Today marks the third time we’ve premiered a complete album by the German band Zeit — all three of the band’s full-lengths so far — in addition to lots of other features we’ve done for singles and videos leading up to those premieres. Obviously, we haven’t grown weary of their music. To the contrary, Zeit just keep getting better and better.
Their new album, which will be released on April 14th, is named Ohnmacht. For those of us who don’t speak their native tongue, Zeit explains that this title is a German word that “describes a state of lethargie”, “a powerlessness that results in an accepting behaviour despite the fact of being oppositional to tragic events”. In more detail, they have elaborated on the album’s concept:
A life between the chains of civilization: Stumbling from crisis to crisis, we numbly stare into the nothingness. “What now?” the mind wonders as it dances into the shadows. Frustration, anger and disgust are pushing us to the beat of forced productivity – driven by pandemic, war and climate change. The world struggles with itself and yet does not give up. Because where all is lost, there is hope and freedom. Expect nothing, fear everything.
The album’s musical exploration of these concepts begins with “Strand“, a song the band released with a video. In this song (as we’ve previously written), the high whir of the frenzied and writhing guitars itself generates a feeling of despair, and there’s scalding fury in the vocals. Those sensations create disturbing and disorienting sensations, feelings that are underscored by bursts of skittering and blurting fretwork and relentless drum tumult that’s punctuated by big booming detonations. On the other hand, the music also segues into episodes of staggering, doom-laden bleakness.
But the song further includes punk-fueled pugnaciousness and a kind of whirling ebullience, as well as a segment that seems to channel (in searing, swarming tones) a feeling of tormented confusion and frustration. The song feels like a fight between oppression and defiance, but leaves no clear winner.
A song named “Stein” immediately follows “Strand” on the album, and it too was first presented through a video. The drums are rambunctious but the chords come down grim and stern. After a pungent grunt, the riffing begins to methodically slash, somehow seeming both cruel and despondent, primitive and predatory, and the vocals sound like gnashing teeth coated with acid.
This is all a prelude to a vicious riffing-blizzard, pummelling double-kicks and snare beats that chop like an axe. The frenzy grows, everything sounding even more desperate, and the vocals exploding in terrifying screams. But as they’ve done before, Zeit let their punk roots show, and the music again seems to fight back with bare fists and brazen spirit.
Six more songs come after the one-two punch of “Strand” and “Stein“. Like those openers, they’re varying in their moods (though most of those moods are plenty dark), integrating ingredients of black metal, sludge, and punk, and rapidly changing gears and vocal expressions.
At highest speed and intensity, Zeit hurl molotov cocktails and race through the conflagrations with the wind at their back, but the sounds of violence and delirium often sound like agony and near-hopelessness. “Takt” is one of the fastest ones, but Zeit use thrash-y riffs and hurtling drums to bring the adrenaline, intertwining those with blazing yet beleaguered melody (and martial drumming) with a dramatic intensity of their own.
“Takt“, in addition to being exhilarating and addictive, is but one of many examples across the album which demonstrate that dramatic, mood-altering melody plays an important role in Zeit‘s songwriting. But equally important, Zeit also continue to punch hard, and to swagger and fight, and that’s where they lean most heavily into punk influences and episodes of cold, primitive brutishness (“Kette” being one good example of that, though it also brings to the fore its own wailing, heart-stricken melody).
The fact that all the songs are compositions of many facets and varying speeds and instrumental styles is a big reason why Ohnmacht is so successful in holding attention all the way through. And it must be said that there’s really no let-up in the intensity, it just gets generated in different ways.
It should also be said that you would feel the conceptual themes of the album from the music and the vocals, even if you didn’t have the band’s own words to educate you. You can feel crisis and conflict, frustration and fury, the feeling of getting brutally beaten down by things you can’t control and don’t deserve, the gloom of defeat and grief… and yet we also do detect signs of resistance and resilience, and shards of hope.
Even the closer “Wellen“, which is initially one of the album’s most powerful channels of gloom and misery, turns into a blistering and battering charge that shows no signs of surrender, even though the wounds are there, and the bombastic closing moments might be the most defiant on the whole album.
As mentioned, Ohnmacht will be released on April 14th It’s available for pre-order now, on CD, Tape, and Vinyl.
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