Years of Decay 1999

It’s time to look back to 1999 and examine some of the best and most interesting the metal underground had to offer leading up to the dying days of the millennium. While most people were frantically stocking up on end of the world supplies, metalheads enjoyed a year of fantastic releases across most subgenres. Considering metal was in the midst of a modern revolution of technology and new influences, there was still a lot of wicked releases for the BAZ team to sift through. So take a few moments to get out of the Y2K bunker to enjoy your Sunday with our essential listening suggestions.

SAMAEL – “Eternal”
July 1999, Century Media Records

The Year of 1999… Good memories from this year… Many many many, good releases. But… Only one I will choose. So…

Why did I choose SAMAEL? Because I like it. Well… I did like it. Well, to be honest, “Eternal” was the last album I heard from them and after that? Nothing… Not saying what they do at this moment is not good, I just don’t comment because I don’t know and why I stopped listening to them? Just stopped, the years were passing by and they continue them life and releasing music and I didn’t listen to them anymore. read more

So when we decided to do “Years Of Decay 1999” I remembered this album. It’s good? It’s bad? Depends on the music taste from each. I like it, but I also can admit that is softer comparing to the previous album “Passage” and yes it’s completely different from they did in the past and of course that “Eternal” can’t be compared to, for example, “Worship Him”, “Blood Ritual” or “Ceremony of Opposites”. So I can say that SAMAEL has two distinct eras. One related to Black Metal and the other related to Electronic / Industrial / Metal. 

Which one do I like better? No doubts concerning that. The Black Metal era. But after that, they did good music.  Till this album, I can say they did, but the releases after “Eternal” I can’t because, as I said I do not know them and to be honest I do not know if I ever will. So, final words… I don’t have… Eheh.

The Key Keeper


 

ANATHEMA – “Judgement”
June 1999, Music For Nations

“Judgement” was the most obvious choice for me when it comes to 1999. Not that there are no other brilliant albums. Simply it is my album of this particular year. I have always stated my big true love for ANATHEMA and all their metamorphosis. Now I will say it again. “Judgement” is a masterpiece in the whole music industry throughout all these years. read more

“Judgement”. Yeah, saved me so many times through these 20 years since then! So brilliantly mesmerising, melancholic, sad and bringing tears. Still very dark and yet carrying the mid- to late 90s gothic obscure nuances, “Judgement” is the first album of the band where the progressive direction clearly takes part and the Pink Floyd influences are so obvious. In the music, in the vocals’ echoes effects and even in the British accent. If the immortal “Alternative 4” is the threshold between old ANATHEMA and their new one, then “Judgment” is the next step, BUT much into the older mood. On top, the record contains among the most gorgeous lyrics EVER, as actually ANATHEMA have always had in their albums. 

I still can remember how I listened at sunset dusk at the snowy mountains this album on repeat… It is 20/10 eternal album which stands the time; still among my most played records. Especially in tough times. 

The opener “Deep” is already an anthem, but let me point out the magnificent “Make it Right” (goosebumps; “I know that I want you, I know that I need you”), the tearful “One Last Goodbye” (“I still feel the pain”…), the quickly escalating to frantic psychosis “Judgement” (“and day after day, you burn it all away”). And then to drown again into the silent dusk of “Don’t Look Too Far”(“I want learn to fly/Bring the pain right back again”). The stunning “Emotional Winter” (so PF again; “How fast time passed by/Those wasted moments won’t return, and we will never feel again”) and the emotional “Wings of God” just shape the overall soundscape of a sad and yet seriously euphoric album. Just before the lost and seeking “Anyone, Anywhere” to hit. The prophetic “2000 & Gone” completes the record with outro progressiveness.

