Using World War I as a template (utilising themes as opposed to basing the music upon the war itself), the band have undertaken extensive research, sifting through audio recordings dating from 1914-16 of prisoners of war from all over the world (recorded at one of the first large internment camps near Berlin), via sound archives at Humboldt University in Berlin and at the Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv (German Broadcasting Archives). These interviews have been integrated into and around a ‘lament’ and a ‘motet’ style (the latter was named via a Flemish Renaissance composer dealing with the biblical story of the prodigal son). The music of the Harlem Hell Fighters – the first Afro-American combat troop, who fought together for the first time during World War I, is also featured.
As ever with Einstürzende Neubauten, instrumentation holds no boundaries so we’re talking steel, voice and anything else that they could get their hands on.
The metallic nature of the instrumentation begins immediately with Kriegsmaschinerie (machinery of war). On this track, you really feel that the weapons of war are being dragged from stage left. Piled onto the field of action, ready to be used at a flick of a switch. This track is, frankly, wonderful. It shouts at you that this was the very first industrialised war. The volume slowly build as the hardened steel frankly threatens to overwhelm. For many millions, it did.
Track 2, Hymnen is beautifully satirical, emphasising the closeness of the two principle warring sides and how the respective royal families were inter-related as the British National Anthem is sung in German. This is followed by a series of telegrams sent to and from the German Kaiser and the Russian Tsar, set to music. A brilliant reflection of the rising tension, pre combat.
After that? In De Loopgraff (In The Trenches) is a perfectly structured track, exhibiting the rhythmic building of the trenches, which would serve as the home to many of the soldiers during the war.
And on it goes. One incredible track follows another. Each a portrait, a unique event, a sketch, a symbol. Taken as a whole, the album is a true work of art. An industrial opera, if ever there was one.