The concept of this album is intriguing. All indications were that this was not going to be some straight laced piece of music. I was right. Features a cover picture of manic monkeys, “Bananas” is on the face and hard-hitting eclectic mix of death and grind metal with programming, samples, classical inserts and an ambience to suit any lunatic asylum of your choice. So let’s call it avant-garde.
There was always a risk that I was going to find this album a complete cacophony. As I listened to the mad cellist competing with breakneck drumming, operatic screams, samples and the metal guitar on the opening track “King Adiposity”, I wondered if something had gone wrong in the mix. I quite liked this one. Are they Germany’s answer to Diablo Swing Orchestra, I asked myself? No, the harsh and sinister nature of it and above all the apparent lack of fun told me that all this frenetic madness was more like a nightmare. Indistinct and discordant sounds came from everywhere as the anarchy raged on. It was if Rammstein was clashing head on with Crematory, and I was listening to the fallout. The deadened vocals and harsh sound equated to punishment. By the rumbustuous title track “Bananas”, I was deeply concerned. They were now bringing children into singing child-like songs. There was nothing innocent about it. This seemed like abuse. I hated it so much that I had to listen to it again. I’m reviewing this representation of nastiness, I thought, so it would be unprofessional not to listen to it again and hopefully I would not have to listen to this dour offering any more.
I’m glad I listened to “Bananas” a second time. As I did so, I had a look at the lyrics. The real world wasn’t real any more. These songs are about food, gluttony, the consequences of not eating your soup, bad food choices, more food … and a place called Mansfeld. I guess the guitarist vocalist Eric der Mansfelder may have a connection with this German mining town, reflected in the track “Morbus Mansfeld” and its lyrics: “Centuries of mining … red Mansfeld now gazing grey wallow in stubbornness (sic) embodied drabness”. But food is the main concern. The opening lyrics give the game away: “Obese some meat obese to feed, obese some stairs obese we wheeze, obsess some bread of course with cheese, please no sports they hurt my knees”. Fridge-raiding is covered in “Telepathic Trance”: “I wake up in a starving panic, I give up desperate for my tasty snack, with ketchup and mustard, but my wife beat me to it, I’ll just have some cake instead”. Above all, there’s an obsession with cheese. Stinking bishop, double Gloucester, stilton and red Leicester all get honourable mentions. In fact this album has the most oblique line in a song, surpassing even Tiamat’s “have you properly installed the fire alarm?”. The lyric in question is: “Cheese develops the optimal flavour and texture when served at room temperature, take it out of the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before serving”. Sound advice too. That’s from “Gorgonzilla”. I have never laughed so much as I have at the lyrics of these 10 pieces of insanity. If they give up music, these guys should write sketches for TV comedy. Moreover, Godley and Creme’s “Snack Attack” has a modern rival.
Reading the lyrics put the album into the context of its insanity. I decided to play it again and play it loud and … BANG. I was listening to a different album. The competition between the breakneck drumming and the mad cellist on “King Adiposity” was just the beginning. The frantic drumming provides the thread throughout as harsh vocals and a peculiar range of sounds supply the mental imbalance. “Telepathic Trance” consists of typical non-stop action and changes. Dark wall keyboards mix with shadowy voices, growls mix with people sounding not quite right, a bit like Toyah in fact. This is unconventional. And so to “Die Geschichte vom Suppenkaspar”. The pumping beat and programmed sounds are designed to create an air of insanity. The musical intensity and direction smacks of Rammstein but even their fellow countrymen don’t normally sing about people refusing to eat soup. The track ends with an angelic choir – Kaspar is dead. Food is good.
“Killed with Respect and Compassion” sounds like Yello, following up by blending everything together to create a maelstrom. This album is strong on programming and “Nouv-Hell Cuisine” – diet light and sugar free, like eating mud or drinking pee” is part of the message – contains plenty, featuring a mix of grotesque sounds and wild keyboards. It pounds on violently as the vocalist rages about modern culinary trends. And yet there’s a floaty airiness about it. Marching, industrial sounds dominate “Gorgonzilla” as the vocalist trots out advice on cheese. There’s a good guitar solo in the middle of the mayhem. The movement is irregular but impeccably timed. It’s like a bunch of blokes in a rowdy pub with loud instruments. Speaking of bunches, “Bananas” is probably the most disturbing track on the album, oscillating between a sinister sounding German and the customary mania. And then there’s the little girl before violence and ferocious intensity take over on “Morbus Mansfeld”. Like the rest of the album, it’s like a swirling kaleidoscope of chaotic sounds. “Вapи крacнa дeвa вapи” is, as you might gather, in Russian. It’s also the spookiest and even most spiritual track on the album. The tabla and funky bass programming create something deep and sinister. Whistling synthesised sounds and even a hint of Hip Hop Metal produce an intriguing and scary track. “Taenia Solium” brings it all together. Dark and atmospheric and not entirely unlike Tiamat in mood, it’s disharmonious and disturbing. Eastern European sounds faintly peer through this track, as they do through the album. The combination of the urgent drum rushing things along and the slower central part fighting against it make the track irregular and obscure. I was used to it by now.
By cranking up the volume and listening to this album a few times, I have come to appreciate it. It is a work of utter originality and one where the use of degrees and contrasts of sounds are put to phenomenal effect. Give it a try. It may drive you bananas.
(8.5 / 10 Andrew Doherty)