Three years have passed since Die Apokalyptischen Reiter released their rather tremendous double album, ‘Tief. Tiefer’, and 2017 sees the long anticipated follow up ‘Die Rote Reiter’, ‘The Red Rider’, and no, it’s not some harbinger of doom from A Game of Thrones, rather a rock solid slab of energy drenched Teutonic metal! Opening track ‘Wir Sind Zurück’ sprints out of the gate declaring the triumphant return of Reitermania, a gloriously massive composition combining lashings of speeding guitar riffs and musical mastery, all wrapped up in the endless enthusiasm that is practically a trademark of the band on record and on stage. DAR (as I will now refer to them to save myself a bit of typing) are not a band that do anything by half measures; I’ve seen them playing festival main stages to massive adoring crowds and in horrendously under-attended club shows (maybe the reason they have not hit the UK shores in far too long?), and each time, the band played their sets with unashamed joy.
Title track ‘Die Rote Reiter’ follows hard and heavy, with frontman Fuchs growling his way through the number, hinting at their more extreme roots, alternating his death metal vocals with a chillingly spoken delivery that is made even more menacing by the harsh German consonants; imagine if you will the child of an unholy union of Amon Amarth and Rammstein, and you are definitely in the right ball park. As quickly as the band have satisfied those metal fans who require a dose of the grim, DAR do a 180 on follow up ‘Auf Und Nieder’, throwing in a folk metal sound that will surely have tipsy festival fans doing their best reels around the pit, the translation of ‘Up and Down’ being an apt description of DAR’s obviously eclectic influences, and their willingness to allow them to all come through in their own sound. For the entire album, DAR continue to variously move between and blend sub-genres, each time with nothing less than a consummate skill: ‘Hört Mich An’ reverberates with the precision and menace of the Germanic industrial heartland; ‘The Great Experience of Ecstasy’ has them coming as close to being pure extreme metal as they have since their early days, the addition of Pest’s plaintive piano adding an extra layer of Gothic darkness, and no, before you ask it is unfair to compare it to the work of a certain Mr Filth, DAR coming across with none of the self-satisfied self-congratulatory arrogance that I find permeates the latter’s work. The band even manage to throw in a Power Metal style near ballad with ‘Herz In Flammen’, intricate guitars weaving around huge sweeping keyboard lead cleanly sung choruses, and if ‘Heart In Flames’ isn’t a title that belongs to that genre, I don’t know what is. Thirteen tracks go into ‘Die Rote Reiter’, and not one is a throwaway or filler, and the skill with which DAR craft each one just shines through.
I’ve often wondered why the band has not been bigger outside of continental Europe, albeit they now compose songs exclusively in their native German, and there is a resistance to that in a musical market that expects nothing but English. Yes, in extreme metal there is less of a snobbishness (or maybe the grunts and growls of the corpse faced bands is its’ own heavy metal Esperanto?), and there are rare exceptions such as Rammstein that can headline any metal festival worldwide with their massive stage presence. With their body of work, undeniable musical ability, and a live presence that is guaranteed to slap a grin on the face of anyone present, Die Apokalyptischen Reiter deserve to be more widely appreciated, and I hope this album is the one that will carry them back to these shores and further afield. So, in summary, if you are a fan of Industrial, Folk, Power, Prog, Extreme or simply bloody good Heavy Metal, you will find something to suit your taste in ‘Die Rote Reiter’. Buy and enjoy!