REVIEW: DIE APOKALYPTISCHEN REITER – “Der Rote Reiter”
Die Apokalyptischen Reiter have always been an intriguing band. Never seeming to garner much attention outside their native German boundaries, the band has consistently produced albums which have kept them in favour of one of the largest metal record labels in the world. Their latest album ‘Der Rote Reiter’ is another attempt at spreading the band’s name to a greater audience, and with it the band has once again delivered another fine addition to their catalogue.
While the band may have transitioned away from the thrashier roots they established during their formative years, they seem to have found a comfortable home inside a more ‘melodic death metal’ style of sound that fuses some of those thrash elements into it. The use of fast tremolo-picked areas is still quite prevalent, but the evolution of the bands melodic style cannot be denied on the new album. Tracks like Wir Sind Zurück (We Have Returned) and FolgtÜns (Follow us) command serious attention through this melodic/thrash interplay and it actually had this listener hammering the repeat button on these tracks several times.
The band has self-described this album as “tough, but sensitive at the right moments” and this couldn’t be closer to the truth The versatility on some of the songs, and the album as a whole really caters to a wide range of is listeners. The band uses some particularly interesting song structures in the greater scheme of the album, often changing it up several times across a song helps keep the tracks fresh and interesting. This is perhaps best exemplified by some of the cleaner guitar passages in the aforementioned Wir Sind Zurückand FolgtÜns, where most of the instruments die out and only a brilliantly melodic guitar riff can be heard.
But it’s not only in these songs that this is employed, with the more intriguing songwriting elements used in tracks like Auf Und Nieder (Up and Down) which employs a very bouncy, almost pop-like upbeat feel to it; Brüder Auf Leben Und Tod (Brother on Life and Death) having a spoken word section in it very remiss of something that fellow countrymen Rammstein would perform; and Hört Mich An (Listen to Me) bringing the brutal bottom end on this tremendously evil sounding track.
Fuchs continues to have a very commanding voice that is still transformative the singing of softer sections and also in his thundering heavy parts. The softer nuance to his singing is best felt during the bridge on Wir Sind Zurück from the lyrics ‘Wirkehrenheim’ (“We’re coming Home”) and the ensuing lines, but there is never any occasion where the softer tone, when utilized, feels out-of-place. In contrast, his harsh vocals are still quite strong; however, they do feel a slight bit pitchy and strained at times during some of the more piercing screams, like those on HörtMich An. Anyone who has listened to the band before will understand the sentiment here, and I suppose for someone who has been providing such a raspy sound for so long it’s bound to happen, but it is perhaps one blemish on an otherwise very polished performance from the frontman.
The production value on the album feels good and the album mix overall feels very well-balanced. There isn’t ever a time where the instruments feel like they are overpowering each other, and with the way the album is structured each different musical element gets their own tracks to shine on.
Die Apokalyptischen Reiter is a band that can be likened to Eisbrecher or Rammstein, in the sense that like the Neu Deutsche Harte bands, their music has the ability to transcend language barriers. While it is understood that the majority of their fan base is in their native Germany, this is precisely the right market for them and is probably one of the few places where their music will be appreciated for how great it truly is. While it was difficult at times to wrangle my limited grasp of German to discern the lyrical content, this certainly wasn’t an impediment to enjoying ‘Der Rote Reiter’, and the true credit to the band is this albums ability to remain engaging through an entire album, due to the strength of its music, even with a language difference.
‘Der Rote Reiter’ is a tremendous album with a big sound that is bold in scope, yet precise in delivery that hits with the force of a freight train from its opening second to its closing note. If you have an appetite for something heavy yet melodic, then this is definitely an album you will want to get your hands on.