The reigning kings of techno/industrial/party death are back once again to pump up the volume and rock your boots n’ pants, boots n’ pants. On their 13th full length, Monument, Crematory sees some major line up changes but the kraut rockers pick right up where 2014s Antiserum left off. That means more poppy techno-death tailor-made for metallized strip clubs and sketchy back alley discos. As their sound has evolved over time they’ve gotten closer and closer to what countrymen Rammstein do and that small deadly space has never been as tight as it is now. Monument is loaded with throbbing, pulsing odes to techno metal with their death metal influences now only present in the somewhat harsh vocals. It’s enormously cheesy and often cringe-inducing but somehow the band manages to make it worthwhile time and again and keep the rave going long after you’d expect it to die. Are you ready to go clubbing? Grab your club then!
With 2 new guitarists, one of them their new “clean” singer, you’d be right to wonder if the classic Crematory magic was still present, but opener “Misunderstood” quickly shows little has changed and their oddball blend of metal and club beats is still functional. It sounds like what they’ve been doing for the last 10 years and since it’s so catchy and brainless it usually works. As they blast out their brand of stripper pole disco death, it’s amazing to reflect on how long of a career they’ve carved by rocking this oddball stuff. Tracks like “Die So Soon” pack in plenty of corny goth drama and theatrics but the catchy hooks allow both to pass muster even when they probably shouldn’t, and “Ravens Calling” borrows much of the The Neonai era Lake of Tears sound for a bass thumping good time.
Monument jumps between songs that sound like Rammstein cast offs (“Eiskalt,” “Falsche Tränen”) and others that sound like typical Crematory, with the latter being more compelling. “Nothing” and “Before I Die” both go heavy on the cheesy keyboards (cheeseboards) and big, poppy choruses whilst head grunter Felix does his best to provide a modicum of heaviness amidst the radio friendly glitz. “Everything” is a tune that could have appeared on any album dating back to 2000 and new singer Tosse Basler acquits himself well in his duet with Felix here.
The less successful selections include the generic “Die Letzte Schlacht” which feels like an early Rammstein reject and the schmaltzy as all hell “Save Me” which gives power ballads a bad name and isn’t helped by Basler’s deadly serious intonations of “I’ve gots to go.” The biggest concern here is how Crematory albums are becoming increasingly disposable sounding. Sure they’re super accessible and easy to digest, but there just isn’t much “there” there anymore. While Antiserum had some meaty cuts to anchor the single serving fluff, Monument feels more like fluff in search of an anchor. It’s undeniably shallow stuff and at a certain point it starts to feel throw away and too mindless. I’m not sure how they can correct this course, but a correction is definitely called for before they become metal’s version of top 40 radio.
Musically, it’s a Crematory album so you don’t expect technical flash and bang. The riffs by Basler and Rolf Munkes are bare-boned and uber simplistic, the keyboards are cheesy and unsubtle and Felix is his typical quasi-death metal self. While Basler brings a slightly more gothy touch to his clean vocals, he isn’t all that different from former singer/guitarist Matthias Hechler. This is simplistic music that strives to be catchy and to the band’s credit, they get that part right more often than not. It just feels more soulless this time for whatever reason.
Monument isn’t a bad album by any means, but it feels like a watered down version of past successes and it’s definitely a step down from Antiserum. Long time fans will probably be satisfied but I doubt this will attract many new converts. You can’t fault Crematory for sticking to their formula (or using strippers in all of their videos), but I hope next time they dial up the heavy and maybe try something a bit different too (and no, I’m not suggesting you ditch the strippers). Rock out with your bratwurst out.