STAHLMANN, Adamant (2013, AFM)
The concept of a crazy clockwork skull is not a bad one, but the execution of the concept here is simply beyond the pale. It doesn’t look like metal so much as cheap, silvered plastic, and there’s a jarring disconnect between the overly detailed gears and the astoundingly undetailed… other parts. It looks like a prototype of an accessory to go with an unlicensed action figure tie-in toy for a movie that wasn’t even released in your country. I do like the monocle, though.
Apparently this sort of corny electronic pop metal, which originated with Rammstein, is called Neue Deutsche Härte, which translates roughly to “New Wave Of German Young Adult Vampire Movie End Credit Metal.” At least, it’s close to that. Stahlmann itself means “Steel Man,” which maybe doesn’t sound as impossibly stupid to German speakers, and “Adamant” means, as you’d expect, “Adam Ant,” whose New Romantic stylings were clearly very influential on this group of facepainters. Anyway, the music sounds like a way less edgy Rammstein, full of disco beats, braindead non-riffs, and overenunciated German lyrics about steely men of iron, probably. This is atrocious stuff that is so slimily, transparently engineered to part pimply, kohled teenagers from their allowance money that it makes me embarrassed for the band to hear it, and the sooner this sort of thing becomes a universal punchline to jokes about the 00s, the better.
— Friar Johnsen
CYCLONE, Brutal Destruction (1986, Roadrunner)
So debonair, this monocled skull! His weirdly missing mandibles only reinforce the jut of his privileged jaw. The setting of the image is a bit obscure, though; you would expect a fellow this dapper to be peering out the porthole of his luxury cabin on a deluxe oceanliner in the nineteen-teens, but the finish of the metal strongly suggests a submarine or other military vessel. Perhaps he is aboard a German U-boat, and is in the process of sinking one of those deluxe oceanliners. That might explain the monocle (Colonel Klink’s father: naval hero of the Great War). Or maybe he is, in fact, on a passenger ship but at the bottom of the north Atlantic, himself a victim of the Kaiser’s sea-might. That would account for his skeletality, at least. Is he the victim, or the dealer, of brutal destruction? Dead skulls tell no tales!
Cyclone’s second album, Inferior to None is a catchy, well written thrash albums with a hint of melody. Brutal Destruction, however, is a rather dull slab of by-the-numbers teutonic speed metal (even though the band were Belgian). Think: just about anything on Mausoleum Records in 1984, or maybe early Deathrow or Warrant (the German one). I will say, I do miss those early days of thrash, before the vocals calcified into an entirely unmelodic affair. Sure, Guido Gevels usually just tunelessly barked out his lyrics, but the occasional pitched scream or melodic fillip goes a long way toward enlivening what is some terribly generic proto-thrash. “In the Grip of Evil” has an unusually swinging drum beat and some catchy sped-up NWOBHM leanings, and the tasteless “Incest Love” (what was it with thrash bands and incest songs?) has an interesting intro riff that sounds like a rejected Mustaine lick, but in general, the highlights are few and far between on this album, and when in the mood for knuckleheaded speed metal, I’ll probably reach for Atlain or Brainfever instead.
— Friar Johnsen