Aside from a three-year hiatus, KMFDM has been around for nearly 35 years. While the iconic industrial machine certainly has its devoted longtime fanbase, does any band really need, count them, four live albums? To be perfectly fair, it isn't that outrageous considering how prolific the group has been. The German group has released 20 full-length albums—including standouts like 1995's "Nihil", 2011's "WTF?!" and its most recent effort, 2017's "Hell Yeah"—that have spanned the gamut between danceable, club-friendly electronics to heavier, guitar-focused industrial ragers. Whatever the reason may be, and whether or not it was a contractual obligation, "Live In The USSA" is a thoroughly enjoyable live album.
"Live In The USSA" draws heavily from the collective's latest studio effort: 2017's "Hell Yeah", one of its best albums in years. The performances were culled from the Atlanta date of KMFDM's American touring cycle for said album last year. The high quality of the live album is that much more impressive considering the challenges that the German band faced with the tour. The intended opening band, LORD OF THE LOST, was supposed to additionally stand in as KMFDM's live band. As fate would have it—aka administrative problems involving visas and paperwork—LORD OF THE LOST was unable to enter the United States. Stepping up to the plate at the eleventh hour was Andee Blacksugar who learned KMFDM's guitar parts in a few weeks. And apparently Blacksugar proved to be impressive enough to be drafted as a full-time member, joining founding member Sascha Konietzko, as well as drummer Andy Selway and vocalist Lucia Cifarelli.
The 12 songs comprising "Live In The USSA" are split in half: six songs taken from "Hell Yeah", the other half dozen being old-school bangers. A roaring crowd opens things up, periodically remaining audible throughout the release, prior to the uplifting drive of "Freak Flag" kicking in. The similar upbeat spirit follows suit with the track "Hell Yeah", boosted with some heavy guitar work tastefully peppered in. Dangly, low-end electronics and rapping change things up on "Rebels In Control" (from "WTF?!" ). A more pronounced and blatant rap rock approach takes hold with "Virus", from 1990's "Naïve".
Elsewhere, and more fit for fishnet clothing and goth club dancing, Cifarelli's passionate crooning leads the charge on the seductive track "Bumaye", from 2007's "Tohuvabohu". The song's chorus sections contrast the verses with the hefty guitars and duet vocals. KMFDM also lays down the heavy metal hammer to the face with "Glam Glitz Guts & Gore", not entirely unlike the MINISTRY-esque "WWIII", from 2003's release of the same name. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Konietzko and company crank the aggression knob all the way up for the closing cut: "Godlike", a classic from "Naïve".
No matter how hard and heavy the Germans get with the tracks that will get the blood boiling, or if it's the group's more club-friendly, danceable music, it never ceases to be as catchy as the top-tier pop artist of the day. The devoted fanbase remains and grows because, while KMFDM has never betrayed its distinct industrial rock core, the band remains fresh by being open to evolution. As with most live albums, "Live In The USSA" isn't exactly mandatory listening. But it proves the act's worth in the live setting, and highlights the music's enduring relevance, as well as the quality of KMFDM's most recent studio work.