CREMATORYIt’s always a real treat when a Crematory album comes out, and there have been plenty of them over their 25 year journey. “Monument” is their twelfth, and while I have a great affection for “Revolution” (2004) in particular, I still had great excitement when I first put this onto play.

The fact is that there is such consistency of quality with everything Crematory do. It’s the definition of a comfort zone. The melody, the fluid gothic metal structures, the irresistible catchiness and the hoarse vocals of Felix Stass are what Crematory are about. And they’re straight out of the blocks with “Misunderstood” and “Haus mit Garten” which both delight with their warm feel and attractive simplicity. Crematory now have a clean vocalist, who places “Die So Soon” in the annals of classic German power metal – a bit cheesy for some, but always fluid and immaculately structured, with a nagging electronic line and unobtrusive solo. More cheese/inspiration follows with “Ravens Calling”. The lyrics are so banal and Europop that it’s bombastic and laughable, but I don’t think that was the intention.

“Eiskalt” is so utterly Crematory, Rammstein, German …. The electronic output sounds sadistic, it’s aggressive, it pumps blood and thunder and it’s completely magnetically catchy. Brilliant. Contrast the kitsch chorus of the following track “Nothing” but this is Crematory – there’s a fine line between the cheese and the riotous explosions of melodic metal. Yet even “Nothing” has an impeccable song structure. For me the dark opening of “Before I Die” is where it’s at. Clean vocals cut in and threaten banality but Herr Stass is having none of this, growling darkly and after another puny interjection, taking this track to new depths. Sing along now … “Meine Tränen fallen leise, Vergangenheit verschwendet” (My tears fall softly, the past disappears). It doesn’t sound so easy but “Falsche Tränen” (False Tears) is another blockbuster. From “Nothing” to “Everything” – it’s another hard-hitting gothic ballad with the fierce chorus and cleaner sections. “Cut out my tongue and cut out my throat” starts “My Love Within”. The growls-clean vocal combination work a treat. The riff is robust as ever. Electro-metal pumps. “Die letzte Schlacht” (The Last Battle) growls Herr Stass. I didn’t think it was the strongest song on the album but there’s plenty of fight, aggression, rhythm and power. All that remains is a dark ballad where the emotional level is stepped up. We’re treated to the strange experience of Herr Stass whispering spoken words, but again it’s a truly haunting and powerful song which gets the epic end which it deserves to have.

Every time I listen to a Crematory album, I think it’s impossible to imagine there could be any more options in the world of punchy melodies and gothic metal. Even the power metal, which is now part of their repertoire, somehow sounds generic and ostentatiously German. But with Brand Crematory everything is pulled off perfectly to maximum impact. It may for the most part be just what I may have expected but it’s so well done and so vibrant that I take my hat off to Crematory for another fresh and classic production.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)