Two of the European EBM/industrial scene’s pioneers team up with one of the most singularly trailblazing figures in American industrial/metal to craft an album of unadulterated force and fury. With the Planet Fear debut album, Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip) and Jürgen Engler (Die Krupps) combine their skills in the arena of boot-stomping, fist-waving industrial dance, topped off by the incendiary guitar riffs of Dino Cazares (Fear Factory); the resulting sounds are almost exactly as one might expect as each artist’s utterly definable signatures adorn each of the album’s 12 tracks in such a way that it could be asked why such a collaboration hadn’t occurred much sooner.
As Larsen and Engler share in the songwriting duties, the album is arranged effectively as an alternating one-two punch of industrialized dance tracks – Larsen primarily credited for the odd numbered tracks, Engler for the even. This leaves Cazares the job of augmenting the pair’s electronics with his distinctly powerful riffs, performed with the kind of precision and mastery that has made him one of the most celebrated musicians in the crossover of industrial and metal. His tone in Fear Factory is legendary, but he seems to dial back his shrill mechanical predilections for a more organic tone, closer to that of his other bands like Divine Heresy or Asesino, that acts as both a contrast to his band mates’ more synthetic constructions and as a complement to the human element of their vocals. Lyrics are as straightforward as what you might hear in a Die Krupps or Leæther Strip song, with Larsen and Engler bellowing out confrontational roars with the barest infusions of melody.
Most of the tracks hit hard and fast with thrusting mechanized beats and scalding bass lines that seem almost tailormade for the kind of embellishment that only a heavily distorted guitar can provide. This is especially so on tracks like “Out of Control,” on which the interplay of a descending bass and synth line in the bridge plays counterpoint to the guttural monotone menace that pervades the rest of the song; “The Hangman,” which contains one of the record’s more striking riffs and catchiest choruses; and the introductory single “It’s All In Vain,” a surefire headbanger with a scorching guitar solo that stands out from the rest of the record. Similarly, “Rich Kid Loser,” “Human Error,” and “Push the Limit” all punch through the speakers with maddening synth and guitar loops set to caustic industrial beats the likes of which are sure to appease genre fans, while the monstrous tritonal assault of “Infectious” is pure heavy metal bliss. Another standout on Planet Fear is the slowly atmospheric “For Nothing,” with the gear-grinding chug of the guitars playing well with the sustained distorted growl of the bass and ambient synth leads. Bringing things to a close are a pair of cover tracks, with Public Enemy’s hip-hop/metal hybrid proving as lyrically poignant as ever, although Larsen’s more sung style as opposed to Chuck D’s rapping might take some time to get used to; as well, some might miss the sampled Slayer riffs, but given the anthemic status of KMFDM’s “Godlike,” it was perhaps the best decision. On the other hand, the cover of U2’s “MOFO” retains the original’s techno rhythms, with Engler’s throatier and more aggressive vocal delivery playing well to the track’s ambience, if not the lyrical subject matter… but hey, it’s a fun track regardless.
Oh yes, this is most certainly a supergroup in the strictest sense of the term as each of the three participants in Die Klute are among the most revered in underground music. It may not seem all that surprising just how well such a combination works, such that Die Klute simply isn’t that big of a stylistic stretch for Larsen, Engler, and Cazares. For this writer’s part, it would be interesting to hear how the cooperation will progress and if Cazares will bring even more to the table on future compositions; be that as it may, there is little to diminish the enjoyment of Planet Fear, a record so fiercely industrial/metal that it will surely conjure up fond memories of the obvious likes of early KMFDM and MINISTRY, along with Cubanate, and of course, Die Krupps and Klutæ’s earliest releases.
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Claus Larsen/Leæther Strip
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)