Intentionally I left to describe “Forgotten hopes” and “Parisienne Moonlight” (“I know you want to feel”), both being among the saddest and most heartful songs ever. Ever. Both must not be missed by anyone, ever, in the most desperate moments of life. Still, 20 years later, the album, the lyrics, the music, every small detail, emotion and memory… they bring me to tears and reminding me of the hidden pains, the meaning of our life and all the scars left. 20 fkn years!  Count Vlad

“Time recedes every day
You can search your soul but you won’t see
As we pass ever on and away
Towards some blank infinity”
(from “Deep”)

“Forgotten Hopes”
Hey you.. rotting in your alcoholic shell
Banging on the walls of your intoxicated mind
Do you ever wonder why you were left alone
As your heart grew colder and finally turned to stone

Did I punish you for dreaming?
Did I break your heart and leave you crying?
Do you ever dream of escaping?
Don’t you ever dream of escaping…

Pathetic oblivion
Forgotten hopes buried in your soul’s lonely grave
Pathetic oblivion
Remember how you were before you locked your heart away

Did I punish you for dreaming?
Did I break your heart and leave you crying?
Do you ever dream of escaping?
Don’t you ever dream of escaping…

“Parisienne Moonlight”
I feel I know you
I don’t know how
I don’t know why

I see you feel for me
You cried with me
You would die for me

I know I need you
I want you to
Be free of all the pain
You hold inside

You cannot hide
I know you tried
To be who you couldn’t be
You tried to see inside of me

And now I’m leaving you
I don’t want to go
Away from you

Please try to understand
Take my hand
Be free of all the pain
You hold inside

You cannot hide
I know you tried
To feel…
To feel…

 

NECROPHAGIST – “Onset of Putrefaction”
September 1999, Noise Solution Records

When I take a look back to 1999, one of the albums that immediately stands out for me is NECROPHAGIST’s first full length release with “Onset of Putrefaction”. This album truly was the beginning of something wicked, with German death metal mastermind Muhammed Suiçmez single handedly galvanizing and emboldening the technical death metal ranks. I remember being shocked when I learned this album was completely written and performed by one man on its initial release of only a 1000 CD copies in the dying days of the millenium. And they say one man can’t change the world? read more

While technical death metal was nothing new by the end of the 90’s, NECROPHAGIST’s stab at the genre quickly became one of the gold standards for existing as well as emerging bands. Capable of delivering incredibly technical and intricate yet still completely brutal death metal, NECROPHAGIST pushed the boundaries of technicality while still incorporating many classical elements like the traditional soloing styles and melodic rhythms.

This album is full throttle from start to finish, delivering 8 songs in just over 35 minutes with absolutely no filler. It’s hard to decide on a favourite song off the album, but I’ve always really enjoyed ”To Breathe In A Casket” for its crystal clear riffage served up with more than a healthy dose of pinch harmonics. To this day I still can’t resist a spontaneous mosh or ferocious headbang during the tempo change mid song. Such an irresistibly groovy yet still undeniably brutal song to set the pace for an album with many tracks that challenges this song for superiority at every turn. A special shoutout must also be given to “Fermented Offal Discharge” for delivering one of my favourite of all time bass fills on top of all of its technical madness, and probably the best guitar solo of the entire album!

While most people gravitate to their apparently final release in 2004 “Epitah”, it was “Onset of Putrefaction” that introduced me to the band and the one that I find myself coming back to more often. It’s the relentless assault of technically dialed guitar and drum work paired with many little intricate fills, tempo changes, driving solos, and heavy but clear tones that makes this album stand out so much. With every song projecting its own gruesome imagery and unique dose of shred and pinch harmonic insanity, this album leaves us with a lot to digest (even 20 years after the fact). I’ve listened through many times but every new listen still manages to give me a spout of “instant death metal face syndrome”, inciting an instant need to headbang and raise the horns! If you haven’t listened to the original release version of this album in a while or if you happened to listen to it this morning, it’s time to sit back in your coffin and let the putrefaction process begin. Metal Yeti

 

SUMMONING – “Stronghold”
May 1999, Napalm Records

Today we travel back to 1999 to revisit “Stronghold”, the fourth full-length release for Austrian epic atmospheric black metal duo SUMMONING. This is an album that I missed in 1999, perhaps unsurprisingly as back then I was a dippy young adult with awfully narrow musical taste. These days, my fully matured ear has developed an insatiable appetite for SUMMONING’s lofty style of fantasy-themed atmospheric black metal. read more

Everything about this album is epic, starting with the cover art which is an adaptation of ‘The Bard” painted in 1817 by Romantic artist John Martin. The soft greys and blues of the original artwork have been exchanged for a high saturation of intense reds and oranges like a fierce blood-red apocalyptic sunset, which aptly sets the stage for what is to come.

