Xmal Deutschland

Viva

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AllMusic Review by

Viva represents how Xmal Deutschland mellowed with age. No longer kicking and screaming like Siouxsie & the Banshees in their punk days, Xmal Deutschland tone down the dissonance and funereal atmospherics in Viva. Fans of the group's chaotic early records might disagree, but Viva is Xmal Deutschland's finest moment. Xmal Deutschland aren't trying to be scary anymore -- their 1982 single "Incubus Succubus" was creepy stuff -- just beautifully depressed. The opening track, "Matador," recalls the band's old gothic fury; however, it's more focused and accessible. The jumpy new wave drums and dreamy mid-'80s keyboards of "Matador" edge the group closer to pop, recalling the Cure in their transformation from the horsemen of the apocalypse to melodic gloom-rockers. "Matador," the band's catchiest single since "Incubus Succubus," was remixed for the clubs as well, but only the original can be found on the Viva CD. It's inevitable that vocalist Anja Huwe would be compared to Siouxsie Sioux; the similarities are striking, like Ian McCulloch and Jim Morrison. Nevertheless, Huwe has found her own voice on Viva, hitting the high notes on "Matador" with palpable passion. "Sickle Moon" and "Feuerwerk (31.dez)" are haunted by Joy Division's dense guitars and foreboding basslines; they display Xmal Deutschland's more mature approach of crafting songs instead of slamming people over the head with repetitive drones. The abundance of synthesizers also give Viva a lighter feel, preventing the music from becoming overwhelmingly bleak, especially on "Eisengrau," "If Only," and "Illusion (Version)," the latter only appearing on the CD. Although Xmal Deutschland went downhill from here -- 1989's Devils was blatantly commercial -- they're kings of the castle on Viva.

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