I had a preview of this album with last year’s single release of the bouncy and anthemic “Shadowmaker”, which features on this album. It mixes Crematory’s melodic gothic metal style, which they’ve been perfecting over 23 years, with a strong and exciting infusion of Electronic Body Music. The three highly-recommended versions of “Shadowmaker”, which feature on the single, are on the Digipak and vinyl versions of Antiserum, the German band’s 12th album. But what of the rest of it?
There’s more of the EBM but magnetic as that is, Crematory have done well not to make it the dominant feature. The dark and thumping industrial rhythms of “Revolution” (2004) are well in evidence but there’s also a strong commercial element to these memorable songs. There is a pattern. The melodic and dark undercurrent is supplemented with catchy choruses, invariably with the title standing out so as to get into the listener’s head. It is unashamedly Teutonic so the militarism of Crematory’s junior fellow countrymen Rammstein comes to mind. It’s there on “Until The End” and the totally uncompromising “Virus”, a psychologically-damaging piece of bouncing and fundamentally crude electro darkness. As for “Kommt Näher” (Come Closer), if being in German adds sinister impact, the gravelly deep-voiced vocalist exhorts us further to (translated) “dance with me” and “kill me”. Vorwärts we march. Lovely. Well, this is Germany.
Teutonic oddity apart, this is a great album full of catchy and evocative songs. “Antiserum” is made for live performance, even to the extent that the electro introduction which leads into “Until the End” has a bit of Crematorial self-publicity built into the shadowy distortion. “Until the End” takes us out of this, mixing a deep and throaty melody with an evocative chorus and a suggestion of the cosmic. Crematory lead us by the hand on these steady and captivating tracks. I liked the following track “If You Believe” even more. The structure and vocals are pure drama, making the song one to savour, relate to and join in. Again the growly vocals and melodic progression are enhanced by a magically memorable clean chorus. It’s as if Crematory have time to indulge us. We are indulged. “If You Believe” takes on a still darker and creepier aspect. Its structure is sublime. It’s unique yet could easily be the band’s next single. But so could “Inside Your Eyes”, which ramps up the energy level. All this darkness should grind us down but it sweeps us along. “Das Virus ist in uns. Das Virus tötet alles” (The virus is in us. The virus kills everything). Sing along now. “Back from the World” maintains the feverish pitch and throws in a few extra twists with its whispering menaces and seamless progressions. “Welcome” has an outer-worldliness and a blend of darkness and loftiness that I would associate with Satariel. The title track takes this further into a more expansive and melancholic sphere, ensuring that the album finishes on a big note.
There is a clear pattern to a Crematory album. The tracks on “Antiserum” have a number of ingredients which could lead to the accusation of repetitiveness. The electro element adds flavour. But what makes this album special is the fact the template is from the top drawer – dark, melodic, edgy, contrasting and yet commercial. Oh, and militaristic. Great job.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)