“Stronghold” is full of unexpected and exciting shifts and adjustments to the band’s prior sound. In particular, the guitars feel quite different to previous releases as they have been moved forward in the mix making them clearer and more conspicuous. This pops the melodious riffs forward and creates a great balance with the bleak vocals and keyboards. There are also noticeable changes in the programmed drum sound, which are now fully realised and emulate a real kit.

The opening intro track is the menacing “Rhûn”, in which a slow and mournful march is delivered by rolling snares and regal keyboards before eerily fading into silence. Track two, “Long Lost to Where No Pathway Goes” kicks off in typical Summoning style, lurching forward with a catchy riff, then slowly building up the gloomy ambience with layers of keyboard before the black vocals heave out Tolkien-themed lyrics. The chorus here is captivating, with a melody so catchy that it returns to you long after the album has ended.

SUMMONING’s vocal duties are shared between band members Protector and Silenius, with Protector lending his dark, low-tones most often. However, track three “The Glory Disappears” features the shrill black vocals of Silenius and is a nice representation of his higher-pitched, cold, raw style of delivery. In a surprising first for the band, the lyrics of this song were inspired by work from the poet William Wordsworth (‘Loud is the Vale’ and ‘Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew Tree’) and not the customary J. R. R. Tolkien. “The Glory Disappears” is also oozing with the bands signature and majestic synth melodies which masterfully deliver a thick atmosphere as well as the fantasy elements of the work. The keyboard really shines here, demonstrating how this instrument is able set and switch the mood from thick and mournful, to fresh, crisp and triumphant. Admittedly though, the synth can at times feel quite dated and it does show in this track, but this shouldn’t be a huge surprise for a twenty year old release. For the most part the album has aged fairly well for something so synth-heavy and the keyboards still have the power to hold the listener captive, deeply absorbed in the atmosphere of another world.

The tracks “Like Some Snow-White Marble Eyes” and “The Loud Music of the Sky” also break the long held Tolkien-themed tradition, instead taking their lyrics from Robert Frost’s poem “Stars”, Sir Walter Scott’s “The Monastery”and Dora Sigerson “The Wind on the Hills”. For a band known for their strong connection to Tolkien’s work this move is quite daring.

In yet another startling first, the intensely powerful and immersive “Where Hope and Daylight Die” features a strong, symphonic female vocal (contributed by Tania Borsky). Although Borsky only features on this one track the inclusion of a female vocalist turned out to be polarising for some fans. I personally think it works well as the melodious guitar riff sweeps over string ensembles and military-style marching drums which periodically break for the imposing rhapsodic vocals.

The closing “A Distant Flame Before the Sun” is undeniably my favourite track on the album and conjures an air of triumph. It’s dark, desolate and engulfed in gorgeous sweeping strings. The catchy chorus creeps up slowly as Silenius once again delivers his grim, chilly lyrics. While writing this review I have been haunted by the following refrain:

On high above the mists I came

A distant flame before the sun

A wonder ere the waking dawn

Where grey the nordlands waters run
(Chorus from “A Distant Flame Before the Sun”)

Twenty years after its release, “Stronghold” could stand against any other album in the ABM sub-genre. It still feels like a well thought-out, creative, masterfully crafted work of art. In short, this album is a true masterpiece.

