Stahlmann - BastardStahlmann are the new decade’s flag-bearers for Neu Deutsche Härte (NDH)1; a genre hailing from Germany in the 90s, featuring groove, industrial, and electronic influences, and popularized by the likes of Rammstein and Oomph!. While they’re both still active, Stahlmann deemed these big names needed support and so their first record was released in 2010. Bastard is now their fourth and I’m forced to consider its title. Is it a puerile scream against a shitty world or the unwanted child which they’ll ditch upon its release?

Bastard basically conforms to the NDH style with its chunky grooves, modern production tone, and prevalent electronic elements. These electronic elements manifest through some of the beats and liberal use of synths and keyboards, sometimes as generic backing layers and sometimes as faux violins and pianos. The sum is a difficult-to-dislike, melodic, inoffensive concoction of modern musical practices which isn’t changing anyone’s life but is fun enough for a period. Fat grooves are strongly reminiscent of Pantera on “Waechter” and “Dein Gott,” while the vocals are the clear focal point otherwise. Highlights include “Nichts Spricht Wahre Liebe Frei” with its faux orchestral introduction and big, somber cleans in its chorus and “Schwarz und Weiss” which again features Mart Soer’s sonorous cleans in a bombastic climax. “Supernova” also caps the record with a stronger finish.

My first issue is that Bastard is incredibly formulaic. Each track is snappy with none exceeding 4:30 but they all follow a rigid verse-chorus structure. This isn’t an inherent problem but I noticed on the second track that it was pretty identical to the first. The melody in the electronic opening transitions on to the lead guitar, with muted singing in the verse and more expansive cleans in the chorus. This chorus should repeat the title word(s) 7-10 times and will itself be repeated on either three or four occasions depending on if the song endures past the four-minute mark. The guitar solo on “Von Glut zu Asche” highlights their absence otherwise, while the aforementioned highlights partly stand out simply due to their orchestral openings which deviate from the norm. There’s a distinct dearth of variety; as a result, by my fourth listen it was beginning to bore me.

Stahlmann 2017

The mildly enjoyable first and second runs didn’t prevail as none of Bastard feels remotely challenging. It lacks the clinical harshness of true industrial and the aggressive danger of metal. It’s intangibly insubstantial, a sugary treat rather than a satisfactory meal. It’s much too safe. The electronic parts, while prevalent, sound more like embellishments to songs which were already written and as such are superficial. The NDH tag is met instrumentally and compositionally but there’s nothing “neu” about Bastard. It’s unsurprising that I’m forced to add that it’s an unnecessarily loud record.

Despite its evocative title, Bastard is an initially enjoyable but ultimately toothless affair. It has a face that only its mother — Stahlmann themselves — can love in the long term. So perhaps Bastard is indeed an appropriate title. If we can construe the listener as the father then while I was keen to see it pop out, I was running for the hills soon after. It isn’t the worst album of the year but would ultimately remind me of my useless transience in the grander scheme of the universe if I were to stay with it for much longer. My early-life crisis demands gratification which Stahlmann do not provide.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM Records
Websites: stahlmann.tv | facebook.com/stahlmann
Releases dates: EU: 2017.06.16 | NA: 07.07.2017

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  1. New German Hardness
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  • AngryMetalBird

    Nein danke!

  • Nola Trash Talk

    I wish these guys and Eisbrecher would do an English record.

  • Bas

    Stahlmann = steel druhm???
    The mask hides the gorilla…

    • SelfIndulgence

      Why does he wear the mask?

      • Reese Burns

        No one cared who he was until he put on the mask…

      • Bas

        Embarrased about the bad music?

  • Iain Gleasure

    Interesting review. How would you say you feel about Rammstein then, the biggest NDH band out there? I myself really enjoy what I’ve heard of them and find it quite engaging.

  • Bas

    You should gave mentioned Die Krupps..
    I never really liked this germanic industrial (mildly entertaining) but the krupps were a bit better and earlier.

  • I don’t understand how we have these conversations without mentioning kmfdm. I mean shit, they were a drug against war.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      KMFDM were the only band in this genre that had any staying power IMHO.

