Out of Line (OUT 688), 2014
These days, I don’t listen to nearly as much EBM as I did during my heavy clubbing phase. One artist that has retained my interest, however, is Germany’s Heimataerde, so a new release from them is always welcome. Marrying classic EBM to medieval instrumentation, Heimataerde’s music is rooted in telling the saga of Ash, a vampiric knight roaming the war-torn and blood-soaked landscape of the Crusades, seeking recruits for his own army. Over five albums and multiple EPs released since 2005, the concept has never wavered, but the style of the music has changed. Early work was straight dancefloor aggression, with pounding percussion, powerful bass sequencing, and snarling German vocals, but Heimataerde added new elements with bagpipes and flutes sounding intricate melodies alongside the wonderfully effective and well-written EBM. It’s a formula that has continued to entice and satisfy, and the band has evolved over time, reducing the angst and adding melody and electric guitar.
Bruderschaft is a single (not many bands release singles anymore, do they?) released in hand-numbered copies of 666 (ha!) and intended to be a preview of the forthcoming new Heimataerde album (huzzah!). Herein are four versions of the title track, in varying styles that showcase the band’s continuing commitment to changing things up. The first version features synthpop-style vocals and electric guitars that first appeared in bulk on their 2012 album Gottgleich, and it’s quite interesting that this is the same band that released charged-up rampaging war hymns like “Endlos” and “Die Offenbarung.” The song still has the energy and pipes and chord-shifting electronics that have always been the band’s backbone, but the vocals are clearer and more confident now, and move through chords along with the synths. There’s even some light dubstep elements.
The three other versions of “Bruderschaft” (which translates as “brotherhood”) are quite, quite different. The Kytara version removes the electronics, adds acoustic guitar (!) and traditional hand-drums. It’s basically Heimataerde acapella, and it works better than you might think, showing the strong songwriting that the band has always featured. The Choral version eschews the German vocals for emphasis on the backing chorale-style vocals, which follow traditional melodies that the band has often utilized and updated into their modern EBM structures. Both these versions are combined in the Rueda version, and it’s quite cool to see how Heimataerde has fit these differing styles together.
Of course, no single is complete without b-sides, and Heimataerde is known for including outstanding exclusive tracks on their EPs. Here we find “Misere Re Mei,” a quietly energetic instrumental that sounds straight from the shadow-lurking introspection of 2010’s Unwesen. A wonderfully nostalgic bass sequence drives forward a 4/4 beat while a chorus mumbles and murmurs in the background. It’s medieval EBM as only Heimataerde can do it, firing on all cylinders. The gem here is “Wir Leben Noch,” nothing less than a fantastic song that shows the band at the height of its powers. The German vocals are perhaps the best the band has ever done, the guitars are integrated better than on Gottgleich, the sense of inertia and timing are impeccable, and the bagpipes are as evocative as ever. It’s as finely executed a song, across all elements, as you’ll find in the band’s discography. Again, it’s so cool to see how the band has grown and evolved since its inception; if you’d told me in 2005 that the band that released Gotteskrieger would release “Wir Leben Noch” nine years later, I’d have been shocked…and impressed.
Heimataerde is a rare band sticks to a formula but varies it just enough to avoid repetition and stagnation. It’s to the band’s credit that the concept has remained the same since the band’s inception but has yet to become stale. Bruderschaft does exactly what it should: it whets the appetite for the imminent album, while providing a good haul of content. This is no mere cash run; Heimataerde takes its music seriously, and has worked very hard on perfecting its craft. If this EP is any indication, we’re in for quite an installment in the further adventures of Ash when the new album arrives. Heimataerde is keeping the undead faith, friends, and in my experience there are few modern electronic bands that continue to produce flat-out wonderful EBM with such inspired precision.