These retrospective reviews for the Blessed Altar Zine series ‘Years of Decay’ typically do not require reviewers to allocate an album rating, but if I could “Stronghold” would earn my first perfect score. 10/10 Proua Metallist

CONTROL DENIED – “The Fragile Art of Existence” 
May 1999, Nuclear Blast

I understand the reasons, but the thing that irks me about CONTROL DENIED is how their one and only album gets held up against the genius of back catalogue of Chuck Schuldiner’s DEATH outfit, just a little too much. Yes, it’s perhaps unavoidable, but I would urge anyone who really wants to witness where Chuck’s head was at post ‘The Sound of Perseverance’ – then try to approach ‘The Fragile Art of Existence’ from a different angle. read more

 It may come as a surprise, but DEATH has a divided fan base – The Pre-Human gore-induced bunch and those who can’t get enough of the latter period Prog-fest! Needless to say, there is nothing here for the earlier period fans, but if you loved the development of Chuck’s work in the final couple of Death albums then yes, CONTROL DENIED is a hot bed of riffs/leads and progressive metal ideas. From the outset, I’d suggest that the comment that this album is just DEATH with ‘clean vocals’ sells it very short. Sure, Chuck himself often stated his frustration with the limiting style of his vocals with DEATH – but even with adding the golden pipes of Tim Aymar to this album, ‘Fragile…’ is so much more than a straight up vocal swap out! The addition of Aymar’s expressive style has allowed Chuck’s forward thinking song structures to be realised more than he could have dreamed on a DEATH album – and whilst the eight compositions laid down here are initially hard work to digest, repeated exposure reveals some truly jaw dropping moments. My god, take the opening riff and lead work of ‘Cut Down’, the staccato riff of ‘When the Link Becomes Missing’ and the downright masterful ‘Expect the Unexpected’.

Furthermore, the musicianship here is flawless. Chuck’s riffs aside, some of his lead solo work – just like on those latter day DEATH albums – confirms one again, just what a master craftsman he was of his instrument. Add the astounding drumming from Richard Christy and guitar work from Shannon Hamm (both played on the last DEATH album – ‘Perseverance’). Add to the mix Steve DiGiorgio on bass and it’s easy to see CONTROL DENIED was stacked with A-Grade players from top to bottom. You have also got to hand it to Chuck when he went searching for a vocalist who could pull of the lyrics and vocal approach he was envisioning. When I first heard that Tim Aymar was his selection I remember thinking that he’d absolutely nailed the choice! Aymar did not let him down!

This album still reveals much to me – Chuck’s nuances in riff and lead phrasing in particular. You can almost hear a ‘freedom’ in his playing beyond the DEATH template. That’s where the difference is for me. Sadly, some 2 years after this the man was taken from us! I’ve no doubt Chuck had greater plans beyond this first CONTROL DENIED album and apparently there’s another full set of tracks in the archives that may or may not see the light of day. One of the greatest tragedies in Metal history was the loss of Chuck Schuldiner – a tremendously giving and affable person that I am forever grateful for in speaking to for DEATH’s ’95 ‘Symbolic’ album. The guy wasn’t done, he had so much more to do with his music and the metal community mourns his loss every day. I wish it wasn’t the last thing we heard from Chuck, but give CONTROL DENIED a spin in remembrance, folks! KMaN

TYPE O NEGATIVE – “World Coming Down”
September 1999, Roadrunner Records

My introduction to Type O Negative came one morning in late ’99 or early 2000, while waking from an evening of some moderate debauchery to what I remember hearing through my bedroom wall as the most dreary, dragging, metal dirge. I was a young whippersnapper, living in student halls in Glasgow, during my first year as a student. My neighbour was a mumbling, greasy-haired rocker by the name of Iain. It was only later that I would have cause to give Iain more credit for his sense of humour, because the music he was delivering my late morning wake up call via was World Coming Down. If it was a coincidence, it was an incredibly apt one. By the time I made the link, I’d become a fan of the band and done a whole 180 on my view of their sound. read more

