über Alles (Metropolis)
by Scott Hefflon
Hanzel Und Gretyl got a bum deal “back in the day” (’96 or so, when electro/industrial metal was fresh and vibrant and it looked like grunge and punkpop were gonna have some competition for rebel anthemry). They signed to Energy Records, they kicked out a record or two, Manson took ’em on tour, they got a track on one of the Mortal Kombat soundtracks, and it looked like the world was their blutwurst. Then Energy went under, dragged the band through years of legal delays, and emerging in 2002, they discovered one of the only labels still hanging on with a cybernetic metal claw is Metropolis, a revered underground record label with some great bands, a lot of also-rans, and a marketing budget about the size of a spare change dish. Hard to break bands out of the Goth/industrial clubs and into the mainstream like Manson, Rammstein, or fuckin’ Orgy (if “the kids” will buy lame shit like Orgy, they’re obviously willing to settle for the crap offered to them by the majors, all the while bands like Funker Vogt, VNV Nation, and a handful of others languish in “only the die-hards have ever heard of us” land) without omnipresent marketing.
Hanzel Und Gretyl return with their long-awaited third album, and right from the air raid siren and crushing opener “Third Reich from the Sun,” you know you’ve really got something. They sing in German a lot of the time, there’re a lot of Nazi samples spouted (I think, I hope, it’s a statement, cuz I give them credit for being smarter than being actual Nazis) and slamming, goose-step marching beats, and the singer is female. You’ll never get Vas Kallas confused with The Gathering or Switchblade Symphony, that’s for sure. Imagine a German Wendy O. Williams barking for KMFDM with Atari Teenage Riot shouts of revolution. Sure, it’s derivative and dated, but it sounds really good loud. Much like The Kovenant or a number of other solid industrial metal bands, there’s some humor (most of it black), clipped snarling, explosions and techno tinkering, and a lot of Ministry/KMFDM guitarwork (as in boring metal, power for power’s sake, but nü metalheads don’t seem to mind). Favorites include the chantable “Third Reich from the Sun,” the fist-pumpingly generic “SS Deathstar Supergalactic,” the icy/sci-fi slam of “Let the Planets Burn,” and the industrial wasteland shimmy of “Verbotenland.” But as is often the case with this kind of music, there’s no real “single” to sink you teeth into (or to get overplayed and become part of the cultural identity). The album flows from end to end, increasing your pulse at times, but leaving only a few impressions along the way.