“I can’t understand what they’re singing about!” was always a complaint to be heard emanating from my dear old Grandmother’s mouth whenever she came to spend some time with us when I was a young man; She was talking about Motörhead and Bad Religion, of course, both of whose lyrics were perfectly accessible for those with ears to hear. She’d have had an absolute caniption had Schattenmann been around in her day, as the only audibly understandable lyrics to the elderly Welsh ear on new album Epidemie appear to centre around the title of second track F.U.C.K.Y.O.U…
Seriously, though, it’s always a minefield the reviewer chooses to step into when appraising an album delivered in an unfamiliar tongue. Despite years of continental travel both for work and pleasure my German still amounts to little more than ‘zwei bier, bitte’, and, thus, the true core of Epidemie must remain alien to these ears. So what of the music? Schattenmann are apparently the darlings and kings-elect of the Neue Deutsche Härte movement, ready at a moment’s notice to kick incumbent rulers Rammstein from their leather-clad throne. On the evidence of Epidemie that moment might be a little way off yet as, despite a nice ear for a melody, Schattenmann carry none of the metallic heft or sinister Weimar-inspired menace of their elders and (on the face of it) betters.
Opener Schattenland is effective, staking out the band’s Marilyn Manson-inspired territory efficiently and without fuss, whilst that profane dip into the English language on the second track shows an impish humour to go with the sturm und drang. Schlag für Schlag is a blow-by-blow recreation of early Rammstein, and suffers from the comparison, but the title track is a perky, memorable slice of bouncy electro-rock that would have lit up the Euro version of MTV had it been around in 1991. The same could be said of next track Wahrheit oder Pflicht, or indeed most of the rest of the record.
And that’s both the allure and the annoyance of Schattenman; Everything on Epidemie appears to be a slightly watered-down, sanitised version of something that’s gone before, boiled down to a sort of residual pap that today’s time-poor young will find digestible. It’s shiny, attractive pap, of course – there’s nothing actually wrong with it – in fact parts of it are very good indeed, even to the untrained ear. Especially the Rammstein/Manson mashup of Schwarz=Religion. But the dirt, the very filth that makes bands like Rammstein such a thing of terrible beauty, is signally missing here. Or have I lost something in translation?
Epidemie is released on July 5th.