Type O are one of those bands whose music is so much a part of key times of my life. When you have bands like this, bands that embody who you were at different points, there’s always a strong attachment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be transported back to those times. I guess Type O are one of the bands that defines my 20s; suitably brooding and heavy, depressive, but always a little tongue in cheek too. The playfulness of the band helped to stop the whole experience from getting too morose. There aren’t too many chuckles to be had on what altogether appears to be Peter Steel’s meditation on death in various forms, but with the first track being the sound of a skipping CD (I guess the joke doesn’t work so well on vinyl), the band at least opens with a little prank before leading the listener into some of their most downbeat music. Still, Type O were so adept at writing catchy tunes (The Drab Four, as they anointed themselves) and the sound of this record is so lush, that the sombre themes and lyrics aren’t too oppressive. Yes, White Slavery, my unwitting intro to the band all those years ago, is still a dirge (albeit it a very enjoyable one), but on tracks like Who Will Save the Sane? and Pyretta Blaze, the music is pretty up-tempo and almost jaunty. Single Everyone I Love is Dead is satisfyingly catchy, while Creepy Green Light and Haunted are grand mini-epics of gothic gloominess, but it’s the mid-album title track where the band delivers the real showpiece, as they did on each studio album before, from Unsuccessfully Coping With The Natural Beauty of Infidelity, to Black No. 1, to Love You To Death. Torturously slow and brooding, Kenny Hickey’s rich layered guitar opens the song and introduces the key melodic theme of the track, to be joined by Pete’s thick, rich bass, walking the same melody. Like a funeral march the band leads the track through over 11 minutes of overdriven, reverberating, droning and the track’s incredibly affecting descending chorus, which after the song is brought the down to a sparse whisper, returns as the band surge back in to take the song to a final crescendo with Pete and Kenny taking turns delivering the vocal line. It’s as good as anything the band ever did, and the song (and the album as a whole) never gets stale for me, I just can’t listen to it every day.

20 years ago already, where does the time go? Well, never mind, everything dies after all. Tom

WINDIR – “Arntor” / OPETH – “Still Life”

Hmmmm…1999. A strange year for metal, especially at such times when the mainstream metal magazines were too busy chasing the nu metal zeitgeist. Finding news of the underground metal scene was more difficult than ever, especially in such times when the world wide web was still in its infancy. Barely anybody had an internet capable computer in the UK, and smart phones were far from smart; using a crude green screen text based service called WAP – as championed by the Nokia 7110 that featured in The Matrix. Many metalheads resorted to scouring the pages of Terrorizer for tips, and visiting underground record stores staffed by shop keepers with the patience of a saint whilst you checked a couple of minutes of each album before you left the store. Hindsight is an ironic mistress when you look into 1999 releases some two decades later via a quick Google search, as there was an embarrassment of riches released that year. It’s a shame a metalhead from 2019 hadn’t created a 1999 metal almanac from this data, and went back in time via a time travelling Ford Mondeo ST24 to leave it “accidentally” in one of the record racks – to save us a lot of time, and from headaches. But, here we are eh? 

For Years of Decay 1999, the choices were difficult. I narrowed it down to WINDIR, and OPETH.

WINDIR – “Arntor”
October 1999, Head Not Found

WINDIR was a Norwegian black metal band founded in 1994 and debuted with the “Sogneriket”  demo – created by the supremely talented multi instrumentalist Terje Bakken. With their first album “Sóknardalr” released in 1997, Bakken had certainly found his feet with the release of “Arntor” – which whipped the underground metal world into a frenzy at the time. There is an incredible upbeat atmosphere that pours from the record, an album that’s almost too joyous to be a black metal album. read more

Do not let the cheesy intro track with synths and accordions put you of on the first spin, because you’re in for a glorious fun and wild ride with soaring black metal riffing, keyboards, and folk instruments that sound absolutely huge; making you want to stomp around your local hilltop whilst wearing a horned Viking helmet, loin cloth, and a plastic sword – like some Pound Shop He-Man scaring the local dog walkers and hikers as you go. At times, the mellower and more melodious parts of the album are almost Mike Oldfield-esque in places, making it one of the most enchanting black metal albums you’ve ever heard. Tracks such as ‘Kong Hydnes Haug’, and ‘Svartesmeden og Lundamyrstrollet’ are absolutely breath taking, and quite honestly some of the best black metal tracks ever written.

Sadly, 5 years later Bakken was taken from the world whilst caught out in snow storm en route to his family’s cabin at Fagereggi, Norway – whilst travelling on foot in the Sogndal valley; that finally ended the chapter on such a wonderful band. His memory lives on, and his creative light burns strongest with this album in particular. R.I.P.

