PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

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.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.