Review: Unheilig – ‘Lichter Der Stadt’

By on 18 April 2012

UNHEILIG
‘Lichter Der Stadt’
VERTIGO BERLIN (Universal)

Lichter Der Stadt is the 8th studio album from German Neue Deutsche Härte (NDH) act Unheilig, and their second via major label Universal. Previous album Grosse Freiheit kept them at the top if the German album charts for a record breaking 18 weeks; something pretty much unheard of for an act with gothic rock roots.

It should be mentioned at this point that the entire album is in German, as is all of Unheilig’s material with the exception of debut album Phosphor. Don’t let that put you off though; the structure and power of their songs combined with Der Graf’s distinctive baritone vocals, more than makes up for lack of understanding the content of the songs themselves.

This latest offering is a concept album, which opens with a typically dramatic Unheilig intro (Das Licht). A strike of lightening launches the listener into the classic NDH Unheilig with Herzwerk. Punctuated with cries of ‘Feuer!’ (Fire), this will be a popular addition to Unheilig’s live sets.

Herzwerk ends abruptly to make way for So Wie Du Warst (Just Like You Were), which is as sentimental as it sounds. It takes the album straight into the epic ballad territory of the much YouTube parodied, (and chart topping) Geboren um zu Leben.

Tage Wie Gold (Days Like Gold) is almost indie, being not dissimilar to Editors or White Lies, but made Unheilig’s own via Der Graf’s distinctive vocal style. An interesting new musical direction for Unheilig and one that hopefully there will be more of.

Wie Wir Waren (How We Were) is another sentiment-fest in the style which was predominant on Grosse Freiheit and an indicator of Unheilig’s major label status. This song is a duet with Andreas Bourani – a 2011 Bundesvision Song Contest contestant (TV song contest between German States). A contest Unheilig won in 2010. This song is likely to be skipped and forgotten by gothic fans, but has the potential to be a big mainstream hit in their home country

Unsterblich (Immortal) is best treated as an intro to Feuerland, the song it precedes nicely, but it is not memorable in itself. Feuerland encourages the long term fan of Der Graf and co to stick with this album. It trots along nicely like any standard meaty Unheilig offering.

Next onto the title track – Lichter Der Stadt (The City of Lights). Another commercial offering (by German rock friendly standards), but still distinctively Unheilig.

Then we move back into ballad territory, which takes up a larger portion of this album. Ein Guter Weg (A Good Way)- slow, piano piece which is not their best. Ein Großes Leben (A Great Life) is another ballad but more in the vein of An Deiner Seite. Brenne Auf picks up the pace but is a little too AOR. Zeitreise (Time Travel – ah the German language is lovely sometimes!) again sticks to the AOR formula, while retaining the NDH flavour of Unheilig.

Das Leben Ist Schön (Life is Beautiful – what is it with Unheilig and loving life?) Is an epic, electro-poppy yet interesting ditty, which wouldn’t get kicked off my mp3 player. Very German and reminiscent of Wolfsheim (no surprise as Wolfshiems’ José of was involved in the conception of Unheilig).

The penultimate track Eisenmann (Iron Man) could be by Rammstein, a band Unheilig often get mistaken for in clubs -which has led to them being unfairly overlooked as an act in their own right. Maybe an attempt to entice fans some of the better known NDH act. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a future single release.

The album exits on Vergessen (Forget) and draws a close on a very varied and lengthy album (16 tracks in all). The range of styles is a probable attempt to please fans new and old (and a major record label) and it works. Despite Der Graf being a regular feature on German music TV shows and a limited edition Unheilig VW Golf on the market; Unheilig have not sold out as much as they could have – a testament to popularity of rock music in Europe. Unheilig’s trademark epic soundscapes are still there and despite toning down the gothic image, Der Graf is still the same on stage; the shows are just bigger and better. Overall Lichter Der Stadt is of a slower pace to previous releases ,but doesn’t disappoint as much as feared. I am unsure whether this album will be anywhere near as successful as Grosse Freiheit, despite already hitting the top spot in the three German speaking nations. If the fickle mainstream turns its back on Unheilig, the alternative fans will still be there. Songs like Herzwerk, Das Leben Ist Schön and Eisenmann prove they haven’t turned their back on us.


[4/5]

Victoria Fenbane

 

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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