Cobra Killer

Das Mandolinenorchester

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In an intriguing tweak on the idea of going "unplugged," the Cobra Killer partnership completely ditches its usual electronic backing for Das Mandolinenorchester, revisiting songs from earlier releases as if they were Eastern European folk songs. Admittedly that's a bit of a stretch -- the duo keeps the songs grounded in their original sources, their voices wry, winsome, and witty. But instead of doing the music, they hand over everything to the mandolin-based act Kapajkos, who tackle the arrangements with vim. To top it all off, all the tracks were recorded live in the studio aside from some brief overdubs, lending the album an immediate, playful quality that is echoed in the occasional side comment from the bandmembers. That Eastern European folk music can be as hyperspeed as any gabber techno or thrash metal act ever was already clear, but hearing Kapajkos tackle songs like "The Stoker" and "L.A. Shaker" and completely make them their own is simply wonderful. Sometimes all it comes down to is simply captivating beauty as well -- "High Is the Pine" concludes on a series of gorgeous mandolin flourishes. The contrast between Cobra Killer's more rabble-rousing instincts and the groove of the music is sometimes magical -- consider the way they sing the chorus to "Helicopter 666" while the band adds in backing cheers, not to mention a wonderful, rousing interpretation of the instrumental break, while the first version of "Mund Auf -- Augen Zu" included is strident and confrontational, and doesn't need a speck of electricity. Cobra Killer may or may not do anything like this again, but be glad they did this at least once -- it's a unique, wonderful record that deserves attention.

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