It's been nearly 20 years since KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid) first said adios to the music world, mainly to the Wax Trax years. A rebirth emerged in 2002, after running briefly as MFDMK, and, one might say at the risk of blasphemy, became a better, tighter band. "Hell Yeah" is the band's 20th album and follows the "Yeah" EP, which KMFDM scooted out earlier this year. No pity for the majority as ever, in spirit and in lyric, yet Sascha Konietzko and his femme-fatale wife, Lucia Cifarelli, are after something different this time around. Something that's caused a mite bit of unnecessary controversy from the start following the debut of the album's two singles, "Murder My Heart" and the title track. Said controversy has nothing to do with the band's ongoing tirades against political corruption and cultural languor.
As always, a KMFDM album cover by Aidan "Brute! " Hughes is one to marvel at, much less dig deeper into. "Hell Yeah" displays a sassy if provoking depiction of a would-be martyr snapping a selfie of his own flaming suicide off the Eiffel Tower. The double entendre of a self-absorbed society is expected to be noticed, but an instant suspicion that the KMDFM horde is also sniping at terrorism can't be undersold. Neither can song titles such as "Total State Machine", "Fake News", "Freak Flag", "Rx 4 the Damned", and "Glam Glitz Guts & Gore", the essence of the always confrontational KMFDM. Nor can the gaggle of guests on "Hell Yeah", including Doug Wimbish, Sin Quirin, Jules Hodgson, Gared Dirge and spoken word artists Anabella Asia, Mika Harms and Abby Martin. Dirge contributes to KMFDM by way of LORD OF THE LOST bandmate Chris Harms, who drops much of the album's guitar tracks.
Yet many of KMFDM's customarily snide messages are bound to be lost in the morass of debate already fired up since "Hell Yeah's" release. This album is surefire anti-pop, but a return to the early Wax Trax methodology and sometimes lighter conveyances have some fans blowing raspberries.
No doubt, the title track is a mad pumper with a crotch-thrusting tempo and just enough riff heat to set this thing off like gangbusters. Yeah, KMFDM has been heavier and Sascha's far cleaner pipes here give it a slightly more relaxed slide, but "Hell Yeah" throbs like it was carved out of a rave from the early 1990s. Can you see a delicious tag team with KMFDM and RAMMSTEIN pumping this sucker onstage? Here is where you're either going to go nuts or go home, depending on what you want from this album. "Freak Flag" thereafter carries the same club-minded pulse with Lucia Cifarelli weaving and occasionally sneering along the electro showers pouring around her. Her full snarl, however, is reserved for "Rx 4 the Damned", one of the ugliest yet funkiest rump shakers on the album. Lucia is vicious on that one.
Sonically, there's less urgency than recent albums, and more attention to stripped-down groove and electro woofing as Sascha and Lucia explore a little bit more with EDM and trip hop while consulting KMFDM's "Naïve" era. "Total State Machine" turns on the thrusters when it needs to with blaring guitars on the intro and choruses, but otherwise it slinks and shucks along a bass and drum machine system. When Sascha loudly decrees "Your government hates you!" it is disquieting, no matter how many similar edicts he's thrown over the years. "Shock" makes the most of the old industrial days with a vertigo-inducing loop of synth and bass providing Lucia a trippy twirl to murmur through.
As previewed for the public already, "Murder My Heart" stakes a new bearing for KMFDM with Lucia well in her element inside a skip rope of electro pop. This is sure to both excite and alienate some listeners, but anyone following this band for a long time knows it has yet again hit a need to swing instead of clout. "Naïve", "Money" and "Nihil"—1990, 1992, and 1995 respectively—being three points where KMFDM staked its claim, even with "Money" pared of En Esch's contributions, as a mutinous mutant dance party machine. Whether or not the group begins to internally loathe "Murder My Heart", assuredly destined for the stage, like "Juke Joint Jezebel" will be something to keep tabs on later down the road. As it stands, "Murder My Heart" is a head-turner, but no less than "Blitz"'s "People of the Lie". Truth of the matter, these left-of-center steps out of KMFDM's rowdy epicenter are welcome, if for nothing else, to show off the group's ability to write.
"Rip the System v. 2.0" is a reworking from the 1989 version found on "UAIOE", right down to its synthesized reggae splashes and prowling digi-rhythms. Some louder guitar dumps and scratchy voice samples behind Sascha's choky recitations give this redux a smidge more heft. Not a day goes by without terrible events and a lack of hope for a change, these reminders are the reason to dust off "Rip the System". Nothing has changed nearly three decades since its original release, and at the minimum, its revival here serves up a necessary caveat.
Letting sheep think for themselves behind smokescreens of "monetized content" is what Sascha cajoles into the retro thump behind "Fake News". It's fitting that KMFDM is one of the first to attack the trendy colloquialism made popular by everyone from Donald Trump, to alternate fact finders, to rabble-rousing Facebookers. The emphasis on drum machines and lesser guitars serves the track's snide revelry.
Those who have become addicted to the monstrous riffs that have turned KMFDM into a bouncing juggernaut will find their pleasure pill with "Burning Brain", one of the fiercest tracks on the album. The digi-scrambled beats and Chris Harms's ratchety guitar chunks are set to full slug mode and a squealing solo makes it all the juicier. And would you expect a song called "Glam Glitz Guts & Gore" to sound pussy? Hardly thus. If anything, it's the monster finish you're hoping for.
"Hau Rock", "Tohuvabahu", "WTF? " and "Kunst", earlier KMFDM albums, present a steady succession of aggressive, guitar-hungry grooves, which gives an album, with a joyous preamble titled "Hell Yeah", the opportunity to decimate. Okay, so that doesn't happen, but not everything can be the fist-banging mania of "Power", "Stars and Stripes", "Looking for Strange" or "A Drug Against War". "Hell Yeah" loses not a lick of its lyrical venom, but it does give Sascha and Lucia the opportunity to give their calamitous antagonism spores of verve with old school wax and mechanized shakes. Definitely a grower album.