For some time, the suggestion has been floating around among both ReGen staff and readers to write about past albums, particularly touching on some of those releases that left a discernible mark on the gothic, electro, and industrial scenes. However, in this era of nostalgia, there has also been a wave of reassessment and reappraisal, with many works that had been previously maligned, ignored, and/or discarded as insignificant or even terrible entries in the annals of music now being viewed and heard with fresher perspectives. Therefore, we are happy to introduce what we hope will be an enjoyable feature for our readers – ReGen RetroViews. Here, we hope to not only address the endurance and lasting impact of some of the longtime greats, but also those that have not been so loved and examine the degrees to which they have appreciated over time… or perhaps, if they’ve depreciated. Are these albums as great or as awful as we remember? Let’s find out!
As the new millennium neared, KMFDM was a band in turmoil. Although the Symbols was well received and yielded one of the band’s all-time biggest hits in “Megalomaniac,” tensions between Sascha Konietzko, EN ESCH, and Günter Schulz were rising quickly. Konietzko brought on Tim Sköld, who previously performed guest vocals on “Anarchy,” and composed a new record with seemingly minimal input from ESCH and Schulz. Intended to be the final album on the WaxTrax! label, the title of ADIOS ended up being especially prescient as internal frustrations and a desire for a fresh start led lead Konietzko to disband KMFDM. Initially released to mixed reception in April of 1999, ADIOS is just shy of a quarter-of-a-century old as it has just passed its twenty-fourth anniversary. With that in mind, a reassessment of the record seems long overdue.
Flavored by a rule of “no guitar solos!” between Konietzko and Sköld, ADIOS follows in the footsteps of Symbols by placing guitars in the background and focusing more on the band’s trademark heavy electronics and beats. While there are no monolithic mega hits like “Megalomaniac” here, the best tracks measure quite favorably against those of Symbols, such as the longtime live staple “D.I.Y.,” the bitter kiss off of “ADIOS,” and “That’s All,” one of two tracks featuring vocals by Nivek Ogre, and a frankly better use of his talents than “Torture” from the previous record. These tracks work as well as they do by doubling down on KMFDM’s core strengths, namely the tight programming, strong songwriting, and effective use of guest vocalists.
A source of consternation from longtime fans had been what was perceived to be relatively minor contributions of ESCH and Schulz, and the total absence of longtime guest Raymond Watts – such criticisms would follow KMFDM’s output after the 2002 reformation. Instead, Sköld is the secondary songwriter and features as lead vocalist on a number of tracks with some rather impressive moments. Among them is “Today,” a track that notably has an alternate version performed by Peter Murphy; the album could have featured that particular take, but despite the popular position of more contributors making a better KMFDM record, Sköld’s version is stronger and gives ADIOS a more unified and focused feel for not indulging in the “kitchen sink” approach with its guests. In fact, when the album does include a brand new guest, it arguably reaches its nadir with “Witness,” for although Nina Hagen is an undoubtedly unique talent, her extraterrestrial rantings and an overly long runtime make the song a chore to get through, robbing the record of momentum that it doesn’t quite get back until Nivek Ogre’s “Full Worm Garden” and the aforementioned “That’s All.”
Although some criticisms of the record are certainly fair, ADIOS is a better album than remembered by many. It signified the end of an era: the end of a long and legendary association with WaxTrax!, the end of friendships and working partnerships, the end of a particular sound and approach that for many is the core of the Ultra Heavy Beat… but it also marked a new creative beginning for all involved, new bands and associations formed, new adventures, new music. Regardless of one’s opinion of KMFDM’s revival three years later and the albums that followed, ADIOS deserves a clean reassessment from those who may have initially dismissed it, as it’s a fine contribution to the KMFDM catalog and a fitting conclusion to the classic incarnation of the project.