OPETH – “Still Life”
October 1999,  Peaceville

In 1999, OPETH already had 3 albums under their belts in the form of “Orchid”, “Morningrise”, and “My Arms Your Hearse” and over time started gaining more popularity with each release becoming stronger and stronger – scoring even more tours and opening for much bigger bands, to eventually become a headliner in their own right. The band took  huge leaps and bounds since since I seen them in 1996 supporting Cradle of Filth, where they played to a baffled and apathetic room that contained no more than 50 people. read more

An immediately attractive quality of OPETH was the fact they were an incredibly strange and enchanting band, sounding like a death metal version of Yes, or death metal’s answer to Dream Theater – with such beliefs largely helped along by Mikael Åkerfeldt’s massive love of prog rock that translated excellently into such a band. Each track connects into each other with perfect execution, taking the listener on many twists and turns into thunderous blackened death metal guitar riffs and menacing vocal growls, to almost schizophrenic prog rock interludes with harmonic clean vocals like a musical Jeckyl and Hyde catching people by surprise upon first listen. In many ways, “Still Life” is a missing link between extreme metal and 70s prog that should mix like oil and water, but is incredibly inspired and hugely creative. In 2019 it sounds absolutely timeless, and it boggles the mind how such an album is now 20 years old. 

Goth Mark

IN FLAMES – “Colony”
May 1999, Nuclear Blast

Tasked to take on an album from 1999 wasn’t really that easy for me, but there was definitely a lot of material to choose from as always and I’m sure the BAZ Crew has chosen a bunch to share with everyone. My selection of IN FLAMES’ “Colony” was really out of respect for where my head was in 1999-2002 musically, and the fact that I was lucky enough to grab a few fantastic live shows by the band on both the Colony and Clayman Tours with a host of other great bands such as Nevermore, Crowbar, Samhain, Danzig, S. O. D. , Dark Tranquility, Sentenced & Killswitch Engage. So thats where my motivation for this month’s Years Of Decay installment came from.The other factor was that one of my favorite melodic death metal albums is indeed “Colony” from IN FLAMES! Wedged right between “The Jester Race” and “Clayman” the album seemed to have really captured the best from both recordings leaving us with in my opinion the strongest release by the band.read more

Deliberately shifting away from their hardened early death metal influences to capture a more melodic approach, while not losing any of the sheer power associated with the early offering’s of the catalogue. Catchy, melodic with a serious wallop is best how to describe “Colony”! Although there are clearly many standout tracks here, the sum of its parts are what really make this the masterpiece that it truly is.

There is definitely a mix of styles throughout “Colony” with unique tracks such as Coerced Coexistence to the bludgeoning yet anthemic title track. Scorn returns the band to its pure death metal roots, while the fantastic Ordinary Story with its blend of clean vocals delivered slowly and deliberately is just tremendous! With tracks like the mesmerizing Zombie Inc. and the catchy vocal and guitar parts on opener Embody the Invisible, the album is honestly hard to stop listening to. With killer riffs throughout the album, there really isn’t a skippable track on the record and IN FLAMES truly brings their signature sound to life with such kinetic energy, tremendous musicianship and memorable tracks throughout “Colony”!

So like myself you may have initially preferred the first four or five albums, especially “Subterranean” and “The Jester Race”, but its in the melody, catchiness and glorious guitar sounds that really separates “Colony” from the rest of the catalogue. So when fast forwarding to today, where you may have to mumble the words IN FLAMES out in some circles, I have no problem confidently stating that this is a great record and simply their best!

NJoy and always Stay Loud…Mö!

 

KMFDM – “Adios”
April 1999, Wax Trax!/TVT

1999? Surely that can’t be a year of ‘decay’? Over-ripe, perhaps, but decayed? Well bless my Belphegors, it was 20 years ago. The zine’s youngest novice was born in this year. And it wasn’t a great time for mainstream metal, unless you were well ensconced in the underground, which fifteen-year-old NWOBHM-enamoured me really wasn’t: stuck in the arse-end of nowhere, in a heavily rural part of the UK where sheep outnumbered people, and possibly even bred with them, my only contact with the metal scene was via my subscription to Kerrang!. As a result, all I remember of metal in 1999 was a lingering Mechanical Animals hype. I loved it. It was harmless fun. Wasn’t it?

