It is easy to forget what Germany has brought to music over the decades, an endless list of of electronic, avant-garde and underground bands. From Krautrock to Neue Deutsche Welle (New German Wave) heavy electronica with its roots in British punk but faithful to the German tongue. The late 1980s and early 1990s heralded a new scene, directly influenced by Neue Deutsche Welle but with its parental being Industrial – NDH – Neue Deutsche Härte (New German Hardness) was a term coined on the back of the release of Rammstein’s debut Herzeleid in 1995. In reality, as much as the Berlin titans became the face of Neue Deutsche Härte, Ooomph! and their 1994 album Sperm had a head start with the rudiments of the scene and well before Rammstein made their entrance. It is Ooomph! and its leader Dero Goi that joins forces with another luminary in Chris Harms – front man with German Gothic rock band Lord Of The Lost – to bring new project Die Kreatur and their debut album Panoptikum to life.
Panoptikum is both an engaging and diverse listen and one where the two powerhouses of Goi and Harms combine to generate some dark electricity that is familiar but delves deep, adds some surprises and with a clever use of momentum landing blows but then pulling back before delivering another sharp kick.
The first two tracks are absolute bangers and it is impossible to miss the two main projects that Die Kreatur is spawned from, the self titled opener, an abrasive riff underpinned with gothic synth, a peppering of drum machine and the two vocalists blending and bleeding under a canopy of sound that stomps and rolls to make a substantial punch of an opening statement. Kälter Als Der Tod is an entirely different prospect, the hulking riff is just sublime but it is that weight of the guitar and so evenly balanced with the keys that when it gets to the chorus section, the guitar backs down to bring the vocals to the fore leaving a delicious key section that carries that chorus.
Throughout Panoptikum, the pair aim to tinker with the idea that guitar and keys nestle with each other and stretch their edges to ensure that song by song, the soundscapes are filled with creative flourishes not always heard on the first play through and the changing pace and differing degrees of heaviness cast their light and shade. Adding a dance and pop backdrop alters the dynamic and whereas Unzertrennlich brings the guitars and keys symbiotically together creating a more dance vibe Durch Die Nacht opens wide to as an almost slower pop song that space to breathe with the vocals, the harshness removed and without showering any of the bells and whistles giving the album an human and less dark air – musically at least. Zwei 100% is an absolute beast of a track which ramps up the dance beat, the background is the thump of the guitar with the keys thickly layered on top, the vocalists trading blows to then change pace once more for the funereal Schlafes Braut and, given the visual of the two ring circus of its creators has a creepy, vaudeville edge. Mensch/Maschine adds more dance stop and this is a constantly running theme through Panoptikum, the changes in tempos are as much a feature than the songs themselves; a multidimensional approach dance heavy rhythm, electronica, grooving but hard edged metal and dashes of pop and its pacing that makes Panoptikum such an irresistible listen. Even the bonus tracks – usually throw away material that does not fit the main album – but all credit to Die Kreatur for giving us a pumped up Euro-beat version of the title track and Kälter Als Der Tod. The most interesting of the bonus tracks is a cover of Goldener Reiter, a 1981 hit for one of the one of the biggest name in the Neue Deutsche Welle scene of the 1980s – Joachim Witt.
With impeccable delivery, Die Kreatur experiments with their main projects to bring forth an album with drive and focus that even without the visuals is really carried through on the songs on Panoptikum. The album does have these extra sparkles, the two leaders bringing forth the best of each which despite being recognisable as neither Oomph! or Lord Of The Lost. At the same time and with some serious pedigree as to the NDH scene, Die Kreatur look to be coming from a direction where the band is no mere side distraction but a real creative force. With the year not even half way through yet, it may be a bit early for what makes that end of year top list but surely Panoptikum will be a contender.