“Hänsel und Gretel verliefen sich im Wald. Es war so dunkel und auch so bitterkalt.”
Sounds familiar? Kind of does, doesn’t it?
Echoes from your childhood days that somehow followed you around through the years. Stories told by the fire that were supposed to teach, but always left a sense of slight unease. If not a feeling of outright queasiness.
It is always ironic when parents try to keep their kids away from violent movies but then turn to fairy tales that talk about drowning your enemies, poisoning your foes or again fattening up children. Not to do well – no sir – but so that the evil witch can consume them better. As tasty, little morsels in a stew. Never mind that the witch ends her days in the oven – cooked alive. Oh, and did I mention it? They use those as bedtime stories. Sort of a sleeping pill for kiddies, all colorful and funny. Not.
Now, try to find a musical equivalent to this kind of tale. Or the essence of it, if you will. Soothing violin and soft hooting from classical instruments? Hell no. Step one: Haul the NDH (Neue Deutsche Härte) movement from Germany over the wide ocean. You know, the likes of Rammstein, Eli Van Pike, and their ilk. Then you mix some industrial-strength Black Metal undercurrents and a gruesome theme into the fray.
And out comes the US band Hanzel and Gretyl, one of the funkiest metal bands I have come across to date. Their newest concoction Satanik Germanik just drips with some sort of cheeky evil venom at every corner of its tracklist. Brandishing a mix of Post Black Metal, Dark Metal, and Industrial Metal like a spiked club, they let loose with a tune that will make dick-crazed Till Lindemann go pale with envy. Really. Oomph! – the band – with a hefty crunch, that kind of thing.
And all that neatly embeds on an ill-flavored foundation of culturally tinged clichés from the long and dark history of the Teutonic homeland. With a dangerously distorted view to boot, as seen from the enlightened city of New York. And only some of that actually relates to the aforementioned Grimm Brothers.
An additional brownie point for Satanik Germanik is the use of some sort of WWII type of German inside of their lyrics. With some Orwellian chants added that not only remind us of times past but surely of the present, too. Right here in America.
This adds some mighty juice to the industrious way the tunes were constructed. It also paints that dark and apocalyptic picture of armies in dark uniforms, wearing gas masks marching about the landscape. All against a setting of a grimy skyline shrouded in noxious smog.
You get the picture.
However, the band may want to learn speaking better German. For now, this sounds worse than Mel Gibson trying to be a Scot after too much whiskey. Or, at least they should give the language they murder an inkling of correct pronunciation. Not to speak of correct spelling. Already the track list has more errors in it than a Swiss cheese sports holes. Apart from the fact that the letter ‘s’ transforms itself into a ‘z’ at any bump in the road. Very much what the lore of the trve adept demands. Right?
Satanik Germanik actually starts with some pseudo-Gregorian chants in Golden Dämmerung. Here we go, I thought. It’s gotta be some Batushka copycat Black Metal, I thought. But no, the record steps outside the beaten paths of convoluted metal sub-genres, and wildly wanders off down into its own terrain.
And despite their lack of use of a grammar tool, it all fits into this dreary soundscape of theirs. Already We Rise as Demons gets you a refreshing dose of Post Black Metal with an industrial tinge. Way out there though, with a rasp barely qualifying for the black arts. And this track really defines Satanik Germanik. The record takes a liking to the Dark Lord to a point, but otherwise stays well within the confines their brand of Industrial Dark Metal demands.
For this Hanzel und Gretyl took some inspiration from the Black Metal multiverse nonetheless.
For instance, Sonnenkreuz – ironically the lonely German track name without a mistake in it – just reeks of Rotting Christ. Thinking about it, Rituals definitely fits into the scheme of things on Satanik Germanik. And this goes hand in hand with the Industrial Metal scheme that the band embarked on a couple of albums back. So much so, that the atrocious I Am Bad Luck gets you this weird mix of Rammstein-esque buffoonery on a distinct ritualistic post-black and almost Gothic buttress of metal.
But the record gets more duds to your doorstep: “…trinken mit der Kaizer, the Bierz from hell, open wide and let the devil inside…”.
Lyrics can be bad. But that bad or outright silly? What kind of saves Trinken Mit Der Kaizer (Die Bierz From Hell) is its almost hypnotic beat and the pseudo-solo somewhere in the middle. This track is indeed club-ready. Sound food for the drugged masses, or something. But bitch, please.
So, what did Satanik Germanik bring to this reviewer’s turntable?
Well, the RMR deck crew really liked the variety. Hanzel und Gretyl deliver the adequate musical rendition for this often dark and gruesome talemongering of platitude-ridden truisms from a long time past. And that is actually a great theme to deliver, this mix of Industrial and Post Black Metal, to an ever-growing audience. All this is embedded in crunchy chugging and sent onto new-ish territory, all metal sticks, and black incantations.
In addition, it is indeed always the bands stepping outside of the proverbial little metal box that will screech to a halt at the top of the review list. And Hanzel und Gretyl got that quirkiness. That willingness to go the extra mile, in a metal world that gets pushed over more and more by modern pseudo-pop.
Yet, the lack of attention to detail and the sometimes pretty silly presentation of lyrics and tune constantly pushed this record back from its quest to reach the lofty heights of a stellar rating.
And that is a pity.
In other words, offering a cleaner record would have elevated Satanik Germanik to the guilty pleasure it deserves to be. Yet, that did not happen.