Kadavar, Berlin: Clarity, Illusions and Dreams


German trio Kadavar set a formidable standard with their self-titled 2012 debut (discussed here), released on Tee Pee and This Charming Man to a swath of multi-continental acclaim and seeming to take on immediate influence particularly in the European underground. When Abra Kadavar (review here) arrived in just the next year as their Nuclear Blast label debut, it rightly thrust the band into another echelon of heavy rock acts worldwide. Touring commenced and continued heavily, and it’s in the context of Kadavar as a substantial international act that Berlin — their third full-length, second for Nuclear Blast and first to feature bassist Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup alongside guitarist/vocalist Lupus Lindemann and drummer Tiger — arrives. An 11- or 12-track collection that runs 45 or 52 minutes depending on which version you get, Berlin is hands down the best thing Kadavar have done to-date.

A sure-fire top-tenner that gets down to the business of boogie immediately with opener “Lord of the Sky,” it never seems to relinquish the hold that cut takes, Lindemann‘s leads careening as memorable hooks on the standout third track “Thousand Miles away from Home” — which follows the irresistible riffy bounce of “Last Living Dinosaur” — as well as on “Pale Blue Eyes,” “The Old Man,” “Spanish Wild Rose” and “Circles in My Mind,” while elsewhere “See the World with Your Own Eyes” kicks into a megachorus of its own, closer “Into the Night” fuels classic proto-metallic street-strut vibes, “Stolen Dreams” launches from full-on shimmy into a jet-engine of a breakdown in its second half and “Filthy Illusion” stomps like a single-guitar Thin Lizzy with standout basslines from Bouteloup.

Granted, that’s jumping around a bit through the running order, but taken front to back, there isn’t one song in the bunch that feels like a comedown from the track before it. Even the bonus track, which is a comparatively subdued, near-seven-minute cover of Nico‘s “Reich Der Träume” (“realm of dreams”), boasts keyboard flourish from Tiger that serves to distinguish it from the pack preceding. Nothing about Berlin comes across as forced, the songs are stuck in your head almost before you realize it, and while swing and ’70s-style fuzz are central to Kadavar‘s approach here as they were on their last two albums, the sense of presentation, confidence and chemistry the band fought for and obviously won on the road bleeds through a songwriting method varied enough to produce the wash and farther-back echo in the verse of “Last Living Dinosaur” and the unabashed good times of “Pale Blue Eyes,” only bolstered by a production less outwardly dedicated to a vintage sound than on either of their prior LPs.


That’s not to say Kadavar‘s methods have shifted away from ’70s heavy loyalism — quite the opposite — just that they’ve hit a point where they clearly feel they can carry across the spirit without directly aping the sound. They’re right. Entirely possible Berlin was recorded analog, in fact I wouldn’t doubt it, but it’s a clearer production, and it serves the material well, allowing a song like “Lord of the Sky” to concentrate on nailing Berlin‘s initial momentum or the chills-up-the-spine hook of “See the World with Your Own Eyes” to be utterly propelled by a build in Tiger‘s drums, or “Last Living Dinosaur” to highlight Lindemann‘s growth as a vocalist, switching register between verse and chorus as fluidly as the track soon enough shifts instrumentally into its rolling finish.

As with their last two outings, Berlin is an easy album to be excited about, and no doubt many will be. Its upbeat movement and vividness are infectious. What distinguishes Kadavar‘s work up to this point, however, is that the quality of the songs stands up after the record’s freshness gives way. Multiple listens to Berlin only make it sound richer, only reveal it to be a more complex outing than its brainwashing choruses at first declare. Subtle moments like the Rolling Stones-style noodling at the start of “Thousand Miles away from Home,” the way “Stolen Dreams” seems to echo the push of “Lord of the Sky” while doing something of its own as well, or how Lindemann‘s voice echoes when he says “night” in the title-line of “Into the Night” and the light Sabbathian touch in that song’s finish make Berlin all the more special.

Not just because they show attention to detail on the part of the band, but because they — like the tones, pacing, melodies and rhythm of the album overall — sound natural, grown out from Kadavar and Abra Kadavar but seeing the world with their own eyes (I just made that up; no idea where I might have gotten it from), the band’s progression evident in both the style they present on the surface and the substance that acts as the foundation beneath. The native-language bonus track makes a suitable finale even as it undercuts a prevailing hopeful sentiment, however, because its somewhat otherworldly melancholy reminds both of Kadavar‘s psychedelic side — something touched on elsewhere but not widely represented — and that at the best of times very often a downturn awaits. Going back to the start to give Berlin another go, one hopes that turn never comes and that, as much as Kadavar have found a new peak and captured a defining moment with these songs, there’s another around the next corner.

Kadavar, “The Old Man” official video

Kadavar on Thee Facebooks

Kadavar on Twitter

Kadavar at Nuclear Blast

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