STAHLMANN — QUARZ
Reviewer Score: 7 out of 10
RUSTY GEARS OR A RENEWED MECHANISM?
As you could already understand, this review will focus on the new Stahlmann album which is called “Quarz”. Yet, despite all the claims that can be made to the band, the state of things on the NDH scene today is such that Stahlmann is one of the main driving forces of the genre. This band gives a start to more or less talented and successful projects: some are developing and looking for their unique sound (Schattenmann, Erdling), others never realize their potential (Wespenmann). Stahlmann themselves have been in stagnation for quite a long time, but we`ll talk about that later. And before moving to the review of the “Quarz” album, I suggest taking a look at the band's background to see how promising musicians, with interesting ideas and a new sound, have become rigid over time within the framework of their own concept. Although in the case of Stahlmann it would be more appropriate to call them “rusted”.
Let's go back to the early-late 90's - early 2000`s. At that time a young Crossover band called Herzer released their first EP called “6”, and a couple of years later it released their first and, as it turned out, their last album, “Glas”. By the way, you can hear Dero (Oomph!) on it, who was featured as a guest vocalist on, perhaps, the best track of the album - “Monochrom”. I cannot say why the musicians of the band couldn't continue making their musical career. As far as I know, they were working on their second album but it never came out. If you listen to “Glas”, then you`ll notice the very high-quality sound, elements of Nu-Metal, Rapcore and Industrial that were very successfully combined with the lyrics in German and the recitative of the band's vocalist. Why did I remember about some Nu-Metal band from the early 2000`s? After a while the Stahlmann project was formed from the members of this very band.
The debut self-titled album was released at the beginning of the 2010`s, which means that Stahlmann already became the representatives of the new wave of NDH, orienting their sound towards the mastodons of the genre of the time, primarily towards the sound of such bands as Megaherz/Eisbrecher and early Rammstein. Music critics of those years accepted the new band ambiguously, which is not surprising. After all, the competitive environment on the NDH scene in those years and now is simply incomparable. Yes, the album was simple and aimed at lowbrow listeners who needed a clear guitar staccato, accompanied by march-like drum grooves and low and thick “sprechgesang”. Isn't it a great formula for a successful NDH project? And, as for me, this approach for the first album is quite forgivable. Before you start adding something of your own to your art, it may be necessary to pass some patterns and cliches through yourself, understand how it all works, and then modify it.
But as practice has shown, Stahlmann turned out to be a very conservative band, which, on the one hand, ensured the loyalty of one part of the audience and criticism of monotony and stagnation from the other. Moreover, Martin and the company have become quite productive in terms of new releases and for a little more than a ten-year history already released 7 full-length albums, not counting the solo projects of the band members. There was even a funny precedent when Stahlmann bought the rights to use musical themes from the album called "Stigmata" by the Die! band. Martin wrote the lyrics, and the band released this material under their own name. In general, they created an impression that the band decided to conquer their audience not by the quality but by the quantity of their releases.
As a result, on each album released by Stahlmann an inquisitive listener will surely find 1-3 cool tunes, while the rest of the material will most likely merge into a single monolith with simple choruses, simple riffs and Martin`s whispers in verses. Is “Quarz” different from the albums of the band mentioned above? In fact, no, and there were no prerequisites for that. But it is definitely better than its predecessor - “Kinder der Sehnsucht”. Nevertheless, let us analyze the new work in more detail and try to understand whether there is some grease for the Stahlmann gears or the mechanism cannot be saved.
STAHLMANN - QUARZ (2021)
The album opens with a very intense and groovy smash hit called “Wollust” that demonstrates those simple choruses, whispers between them and a straightforward rhythm section in all their glory. On the other hand, the next track called “Sünder” has a good main riff around which the composition is built. Martin`s vocals still leave much to be desired. I do not understand his manner of whispering into the microphone throughout the entire track: he's got a good voice, and his tone is quite pleasant, but the guy lacks a good resonance. But the next song - “Krähen der Nacht” - is something that you want to leave in your playlist. Despite the triviality of the lyrics, melodically this is a very pleasant Gothic/Industrial Metal track with nice synth parts, good lead guitar and Martin, who finally started singing decently on the third track. And at the end of the composition there is even a change in rhythm, making the transition to the next track called “Gottmaschine” smoother. Here you can hear the good old Stahlmann with their beloved NDH in four fours. There is nothing to write about, basically.
But the next song - “Sonnenreich”, even though it wasn't released as a single, unlike the above-mentioned “Gottmaschine”, but for me it became, perhaps, the main hit of the album. This track is the simplest one in its form, but very dancefloor and groovy with a chorus that sticks to your memory after the first listening. And even the manner of reciting the text by Martin fits perfectly here. This is a cool track. For the sake of such rare discoveries, perhaps, I am still waiting for new releases by the band. “Gegen den Strom” also has an interesting structure reminiscent of the early Eisbrecher material. But when listening to “Herz und Tränen”, I`ve got a suspicion: did Martin confuse a Stahlmann album with a Sündenklang release? This is a nice track, but stylistically this is a 100% Synthwave/Gothic side project. But perhaps that is why I will also single it out as one of the best tracks on the album.
And now let's get back to the analogies to Eisbrecher. It seems to me that if you replace Martin's vocals in the ballad called “Der Sturm” with Alex`s ones, then the track may well be mistaken for the one by Eisbrecher. I don’t know if this can be considered as a compliment to a composer`s talent of Stahlmann, but to avoid misinterpretation, I’ll say this: it will be possible to mistake it for a bad track by Eisbrecher. “Tobsucht” seems to be more vigorous and less similar to the works of band`s colleagues in the genre. But, again, this track is the same kind of a simple track as “Wollust" and "Gottmaschine”. The album closes with another dull smash hit - “Willst du?”.
In general, the main advantage of the album is its timing: even the most monotonous material does not have time to become boring in half an hour. But to be fair, “Quarz” is less monotonous and boring than its predecessor of 2019. The album does not stand out as something radically new from the rest of the band`s discography, but it would be wrong to call it a failure either. This is a solid genre novelty by the good old Stahlmann, who have been moving along the same track for ten years and are not going to change the direction. Some ideas and their implementation are more successful, some are less, but in general, the project can follow this track for a long time. And let it roll, sometimes uphill, sometimes sliding into a ditch, but in the case of “Quarz” it is definitely an upsurge, and we will see whether it continues in about two years with the release of their new record. Martin and company are generous with them.