Reviewer Score: 7 out of 10

Before talking about the album by the Austrian quartet called Mephistos, first I would like to dive into the context a bit. I will speak in a roundabout way. I think it’s not a secret for any of the fans of German rock music that NDH as a music genre has been in a deep crisis for a long time. As a matter of fact, the heyday of this music genre of the German school of Industrial Metal was in the period somewhere from 1995 to 2010. Coincidentally it was in the middle of this period when my personal musical taste was formed, and even now, no matter the music of what directions and genres I am listening to, I usually have a special attention to the representatives of NDH style. I come across something exciting or potentially promising less and less often, there are fewer original ideas in the genre, fewer talented guys work in this music genre. And here we may have a big discussion about the reasons why this is happening, but this is a topic for a separate large article, and now I have another task - to share my thoughts about the "debut" album by Mephistos – "Sünder".

Why have I put quotes around the word "debut"? The fact is that Mephistos have recently taken this name for their band; before that the guys worked under the name Armed (yeah, the band has got obvious problems with naming; Escobar's axiom immediately comes to mind) and even released a demo album called "Lass mich" in 2017. That's when I found out about this band. The first track that I heard was a song called "Pech Wird Glück", which I still consider to be their best one under any band name.

By the way, a quite good video was filmed for this song. Of course, the first thing I noticed was the juicy, monolithic, deep baritone of a guy who looked about 20 years old, who not only managed to convincingly speak with a mechanical sprechgesang, but also sing the melodic parts quite well, and in general the composition of the track was quite solid. Later I listened to the entire demo and picked up a couple more tracks for myself, but the most important thing was that I saw that these guys have a great potential, and I didn't want Armed to remain a one-release band.

Armed (2014)

So, I met the news that the band, even under a different name, is working on a new material, with a certain amount of enthusiasm. As far as I remember, together with the first single under the Mephistos title, the Austrians released a funny cover of a completely stupid song "Dicke Lippen"; both the song and the cover reminded me of my truly favorite version of "Мало Половин" by Eisenwut. Basically, everything was going well until the band started uploading songs from the upcoming album. And then my optimism faded a little and the curve of inflated expectations swooped down, but premature conclusions can be biased and too premature (sorry for the tautology), so I had to wait for the release of the entire album and listen to it carefully to figure out what is what. The album has already been released, listened by me at least a dozen times, which means that the preamble is finally over and it’s time to go directly to the album review.

Let's start from a good side of things: the guys have a very nice production on the album, the sound is saturated, and the mix is clear and transparent; Armed had more flaws in this regard. At the same time, the music material itself cannot be called anything other than primitive, and this primitivity comes from everywhere. These are guitar riffs, which, I am more than sure, you will not be able to remember even after listening to the album 10 times in a row, and lyrics that are completely devoid of any imagery, and even the vocals I praised express emotions no more than a microwave oven.

Riccardo Ellermann (vocal)

But first things first. The fact is that those chances that are given to a young band suggest that this very band will develop as a creative unit. And I would understand if this album came out immediately after the Armed demo, but 3 years have passed since then. And if you look even further, then on the band’s Facebook page you will find excerpts from their live performance of 2013, where they play "Lass mich". In other words, the band is at least 8 years old, which hardly allows us to call them a promising project that can still reveal its potential, and their song material has not undergone absolutely any changes. We may at least say thanks to the sound engineer for nailing a good sound.

Coming back to primitivity, everything on the album is so simple that some good melodic lines are lost in this simplicity and cannot open up. Mephistos really has catchy melodies that you want to hum, in the songs like "Vatertag" or "Niemals", but their arrangements are so plain that it’s a shame that song ideas are undeveloped. Let’s take, for example, the above-mentioned "Vatertag", in which the waltzing rhythm of the verse is so mechanically monotonous that it makes you sick and tired of it before it ends, despite the fact that again the chorus being as plain as day melodically, you start to sing along after hearing it for the second time. There is also a cool smash hit song on the album, which does not need a melody at all – this one is called "Daumenlutscher". By the way, I’m not sure but the lyrics sounds as some version of the original lyrics that is unknown to me or this is a nursery rhyme that was changed by the band, but the track is groovy and punchy. Once Knorkator and Die! released their songs with the lyrics that were the variations of the same poem, and the Mephistos version, by the way, is not at all lost among them. And yes, this is probably the best lyrics on the album...

I agree that the lyrics do not always matter. Often you need to perceive the vocals solely as an instrument, and so on and so forth, but when you hear some lyrics loudly and clearly articulated in your ear throughout the entire album, you will pay attention to it, like it or not. And here I can only envy those people who know only "quadratisch.praktisch.gut" in German, though it seems to me that even with such a level of knowledge, it will be quite possible to understand something. The fact is that the vocabulary of the lyrics is so simple that I sometimes caught myself wondering if an adult native speaker really composed all this... Moreover, I will make a reservation here: "simple" is not always equivalent to "bad" or "primitive". It’s all about what exactly the artist wants to express and what kind of image to create with his lyrics; in the end, simplicity is the soul of genius, as we know, but this, unfortunately, is not the case. I have already noted that the lyrics of the album are practically devoid of imagery; almost all the lyrics are either about pedophilia, or about incest, or about pedophilia and incest together, while the author says it straight: "this is incest", "this is pedophilia, "and here is pornography". In general, in terms of lyrics and sound Mephistos with the «Sünder» album reminded me a lot of Ost+Front. Compare, for example, "HPA" by Mephistos and "Disco Bukkake" or "Liebeslied" by Ost+Front: both the lyrical themes and realization are definitely similar. By the way, I couldn’t find such an analogy in the songs by Armed.

Mephistos (2019)

I understand that reading this review, you may get the impression that there is absolutely nothing good about the album, but it is not like that. Believe me: if the release was bad, I wouldn't play it a dozen times in my audio player even for the sake of all the talking points being clearly formed in my head. All in all, given the current state of the NDH scene, «Sünder» is a definitely notable release, and if you’re attracted to the genre, I can still recommend it to you. I must admit that I would be much more forgiving to the album if this actually was the debut album of a young band. Still, even if «Sünder» is the quintessence of NDH clichés, it is made pretty well, the album is easy to listen to and certain tracks will find their place in the playlists of fans of a brutal German recitative. And I still want to believe in the guys. They need to move forward and develop as composers, as musicians, songwriters and arrangers. I think that a good producer will be able to accelerate this process of band development (I think I heard that Jacob Hellner is out of work now... or maybe Chris Harms?). If the band has a potential, it needs to be unlocked, and it is definitely there. I don’t really want the release of «Sünder» to mark band’s stagnation, but I want it to be only a starting point. The guys deserve support so that they would have an incentive to develop and move forward, and criticism, I hope, will only make them better.

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Serj Tabu
Music journalist, showrunner, the co-founder of our radio. And just a freakin' cool man, without whom nothing would have happened!

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