In 2017 I reviewed the fourth album by Stalhmann with the coarse name of Bastard. It continued their adoption of the Neue Deutsche Härte sound modeled on a more electronic version of Rammstein. Album five goes by Kinder der Sehnsucht (Children of Longing) and remains on the straight and narrow path of their style already well-established. You may recall that I appreciated the decent initial bump of Bastard’s riffs and melodies but was critical of its unwillingness to deviate from its formula and its overall toothlessness. Is Kinder the adrenaline shot required to re-energize Stalhmann‘s discography?
In a word, no. Considering that I made the same comment in my review of Bastard, it’s almost unbelievable how formulaic one band can be. Most of these tracks progress as follows: nifty, electronic flourish to begin; quick development into a groovy riff which recurs as the lead; verses which settle down with a muted beat and murmured vocals; return to the lead riff in the energetic chorus but this time backed with urgent, shouted vocals; repeat ad infinitum. Gaps in my listening sessions only highlighted this regularity. Ordinarily, gaps enable me to redouble my focus on the tracks following the break, but here the songs largely remained indistinguishable on either side. It truly is the case that once you’ve heard one cut, you’ve heard the entire album. Hell, with this band it seems as if once you’ve heard one track, you’ve heard their entire discography.
As if simply being formulaic wasn’t sufficient, Stahlmann have here produced something which is an amalgamation of all that is most unremarkable in modern metal. Namely: the softer, melodic verses; the comparatively more aggressive choruses; the chugging, djenty riffs; the electronic overlay to appear down with the kids; and the chunky, strangely artificial-sounding, brick-walled production. The last of these is arguably the worst as while some riffs are decent and some vocal melodies catchy, the production is of a style with which I’ve never particularly identified and which kills so much modern metal for me. The combination of these elements results in something that my mum would say “has a good beat.” I can scarcely think of a more damning comment of a genre which at its origins drew together the sterility and harshness of industrial with the aggression and emotion of metal. Save for the production which outright aggravates me, it’s utterly inoffensive which spits in the face of the core tenets of the composite genres informing the Stahlmann sound.
While a few of the riffs may get my feet tapping, the key exception to the overarching banality is the title track, “Kinder der Sehnsucht.” It’s not just a good track by reference to the remainder of this album but by reference to other albums. A strong vein of melodeath is felt here; while the chugging guitar at the top of the mix present everywhere else is also present here, there’s a harmonizing layer above and a grinding, dirtier guitar tone underneath which confers a desperately welcome sound which is more organic and less ‘blocky.’ The guitar layers with background keyboards actually recalls Omnium Gatherum. While on the subject of positives, and although it’s hardly a great track in itself, “Wenn du Gehst” features German indie / electro-pop artist Blue May Rose as a female vocalist. She at least offers a fresh timbre with her voice and the track adopts its electronic features as its core and not the same old chugging riffs.
It’s probably fair to call Kinder “one for the fans.” It fuses the passable riffs, the passable shouted vocal choruses and passable backing synth and electronic aspects which have always characterized Stahlmann. This release in particular may be a victim of my late introduction on album four and development on to album five; they already have an established style and are unlikely to drastically change it (or change it at all…). But this same inertia which will please some fans also ensures that I have no problem with criticizing the record as it’s in the band’s hands to either develop or repeat themselves. There must be a market for Kinder somewhere but I can’t work out where, and more importantly, why.