I have to give respect where it’s due. Upon reading the bio sheet that came with Stahlsarg‘s debut album, Comrades in Death, I discovered that the British band already has their own beer out. I wish more bands would just cut out the middle-man and get right to brewing my favorite beverage. Also, they have shirts, coffee mugs, and even tote bags from a single glance of their webstore. All of this done without a single release! If nothing else, Stahlsarg knew to take a page from Cradle of Filth when it comes to marketing and promotion. That’s all fine and dandy, as there are far worse ways to fund your hobby or passion. But how do they sound and, more importantly, are they any good?
Well, the good news is that there’s nothing truly bad on Comrades in Death, but the majority of the record is frustratingly average. A great example of this can be found in opening track “Razed to the Ground.” It starts off promisingly enough, with some early Behemoth-esque tremolo riffing by guitarists Krieg and Eissturm and some straight-forward drumming by Eisenfaust. Speaking of Eissturm, his vocals are… unique. Yeah, let’s go with that word, because his growls are quite guttural and his blackened rasp is pretty cool, but when he goes into a banshee wail, it sounds absolutely quirky and out-of-place. Not completely off-putting, but still throws you out a bit with repeated listens. The biggest problem is the sheer amount of changing riffs in this one five-minute song, as nothing really stays to build and grow. It goes from tremolo-riffy goodness to mid-paced chug to a different speed-blast, etc. without giving the song a chance to plant and take root.
And it’s such a damn shame because there are flashes of brilliance on here. “Damocles XIII,” their longest song at almost eight minutes, has some really damn good atmospheric passages once the band allows them to gestate. “Seelow Heights” has a great melodic passage near the beginning by bassist Destruction. “Castle Wewelsburg,” the song playing in the background in the above beer-brewing link, is so face-meltingly fun and frenetic and hints of what’s to come in the future for these guys. But the awesome parts are sandwiched between a bunch of songs that epitomize mediocrity and complacency, and that’s damning because these guys are already flashing glimpses of what they’re truly capable of.
Danny B. Takoma (Criminal, Napalm Death) did a good job producing Comrades in Death, making the guitars just trebly enough to give an icy sheen, and even giving the bass the chance to stand out between the guitars and drums. But there’s a lot of work to be had with the songwriting, as more could be said with a lot less. Also, Eissturm should ease up on the shrieking, as it pushes the listener out of the warzones that Stahlsarg are trying to create.
For as negative as this review comes across, these guys show serious potential. They just exhibited some typical mistakes most bands accomplish on their debut albums. I’m curious as to see how their next record plays out, as they’re on to greater things. Just focus on those first before brewing your next batch.