Few bands have dipped their toes in more genre pools than Germany’s Crematory. Over the course of their career, they’ve cobbled elements of death metal, gothic rock, electronica, industrial and even club music into what could be called the “Crematory sound.” As the years went by, certain elements would drift in and out of prominence, but in recent times, the sonic space between them and countrymen Rammstein has narrowed to a fine line. These guys are heavier and more death-oriented, but the basic sound is essentially the same. While I’ve followed them since 1997, I’ve always found them frustratingly inconsistent. Almost every album sports three or so great tunes that hook you in, only to have the balance of the album peter out and underwhelm. While that makes for a righteous playlist, it doesn’t lead to an impressive discography. I’m happy (and surprised) to report, Antiserum is their most consistent and enjoyable album in a long time and it avoids the typical Crematory pattern of a few trailblazers and a lot of stragglers. It’s not quite their breakaway magnum opus, but I’ll take this quality quotient any day!
There’s a surprising amount of good stuff here. “Until the End” is classic Crematory, seamlessly blending death metal vocals with more poppy cleans while straddling the line between techno club rock and industrial metal. This type of song has always been their bread and butter and its way more infectious and fun than it should be. “If You Believe” is more of the same, but with a bigger, more accessible chorus based around gothic rock. The trade-offs between death and gothy vocals work and things stay heavy enough to satisfy. “Inside Your Eyes” feels like rave music with death metal vocals tacked on by accident, but it comes together and makes you want to thrash and vogue at the same time (don’t ever do that though). Both “Virus” and “Irony of Fate” are enjoyable examples of the Crematory style, with the former being particularly crisp, accessible and rave-tastic (in a badass metal way).
The star of the show is “Kommt Naher,” which is somehow the most Rammstein-like and the most traditional Crematory song at the same time. It’s got a simple tech-pop beat, super cheesy keyboards, heavy riffs and an inspired performance by death throat Felix (it also has a real humdinger of a hysterical video that simply must be seen). While it isn’t hugely different from Sehnsucht and Mutter era Rammstein, they manage to put their own stamp on it and make it fun and joyful in a way that defies description.
The rest of Antiserum is definitely weaker, but not terrible. Tunes like “Welcome,” and “Back From the Dead” seem a bit flat at first, but with a few spins they start to sink in and find a home in the grey matter. The title track is the least interesting of the lot, but it isn’t bad, just overly tame.
One of the things always working in Crematory‘s favor is Felix’s death rasp. He’s hardly the most brutal croaker on the animal farm, but he sounds convincing enough for the music and something about his grunting is oddly pleasing to the ear. Matthias Hechler’s singing has improved leaps and bounds over the years and he’s adept at picking his spots to belt away. He’s also good at coming up with simple, heavy riffs that keep the music from going too tooty-fruity or club-friendly.
That said, the guitar tone here is very weak and watered-down. It still sounds metal and provides an offset to the poppy keyboards, but it really should have more power and bite. Another complaint is the overall mix, which feels too muddled and run together for my tastes.
There’s a 3.5 inside Antiserum that’s screaming to get out, but it can’t quite make it. Still, this is way better than expected and I’ve been spinning the Bejesus out of it. It’s dumb, fun, quirky and cheese-tastic all at once and it keeps your brain perpetually stuck between glowstick dancing and smashing some fool in the throat on general principle. I like a band that can fuse those disparate feelings and thusly, Crematory remain the kings of disco death.