Grosse Freiheit

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Between the simplistic industrial riffs, militaristic synths, bouncy percussion, and Wagnerian vocals, can you say "Rammstein"? The Berlin metalheads may have done a disservice to their compatriots by becoming a convenient yardstick by which all German-speaking heavy rock acts are measured, but there's no denying that Unheilig, a part of the Neue Deutsche Härte wave, owes a gargantuan dept to Rammstein. In fact, some songs on Grosse Freihei are dangerously close to being ripoffs -- compare "Seenot" to "Bück Dich" or "Engel." The upside is that you get more first-rate Teutonic dance-metal, which is never a bad thing, but still, this level of derivativeness is as embarrassing as the songs themselves are fun. Luckily for everyone, Unheilig has more up its sleeve than just songs for a decadent headbanging session. The combo of simplistic dark riffs and epic keyboard textures often bring the band within goth metal territory, making them (well, it's really a one-man band) sound like Darkseed, which may seem dated in 2010, but actually works just fine because the music is so catchy. What's more, Unheilig is surprisingly diverse in mood and tempo (unlike Rammstein), and has the rare knack for making slower and more bombastic songs work -- "Geboren um zu Leben," with its children choir, is a killer. The record is sprawling, even without the bonus tracks, and not every song works, but basically, as long as the band is done with ‘Stein worship, it begins to sound interesting to the point of being original, or, at least, fresh and exciting. Considering that the Rammstein ripoffs have the catchiness down as well, Grosse Freiheit is definitely a recommended listen, although it's hard to stop wishing that Unheilig would cut it out with impersonations and explore the sound that really sets the band apart.

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