Boston, MA, Paradise Rock Club, 3/20/2013
2013 is a big year for fans of the golden age of industrial music with a new KMFDM album and tour, new Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy albums later this year, and rumors of new Nine Inch Nails material; it’s like some kind of planetary alignment. Paradise Rock Club is located on a busy Boston campus with bright-eyed students crisscrossing the streets purposefully. The place is pretty small, with a balcony that wraps around the venue on three sides. Dozens of drums, cymbals, and noisemaking objects decorate the stage, presumably belonging to tribal/industrial artist CHANT, the opening act of the tour. By 8:00pm the place is already two/thirds full and the show promptly begins. The crowd is a mix of goths, rivetheads, punks, and metal fans of various ages; as expected, many are sporting KMFDM shirts.
CHANT is simply great – passionate vocals infused with righteous indignation, backed by driving tribal rhythms and dark electronics. Front man Bradley Bills somehow manages double duty, delivering competent vocals while bouncing around between three drum sets without missing a beat. “Revolt” has an obvious revolutionary feel to it with the beat of a fast death march and a melody that reminds of a military marching song; the crowd absolutely loves it! It’s impossible to not be impressed by CHANT given the way Bills beats the hell out of the drums. Bright LEDs strobe behind him and keyboardist Kristopher Robin is in perfect sync with the music, making for a visually intense show. “Need” has a slower, sexier industrial rock beat, while “Empty” and “Crash Me” were all great songs with the same industrial rock attitude. There is a certain simplicity and innocence to the lyrics about god, revolution, love, walking alone, being true to yourself, etc., but the purity of it is part of the appeal. CHANT was really an awesome opening band, and got everyone excited for more.
The mood calmed down a bit during Legion Within’s set. If you like Peter Murphy’s solo work or other former goths who have moved on to dark romantic rock, you’ll love Legion Within. Front man William Wilson definitely channels Murphy and a little David Bowie at times – the band even closed the set with a great cover of Bowie’s “Hallo Spaceboy.” With strong songs like “Someone’s Speaking” and “Mouth of Madness,” Legion Within showcases strong musicianship, with Wilson doing an excellent job drawing the audience into his world. Bass player Erica “Raven” Branch-Butler and drummer Aaron Nicholes do a remarkable job carrying most of the weight, while Shannon Cole and Paul MacKusick provide atmospheric guitars and occasional synth harmonies that weave around to a nice effect. But it is Wilson with the commanding stage presence. He has a lot to say about the brainwashed masses, corporate greed, etc. The downside is that it has all been said before, and listening to Legion Within is a bit like being in a time capsule from the dark alternative ’90s. In every sense, Legion Within is a prototypical darkwave act, but the band does it very well and commands respect. They’re just cool.
But nobody’s as cool as KMFDM front man Sascha “Käpt’n K” Konietzko. As an artist and musician, he is in total control of his work, cranking out new music on his own label and at the same time reaping the rewards of his long career. On schedule with the pattern of releasing a record every two years and supporting it with a massive tour, 2013 saw KMFDM’s eighteenth studio album KUNST
. The lights go dark. The KMFDM music express starts rolling with “D.I.Y.” and the venue is totally packed with fans at this point, proving that KMFDM is as popular as ever. The five members take their familiar positions: Konietzko and Lucia Cifarelli in the middle, with Jules Hodgson and Steve White flanking the sides on guitar duty, and Andy Selway on drums. The band launches into one of the standouts from the last album, “Amnesia,” with Cifarelli sounding and looking beautiful as she paces in front of the audience gracefully. Her hair looks like a frizzy mane, bringing a wild sexiness to her performance. “Ave Maria” is the first new track played live, with the sound of Cifarelli’s angelic vocals filling the venue. The guitars sound tight and crunchy as they should; White and Hodgson masterfully trade signature KMFDM riffs all night long. Selway pounds mercilessly on the drums with a tough and chunky style the mixes well with the perfection of electronic sequences.
The songs shift towards the heavier side with “Quake” and “Free Your Hate,” and then the band pulls out “Son of a Gun,” which gets a strong reaction from the audience. The heavy songs keep coming with “Rebels in Kontrol” and “Lynch Mob.” Konietzko is wearing the same molded body armor as the last tour and occasionally walks around the stage like a dictator barking out orders. There is not much audience interaction or small talk from KMFDM; just a relentless pounding of heavy beats and mayhem. The songs roll on, with the audience loving every second of it, and this writer was particularly excited to hear the new “Animal Out;” I was not disappointed. All the songs sounded powerful, and the delivery was flawless. After an impressive hour long sonic bombardment, the band left the stage to deafening applause from a supercharged Boston audience that wanted more. Everyone knew that it wasn’t over yet.
Käpt’n K returned to the stage, leading everyone in a chorus of “KMFDM Sucks” before launching into a hybrid of “I Heart Not” vocals over the music from “Don’t Blow Your Top.” Legion Within’s William Wilson joined the stage for a surprisingly good tribute to “Anarchy.” People in the crowd sang along with fists raised, and Wilson did a fantastic job owning the song, adding his own theatrical flair to Tim Skold’s lyrics. Cifarelli rejoined the stage, and as the recognizable twangy guitar loop from “WWIII” began, the energy in the venue surged noticeably. As the thundering up-tempo drums kicked in, the more hardcore fans in the crowd took it as a cue to start thrashing about. The opening synth sounds on “Megalomaniac” caused an uproar of recognition and the moshpit grew larger and more turbulent. From the balcony, one could witness the churning sea of bodies as Käpt’n K and Cifarelli cheered them on. The final gift bestowed was “A Drug Against War;” it was a true climax, impressive and heartwarming to witness that the strength of this music has not diminished.
One must feel bad for people who missed KMFDM on this 2013 tour for whatever reason… especially those who bitch and moan about the glory days of KMFDM being in the past. To those future grumpy old men, this writer would suggest you roll your wheelchair to the next KMFDM show in your area. If you don’t have an amazing time with the rest of us, have someone check your pulse. You may be dead already.
Lüke Haughwout (Mechanical_Harvest)
Photographs by Mandi Martini (Mandi_Martini)