Keine Sonne meeehrrrrrrrrrr...! (No morrrrrrrre Sun...!)
These are the first three words the listener gets to hear on the new CD "TonbergUrtod" by the Swabian Metal combo TOTENMOND. They don't necessarily reflect the sound and atmosphere of the album, however; even though TOTENMOND still make their obscure way through the realms of Punk, Doom and Metal, they don't sound nearly as dark as they did during "Lichtbringer" times or even on their last album "Unter Knochen".
"German Metalcore masters with their sixth strike", the sticker on the DigiPak says. Metalcore? Meh. I can understand that their label is looking for a genre to file them under, but calling them Metalcore really misses the mark by quite a wide margin. There are no breakdowns to be found here and neither is that mixture of clean and rough vocals that is fairly common for said genre. Nope, "TonbergUrtod" most certainly is not Metalcore.
So what is it then? It's TOTENMOND. An evasive answer and yet something anyone who is familiar with the band will probably deem the most fitting. At the most one may admit that "TonbergUrtod" is among the catchier releases of the three Swabians. The first two tracks, for example, will blow your head off in a wonderfully rude Punk, yet metallic fashion and still they are unquestionably TOTENMOND, if only because of the typical (all German) lyrics and vocals by Pazzer.
However: they're at times not quite as cryptic-metaphoric anymore, allowing the listener and reader to guess fairly confidently what they're all about. "Heroin", for example, likely is a biting, energetic commentary on a decadent "me" society whose only drive are drugs ("You dying dog/Lived nicely/And essentially one can die as well without a reason" and "Heroine Heroine/Dream yourselves to death"); "TonbergUrtod - Kastrazion" and possibly "Blutost" as well deal with the topics Third Reich/Holocaust. The meaning of lines such as "who conceived the night for her/and immediately buried the day for me/death of hope of the compressed air sluts/by a redemption feast that starves to death" ("Deine Leiche") remains hidden, to the reviewer at least. It is commendable that Pazzer remained true to metaphors and slogans and thus lends "TonbergUrtod" the necessary eloquence, although the lyrics get really weird at times (or would you expect to hear the phrase "pike in cream sauce" in a Metal song?).
Musically, TOTENMOND remain formidable and unpredictable. "Heidenfeuer" is a stomping Doom beast with venomous vocals and ominous riffs, not entirely unlike the following "Deine Leiche", although said track also has some sweet blast parts in store for you. Tracks such as "Angstbeisser" and "Blutost", on the other hand, develop an odd kind of groove which does not make you headbang as much as rhythmically move nod your head from side to side. "Das Ewige Bluten - Faustrecht", another mid-speed track, even contains a chorus one could call catchy, moreso, sing-along-able! Who would've thought you could ever say that of a TOTENMOND song! Finally, the closer "TonbergUrtod - Kastrazion", though not quite on the level of "Meiner Häßlichkeit" or "Kreuz Oder Kopf", still hints at the strange and sinister qualities of these thread, including a mostly whispering Pazzer and foreboding riffs that emerge from lo-fi depths and finally sink back down to assume an intentionally lousy sound quality again.
All in all, the Swabians have not evolved much, but they haven't been stagnating either. The drumming has become a little more creative, the riffs more varied, the lyrics more unconventional and complex and yet TOTENMOND have remained TOTENMOND. The only thing I personally miss a bit is the darkness of their music, that slightly unsettling feeling which "Lichtbringer" and "Reich In Rost" in particular tended to cause. "TonbergUrtod" is a little more easily digestible, still far, far away from having any mainstream appeal, but offering less raw edges or ugly facets than one may have expected.
But be that as it may. If you like TOTENMONDian music you will enjoy their newest album as well; along the same lines, if it didn't do anything for you, your opinion probably won't be swayed by this. Good album! (Online December 4, 2005)