ELLI BERLIN - MUTTERHERZ
Reviewer Score: 8 out of 10
A lullaby for Knorkator
It's been almost a month since the recent release of “Mutterherz” EP which is the second mini-album of the solo (and self-titled) project of Elli Berlin, the vocalist of the Nu-Metal band Null Positiv. A rather good set of pop motifs, marching Industrial riffs, flirting with alternative music and smooth ballad passages that are like mother’s hugs, came out of a huge variety of five different tracks: they strongly attract attention and set a closer lyrical dialogue between the artist and the listener. As it seems to me, this is precisely the concept Elli adhered to - to address everyone personally on the same general topics without unnecessary “noise” of torn riffs and endless breakdowns of Null Positiv.
Surely, not everyone is familiar with the work of even the main band of this vocalist, so it's worth briefly dwelling on two things. Firstly, the owner of the aggressive vocal herself describes her solo album as “…more [like] rock, unlike Null Positiv. The lyrics are a little more detached from the problems of the world, but at the same time they are in line with the spirit of the times.” By the way, the reason for the project appearance is rather trivial. She was simply inspired by her fans who shared their personal experiences with her on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic. Secondly, such bands as Slipknot and Rammstein stand out among her favorite bands. And if the nu-metal repertoire of Null Positiv clearly refers to the first band, then widely known Rammstein will be closer to the stylistic interpretation of the vocalist’s solo work. Spoiler alert: simple logic did not fail here, and we are convinced of this when listening to the album...
The first track greets us with an amusing wordplay: “Heiss Kalt – Eiskalt” (“Hot-cold – icy”), accompanied by marching guitar riffs and drums chiming to the beat. And seemingly one is neither hot nor cold about it, the song could be called monotonous, as the looped guitar parts wrap the lyrics in one breath. However, this allows declaring a contradictory phrase in the chorus, with constant pressure, as if penetrating deeper into the listener with each line, which, in fact, is sung about. The artist tries to present herself as a drug and presents herself to others through its consumption - an attempt to establish the closest possible contact with each listener in order to describe herself through another one. Such moods run through the entire EP and not only “Heiss Kalt” is burned by cold.
The title track “Mutterherz” is a regular measured track with melodic choruses and not less smooth motives in verses. The song seems to be wanting to sound like a kind of a lullaby of a loving mother (which is quite in line with the lyrics), but the usual strain in Elli’s voice gives a certain amount of anxiety, which is especially noticeable in the climax of the song, where she completely switches to her usual extreme vocals. In general, in my opinion, the song may especially appeal to fans of heavy and voluminous guitar sound, where one does not need to subconsciously decipher the riff pattern, but simply go with the flow of distortion, which this energetic metal ballad provides us with. But the hidden madness is emphasized by the video clip for the song, where the extravagant “mommy” is babysitting too vigorously, suddenly with the frontman of Knorkator! And I’ll be honest: it’s not the interrogation scenes and the basement that is not equipped for a children’s room that give that crazy vibe to the video, but Stumpen’s magnificent acting as a child. However, maybe that’s the reason why the song takes on a disturbing contrast that an adult man plays with cubes...
The next track, “Tief in der Dunkelheit”, which I would classify as alternative rock track, also gives a contrast to the album. Against the background of other songs, this one is probably the brightest and lightest, despite its name. Judging by its content no contrasts are noticeable: an ordinary pop ballad, with lyrics that can be briefly interpreted as a “leap of faith”, but at the same time, without fail, holding hands with someone. So to say, this is a nice filler, where gentle high notes in the voice and backing-vocal parts allow you to dissolve in your own thoughts.
An interesting development of the “leap of faith into darkness” theme is “Fuhre mich”, where a lot can be said with the following lines: “Führe mich hinters Licht / Doch ich kann durch Schatten sehn” (“Lead me beyond the light / But I can see through the shadow”). The most dynamic track of the release, apparently, is trying to move away as far as possible from the rest of the songs with its mood, in order to pay attention to the questions of, according to the “bad cop” principle, who, after all (or what), leads us into the light and whether it leads us into the light at all… Otherwise, this is the most interesting song for fans of Industrial Metal, as well as for those who miss the foundational arrangements of Null Positiv, as if tailored to suit her vocals. The song somewhat intersects with the introductory one, except that the verses with a jumping and perky percussive rhythm, which is saddled by Elli’s aggressive tone, pulled the blanket of drive over. The choruses, on the contrary, are in many ways reminiscent of “Mutterherz” - just as sublime and melodic.
Finally, in the arms of “mother’s heart”, the following question is posed point-blank: “Wer bist du? Diese Person in meinem Spiegel? / Ich erkenn dich nicht mehr“. (“Who are you? That person in my mirror? / I don’t recognize you anymore”.) Thus, quite bewildered, we reach the climax of the psychotherapy session with a ballad called “Wer bist du?”. A rather pleasant, but no less tense ending to the EP, with melancholy ambient in the first half of the track and a smooth guitar chorus at the end.
In my opinion, the EP was a success. First of all, I use such an assessment because for the second time the artist was able to reveal not so much herself from a different side (both the genre and the lyrics really stand apart from the main work of the band), but rather address a specific listener from different angles in a languishing dialogue. If Null Positiv put an emphasis on eternal themes, then Elli Berlin acts as a lyrical “judge”. But, as a rule, lyrics are a relative thing, and in the end it is worth emphasizing the strengthening of the musical side of the project. If the first release – “Lieb mich” – even in the title track returned to the methods of “naked” (note: this is a wordplay) metal with its torn drum fills used as the music foundation, then this album is noticeably more melodic, and all the heaviness comes purely from the Rammstein (airbase) on the basis of the style of Rammstein. An interesting EP that clearly deserves 4 points out of 5 (in terms of the number of songs) and 8 out of 10 in the end, simply because it’s better for Elli to preserve her extreme vocals for her main band and use clean vocals more often in this EP, which would sound very good here.