The template for Nitzer Ebb had already been established some years earlier with D.A.F.'s thrilling, rough-yet-clean combination of dancefloor aggression, industrial noise, and lyrical imagery (and vocal stylings), suggesting a combination of fascist rally and hardcore male-bondage sex club. What the Douglas McCarthy/Bon Harris duo did on their first full album was to give it a distinctly English-language bent, as well as drawing on some of the further developments of EBM over time. If the resultant debut was a bit one-note as an overall release, the duo already showed a bent for making sure their concoctions were instantly memorable and undeniably thrilling. McCarthy's singing is less supple and more ear-piercingly harsh than Gabi Delgado's, say, but his seemingly odd quaver actually gives the band a unique stamp, delivering the slogan-like lyrics with the force of overwhelming command. Consider "Violent Playground," which could almost be a Soft Cell stomper with all the swooning romance completely pared away to leave nothing but brute homoerotic force (and appropriate volume). Harris' ear for beats and how to make them really crunch through doesn't let him down -- check out the huge, sudden metal door-slam rhythms on "Smear Body" for a particularly notable example of his ability. If there's a standout track from That Total Age, it would probably have to be "Join in the Chant," with McCarthy's clipped, elliptical words and delivery perfectly suited for the invigorating storm of drum hits and central bass part. That said, there's plenty of close competition, with the quick, frenetic surge of "Murderous," electronic bass and percussion barely in control as McCarthy roars, "Lift up your hearts!," and the equally impressive "Let Your Body Learn" with its use of vocal echo for maximum impact. The CD version includes three remixes as bonus tracks.
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett