Bestowing their bonkers brand of crossover hard rock on the bewildered brains of the masses, Kontrust boldly bounces back with Explositive. Boasting bizarre songs like “Bulldozer” and “Bad Time,” bring an open ear and African Banjos to enjoy this barmy batch. Bitch.
I hope I have adequately demonstrated the sort of mentality you will find in Kontrust‘s discography. They found international success and acclaim with 2012’s Second Hand Wonderland which HMG gleefully awarded a 4.5/5.0 [Damn you, HMG! — Steel Druhm]. While the appropriately titled Explositive features the willfully aimless lyrics, unusual instruments and strong pop-sensibilities you should be accustomed to, it falls short of its brilliant predecessor. Nevertheless, fans of catchy nonsense and African Banjos will still find plenty to like here, even if they’re starting to sound a little formulaic.
Kontrust‘s records are ever-so-simple, and this is no exception. It’s composed of trim, poppy songs, focused on vocal hooks. Over sixty years of commercial music has taught these Austrians that people will sing along to memorable lyrics, regardless of content and idiocy (see: the current pop charts). Likewise, Explositive will have you singing with reckless abandon almost immediately. “Bulldozer” bears the lyrics “purple, shining bulldozers!”, and “Dance” has “dance – and maybe you’ll turn me on!”. Special mention has to go to “I Freak On,” in which I initially mistook lines in the chorus as “African banjo” before realizing my version of the lyrics are actually superior, so I’ll just stick with those.
There’s a more overt hard rock and metal influence this time around, with thick guitar riffs carrying much of the melody. These riffs are largely memorable and cool, swinging in and out of the crazy vocals. Notable examples include those on “Just Propaganda,” “Play!” and “Bad Time,” among others. However, the adverse effect of this is a less diverse set of material which can get stuck into a fixed rhythm. Kontrust has always written short and catchy songs, but avoided repetition through the medley of genres they browse and instruments they use. Unusual aspects here are restricted to one-off appearances as opposed to integration into the structure. For example, the short-lived whistle in the second half of “Vienna,” and the off-beat Eastern percussion in the bridge of “Dance.” One of Kontrust‘s trademarks is its syntheses of genres and styles – their structured approach lacks variety without this, despite their gonzo mentality. There are a few tracks here which don’t bring anything new to the record and could easily be skipped.
With regard to production, Explositive is quite simple and not trying to change the world. Therefore, it’s merely functional and doesn’t require a subtle and deep aural range. The guitar tone is suitably solid and each instrument is audible. Where less common instrumentation is used, it’s typically separate from the principle riffs and vocals, so there are no concerns with aspects being lost in the mix.
The Venn diagram of different genres Kontrust intersects has diminished this time around, with mixed success. On one hand, the guitar riffing and hard rock strains are as strong as ever. On the other, without so diverse a pool of influences, their music sounds more formulaic. That said, their energy and catchiness is unfaltering, and I can still recommend Explositive as an unassuming and fun record. And I will never stop singing “African banjo!”