Unzucht – Jenseits der Welt Review

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of what song to select as a single. Most of the time, this will be the first point of contact for prospective new fans, and where they will decide whether the music at hand is to their tastes. So a single must show the full spectrum of a band’s music at their best, but in a digestible manner. My first sampling of Unzucht came from advance single “Nein,” and my snap judgement discarded the band as a poor Rammstein imitation. Still, pickings were slim at the time, so I resigned myself to reviewing Jenseits der Welt (Past the World) with low expectations. How would the timeline have been altered, had they decided to release the title track, embedded below, first?

Probably not much, since we review the whole album and not the single, but I would definitely have had higher expectations. You see, Unzucht is a band that attempts to join two quite different strains of music in unholy matrimony. One side is the unimpressive Neue Deutsche Härte (NDH) mentioned above. The other side is more along the lines of punk and alternative rock, taking healthy inspiration from countrymen Die Toten Hosen. Some tracks lean one way, some the other. “Nein” is practically entirely Ramm-nein aside from the bridge, for instance, while the title track inverts this, only using NDH in the bridge and sticking with the Hosencore the rest of the time.

It may surprise you that the non-metal side of the equation is significantly more likable. After all, alternative rock is mostly known for being whiny and a hotbed for off-putting emo-ness. But though there is some of that present (“Horizont”), the music sounds far more earnest in this configuration. Der Schulz is an excellent vocalist with a buttery smooth voice and with a straightforward honesty that precludes unearned emotional overbearance, and his vocal harmonies with De Clercq are spot-on. The guitar lines are fairly basic and the rhythm guitars do some of the unappealing stuttering chugs common to the genre, but they compensate with appropriately understated usage of electronics and a nice, gracious flow.

It’s a shrill contrast to the NDH, which simply feels decidedly uninspired. De Clercq’s vocals here are an electronically-aided shout with all the dynamics of a wooden club, the electronics are more in your face and seem to take away from the depth of the music rather than add to it, and the riffs all sound roughly the same, a mid-paced stomp with little actual melody to it. The trouble is, Unzucht has their two styles living alongside one another, rather than truly mixing them. Every section is either alt-rock-punk or NDH, and the more of the latter is in the track, the worse it is, with “Nein” as the nadir. Only “Misanthropia” reverses the roles: here, the clean choruses don’t flow well, and the high-paced verses steamroll with a killer industrial groove.

The result is the definition of mixed, with tracks and even sections within tracks differing quite drastically in quality. Even the production joins in with the mixing, as the master is quite loud but the layering and balancing making up for it. In the end, it’s an album I can’t recommend as a whole, as one half of the band’s sound is severely flawed, but if you are ever in the mood for some easy listening German punk-influenced alternative that’s actually good, you can do a lot worse than Unzucht’s better half.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Out of Line Music
Websites: unzucht.bandcamp.com | unzucht-music.com | facebook.com/unzucht
Releases Worldwide: February 7th, 2020

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