Coded Message: 12

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Some people come by the "industrial" tag more honestly than others, and this German trio can lay more legitimate claim to it than most. Carsten Jacek, Thomas Lesczenski, and Francesco D'Angelo all hail from Germany's Ruhr region, a former center of steel and coal production; the band had its first success in a local music contest called, believe it or not, "Rock Around Bochum." Following several years of hits on the European goth and alternative charts, the band licensed its Stronghold album to the American Metropolis label in 2004, following it up a short time later with Coded Message: 12. The latter is an EBM song cycle of sorts, centered on the varying significations of the numeral 12. Unfortunately, all of the band's creativity seems to have been focused on the lyrics -- the music itself is, for the most part, standard-issue industrial thud without much textural variation or melodic interest. Exceptions include the unusually affecting "Ascension," a beautifully composed and lyrically touching account of a near-death experience, and a cold-steel jig titled "Plastination City." "Final Curtain" is also more complex and interesting than it sounds at first -- a rhythmically multi-layered composition that eventually segues into a darkly ambient coda filled with the sound of falling rain. The rest of the album isn't bad, but isn't nearly as noteworthy. Recommended mainly to fans of the genre.

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