Sep 2011 17

With the dwindling number of venues in the Baltimore area that cater to the underground music scene as much as to larger acts, the Recher Theatre in neighboring Towson has steadily risen to become one of the prominent hotspots for just such an event. Located in the heart of the town next to the mall and various restaurants, the Recher couldn’t have been a more perfect place for industrial rock superstars KMFDM to perform in, alongside label maters and newcomers to the scene Army of the Universe. With cities like New York and Philadelphia already wrapped up for the Summer 2011 tour, a quarter-of-a-century’s worth of touring experience behind them, and an arsenal of new material to perform, there was no question that KMFDM were ready to tear things up on this hot Saturday night.

Originally, Florida’s Human Factors Lab was signed on as the opening act for the tour; however, the band had departed after the previous night in Philadelphia, leaving a gap in the overall energy that Army of the Universe were only too happy to fulfill. Hailing from Italy, the trio of Lord K, Trebla, and Davil, along with producer/percussionist extraordinaire Chris Vrenna took to the stage with all the swagger and bravado of a veteran act. With only one album of material to draw from, and an audience mostly unfamiliar with this relatively new act, AOU began their set with the opening title track from their debut album, Mother Ignorance. As if Vrenna’s powerful drumming wasn’t enough, the crowd was won over almost instantly by the interplay between Trebla’s layers of synthesized bass lines and arpeggiated ambience – a fair amount of which seemed to actually be performed live, which is a breath of fresh air in this day and age of laptop DJs and karaoke backdrops – and Davil’s guttural guitar attacks, never delving into gratuitous solos or flourishes, but providing just the right amount of crunch and flavor. Lord K’s stage presence is especially worthy of mention; imposing but not intimidating, in complete command of his physique and his voice, with just enough raw abandon to give songs like “Resin,” “Hollywood Drama,” and “Good Nite” their rough edge, and enough slithering venom to give “Lovedead” and the excellent cover of Björk’s “Army of Me” some sexual tension. By the end of their set, the initially hesitant and somewhat reserved audience had become a theatre full of adoring fans all too eager to hear more. With such a response to such a stellar performance, Army of the Universe stands to be one of the great new industrial dance/rock bands.

 

A brief pause as the band and the stagehands switch out the equipment, the crowd disperses for a smoke break or to rest their ears from the electro onslaught of the opener, and before long, the headliners take the stage. By this time, the theatre has filled to near capacity, and this writer took great delight in seeing a plethora of unfamiliar faces – Towson being a college town, it was not surprising that much of the audience were younger people, representing a newer generation of industrial/electro fan and exemplary of KMFDM’s staying power over the course of nearly three decades. For many in attendance, this would be their first exposure to the Ultra Heavy Beat in all its live glory. The lights dimmed, the fog machines rolled, and the first synth bass throbs of “Krank” filled the air as Sascha Konietzko – a.k.a. Käpt’n K – and company took to the stage with all the confidence and control that years on the road will give a band. The twin guitar attack of Steve White and Jules Hodgson is as aggressive as ever, full of technical riffing and solos to appease the metalheads and rockers, while Andy Selway’s brutal percussive assault thrashes with all the precision of a drum machine. Manning the synths and vocals are the Käpt’n, decked out in his trademark mirrorshades and Mohawk and commanding the stage like the industrial warrior he has been for Lucia Cifarelli, moving as catlike as ever in a rubber and fishnet outfit and balancing the riotous with the melodic as she takes the lead on songs like “Bait & Switch” and “Rebels in Kontrol.” The secondary vocals of Free Dominguez are only marginally missed as Lucia tackles “Take It Like a Man” on her own, while Konietzko’s signature rasp assaults the crowd like a battering ram with “Tohuvabohu,” “Come On, Go Off,” and even classics like “D.I.Y.” and “A Drug Against War.”

 

While many longtime fans have lamented KMFDM’s steady lineup over the last decade, it was a pleasure to see a guest vocalist take the stage for the first time since the Sturm & Drang tour almost a decade ago. As the front man to Seattle goth rock group and KMFDM Records signee Legion Within, William Wilson’s voice not only presents a much darker melodic sensibility than the band’s usual mechanized rage, but exudes a sleeker stage presence for “Day of Light” and “Spectre.” He may have been only one guest, but be that as it may, Wilson’s addition to the performance brought today’s audiences one step closer to the KMFDM of old, if only slightly.

 

Anybody who has listened to KMFDM’s records for any length of time, has read any interview, or even seen them in concert before knows that this is a band that not only acknowledges but celebrates its fan base. After the music ended and the lights went up, both KMFDM and Army of the Universe tended to their merch tables, selling all the shirts and CDs and signing all the autographs they could, speaking with and taking photos with fans, making memories that everyone is sure to cherish for years to come. Adding to those memories is a special feature the band offered for this tour in their web store, enabling customers to purchase a live recording of any show on the tour; clearly, KMFDM lives up to their reputation as a band that appreciates its fans, giving them the ultimate bang for their buck. Like the song says, “KMFDM will never stop,” and with this level of momentum, tightness of performance, and the energy of the crowd in Towson, they’ll never have to.

 

Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photographs by Katherine Gaines (AmbientEye)
Courtesy of AmbientEye Photography – http://www.ambienteye.com

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