists in every sense of the term, churning out material, not unlike a factory. After all these years, the band is still adept at creating industrial tunes that advance their dark, confrontational aesthetic. This round, Hell Yeah misses the mark for something truly enduring, but as long as political outrage persists, their voice is always welcome.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.