In the wider world, more serious things were happening, but they had a direct impact on metal fans – particularly teenagers – and how they were perceived and talked about. On 20 April, the Columbine High School massacre took place. With twelve students and one teacher shot dead, and many more injured, it was the most destructive school shooting in US history (at that time) and dominated headlines around the world. In the aftermath, fierce debate ensued at all levels around gun legislature, and triggered an epidemic of fevered finger-pointing any available catalyst for such an event that didn’t include the widespread availability of deadly weapons to children. MARILYN MANSON absorbed a lot of this flack, famously answering to his accusers on the Bowling for Columbine documentary with an unanticipated eloquence and insight. But incredibly, anti-violent, anti-terrorist industrial godfathers KMFDM also came under fire. read more

KMFDM, loosely translated from the deliberately inaccurate German as ‘no pity for the majority’ but also facetiously expanded to ‘Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode,’ is one of the industrial, erm, industry’s most long-lived and influential bands, for want of a better word, though perhaps ‘troupe,’ or even ‘movement,’ might be more accurate. It was originally conceived as a performance art project in mid-eighties Hamburg by founding member Sascha Konietzko, who has been orbited by a rotating line-up of big collaborators since the early days – the core originally comprising Konietzko himself, Raymond Watts, and En Esch, with some trades with Wax Trax! labelmates REVOLTING COCKS (a supergroup featuring MINISTRY‘s Al Jourgensen) and other KMFDM side projects. They hit the big time after moving to Chicago in 1991 after the previous year’s rapturously-received Naïve’, their first album since signing directly with Wax Trax!, and the first to spawn what would become a crop of club hits. Their mix of EBM, sampled metal riffs, politically-charged shouting (foreshadowing Berlin’s ATARI TEENAGE RIOT) balanced by the inclusion of powerful female guest vocals, was irresistible to a US audience, and sales rocketed. The brand was already a strong one thanks to instantly-recognisable artwork from Aidan Hughes (known simply as Brute!).

By the time Adios’ came around in ’99 – the final instalment in the band’s ten-record contract – KMFDM was largely a duo: Konietzko, and the Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tim Sköld, formerly of SHOTGUN MESSIAH and later of MARILYN MANSON. KMFDM had actually called it a day altogether in January after relations soured among the old guard of Konietzko, Esch, and guitarist Günter Schulz. Unfortunately, their parting gift to label and fans alike – which was, otherwise, largely positively received – was given at the worst possible moment. It was released on – you guessed it – 20 April. What’s worse, Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were big fans, and Klebold wore a shirt referencing the KMFDM song ‘Wrath’ during the shooting. And it was Hitler’s birthday. Unable to conceive of the idea of a German who wasn’t also a Nazi, conservative evangelical America went to town, necessitating a statement from Konietzko. “KMFDM are an art form—not a political party,” he wrote. “From the beginning, our music has been a statement against war, oppression, fascism and violence against others. While some of the former band members are German as reported in the media, none of us condone any Nazi beliefs whatsoever.”

After a brief stint recording as MDFMK, the band regrouped, now with the permanent addition of American singer Lucia Cifarelli (later to marry Konietzko), and remain active to this day – their most recent album being 2017’s Hell Yeah!’. Their status as the trigger for an American tragedy has now largely been forgotten, perhaps because school shootings have become so commonplace, with roughly one for every eight school days in 2018 alone. While the content of Adios’ hasn’t been discussed here, it’s an album that’s worth your time, in its own right as well as for its historical significance, though for an introduction to the KMFDM oeuvre you’d do well to start with the classic ‘Naïve’. Raymond Watts continues to release with his long-running pork-themed industrial project <PIG>, most recently last year with the dirty glam-infused ‘Risen’, and I would argue that Sköld’s solo catalogue is also essential listening (try 2016’s ‘The Undoing’). The gun debate, of course, rages on.

Stay safe,
The Grim Princess

Truly Yours,
Blessed Altar Zine Team

**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre
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