    • Bas

      Forgot they were german.. True, essential (though still not really my thing).

    • Nukenado

      Kmfdm fans are fucking annoying though. Checked out one of their YouTube videos, and the comments were so edgy, try-hard and angsty that even Limp Bizkit fans would call them childish.

      • Reese Burns

        Play a drinking game with me. Count how many times the word “columbine” pops up in the comments. The winner is the one who hasn’t died of alcohol poisoning by the end of the song.

        • Nukenado

          I’ll probably die even if I were drinking coffee.

          • Reese Burns

            If only I could be half as cool as the dudes in YouTube comment threads…

    • madhare

      Well, strictly speaking I wouldn’t lump KMFDM with Neue Deutsche Härte. It’s slightly more on the dark-industrial-techno side. It’s a pretty thin line but that’s how I see it.

      Dark Industrial Techno/Electro (or whathever you call it) = techno + industrial + spicing from metal.
      Playlist: KMFDM, Eisenfunk, Psyclon Nine, etc.

      Neue Deutsche Härte = industrial + metal + spicing from techno.
      Playlist: Rammstein, Oomph!, Eisbrecher, etc.

      …and then they crossover and mix into various goth-industrial-darkwave things at various speeds (Seelenkrank, Blutengel, Covenant…)

      Yeah, generally, these categories don’t mean much. But on the other hand, there are tons of various industrial-techno-metal combinations coming out of Germany (and elsewhere). So the sub-categories can be helpful in navigating between them.

      A metal bar will usually only play NDH, and even that perhaps only occasionally (not metal enough for some people). Whereas a goth bar might alternate between all of them. Usually on different nights though: slow darkwave for lounging, dark electro for dancing, sometimes NDH, etc.

      • You deserve and upvote for that comment! Nicely put, and hit the nail on the head regarding those genres :-)

  • undead_toaster

    I think Eisbrecher does this stuff way better, Rammstein and other early NDH bands aside. Good review, probably won’t check this out.

  • R.Daneel Olivaw
  • RuySan

    Some off-topic (because i’m not in the mood to register in the forum):

    Can someone recommend some nice, more introspective (not anything bombastic) classical music? Just with nice keyboards and strings. Something adequate for a doom/black/folk metal fan.

    I always used to listened to a specific radio every time i needed my classical fix but now I need to educate myself.

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      Cannibal Corpse

      • Reese Burns

        I thought you said they were a folk band??

        • AlphaBetaFoxface

          I’ve been exposed

    • Ono Trümmer

      Just about the most clean and beautiful classical pieces are the Goldberg Variations, if you don’t know them already. Not necessarily by Glen Gould, there are lots of great interpretations about.

  • hubcapiv

    Should really be a 2.1. An extra 0.1 for not being named “Ooomph!”.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    If I was to listen to this without being told what it is, I would think it’s Rammstein.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    What the Hell, Germany? Stop rehashing Neu Deutsche Härte and stick to what you do best: rehashing bombastic Power Metal.

  • Lithophyte

    I have their self titled from 2010. Rammstein lite but not offensive. This seems the same. Having heard a big slab of Rammstein on the random track generator earlier this evening, this is a bit pale. Oh, and KMFDM – there isn’t enough industrial metal that kicks arse – when do we get more?

  • madhare

    “My first issue is that Bastard is incredibly formulaic.”

    That is my problem with whole NDH genre. Rammstein was my gateway into it and I used to love them. But even Rammstein sounds formulaic after so many albums. Mutter seems to be where they reached their peak.

    I’ve tried branching out to Oomph!, Eisbrecher, Stahlmann and others. But mostly I just come away with a “nice but kind of meh”.

    Although, I have to say, in the right place… like a German goth club in some dingy basement… NDH works perfectly. (Perhaps mixed with some heavier Darkwave etc. which also can be formulaic.) There the fact that they all follow the same style is an advantage: it doesn’t really matter which band is playing. :D

    • Ono Trümmer

      I remember the first time I saw Rammstein live… A small festival in southern Germany and I was terribly disappointed. Thing is, they were headliners after Skunk Anansi, Faith No More and the Cure…
      This is to say NDH is just plain boring compared to real music.