Album Title: Oblivion
Date Of Release: 13 April 2018
I have always had a soft spot for Crematory, ever since I discovered them on a live compilation disc called ‘Out of the Dark’, released in 1997. Of all of the hundreds of compilation discs to feature in my life, this one stands out more than most because it was a purchase made during my first visit to Camden, London, where I discovered all those magical underground record stores selling music I’d never dreamed of seeing back in sleepy, rural Suffolk. Featuring Moonspell, The Gathering and Sentenced, it also began a brand new voyage of discovery, into realms I’d not yet ventured. Crematory also featured with two tracks, namely ‘Ist Es Wahr’ and ‘Eyes of Suffering’, and it was the former that made the biggest impact on an impressionable teenager.
Whilst it is fair to say that Crematory have never attained the same heights as the likes of Sentenced and Moonspell within my affections, I have always kept an eye and an ear out for the German band. And so, when I was sent the promo for ‘Oblivion’, I felt compelled to take a listen. Somewhat unbelievably, ‘Oblivion’ is the veteran band’s 14th studio album over a career that has spanned over a quarter of a century and counting. Such longevity and conviction is impressive, particularly in light of the fact that Crematory have doggedly stuck to a formula that hasn’t ever propelled them into the upper echelons of the heavy metal elite. They have a loyal cult fan base, but have never reached the reverential heights that others have achieved.
Part of the reason for all this is arguably because Crematory are something of a Marmite band – you either love them or you hate them. After all, uncomplicated, melodic electronic/techno Goth rock/metal that, on occasion, wouldn’t be out of place on the Eurovision Song Contest isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. And, on paper, it’s not my thing either. And yet, I can’t help but listen to Crematory and smile. Inevitably, parallels will be drawn with Rammstein and, to a slightly lesser extent, Samael, but Crematory take things to a whole other level, especially here on this album.
‘Oblivion’ still broadly follows the blueprint of previous records and there are precious few surprises to be heard. The sextet comprised of drummer/programmer Markus Jüllich, vocalist Felix, keyboardist Katrin Jüllich, guitarist Rolf Monkes, guitarist/clean vocalist Tosse Basler and new bassist Jason Matthias are clearly a stubborn lot.
In a nutshell, this all means that ‘Oblivion’ is a fun and enjoyable blast of heavy music that won’t tax your brain cells. It might jiggle them a little though if you find yourself nodding along appreciatively to a riff or two here and there, which I suspect you will. But essentially, the material on this record isn’t a game-changer for Crematory, with it satisfying their grass roots but not likely to draw swathes of new fans to their cause.
The opening composition provides one of the cheesiest and ridiculous introductions to an album I’ve heard. To a pompous symphonic soundtrack, come the spoken words, paraphrased as: ‘Whenever you feel there is no turning back, or the end is near…we are here with you… whenever you see nothing but pain, we’re here with you. Please welcome Crematory’. Are your toes curling too?
But without too much time to contemplate the nonsense that just confronted us, in marches ‘Salvation’, an archetype modern Crematory track that features simple chugging riffs, a melodic chorus, plenty of orchestration and the dual vocals of Felix and Basler. I still love Felix’s quasi-gruff tones, to the point that I’d probably not listen so attentively if his gravelly rumble wasn’t present.
‘Ghost of the Past’ follows and it features a trademark bold and simple melody line over a muscular riff, accented by electronic effects. This has to be one of the best tracks on the record, as it is catchy as hell, with decent grunt to it, the kind that I like to hear from this band. I must admit, I also like the fact that Felix delivers all the vocals. This is not to say that I dislike Bassler’s delivery, it’s just that for me, Felix is the undoubted star of the show.
By contrast, the Bassler-led ultra-saccharine chorus of ‘Until The Dawn’ puts Crematory in direct competition with the likes of Amaranthe, albeit with not quite as much cocksure conviction. That said, I can’t help but like it in a cheesy over-the-top way. Speaking of cheese, the semi-ballad ‘Revenge Is Mine’ follows, featuring a sentimental piano melody that I like and loathe in equal measure.
For my tastes, the heavily Goth-accented vibe of tracks like ‘Wrong Side’ are when Crematory are at their best and I’d have liked a few more cuts of this nature within ‘Oblivion’. Instead, we are treated to the likes of the mushy uber-ballad ‘Stay With Me’ with its vague US commercial rock sheen, and ‘For All of Us’ with its unashamedly massive Nightwish overtones within the dramatic orchestration. It sounds like I’m bashing these songs and to an extent I am. The problem is, they are too damn catchy and fun, so I find myself pressing play more often than I ever thought I would.
Sometimes, you want to just rock out and you don’t care about all the things you normally do when choosing music to listen to. If you’re in that kind of mood, you could do a lot worse than Crematory. You know what you’re going to get, it’s familiar and as hard as you might fight it, the silliness is undeniably infectious. For that reason alone, I don’t hate ‘Oblivion’ – far from it. In fact, I’ll probably listen to it again very soon and grin as I do so.
The Score Of Much Metal: 7.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality
MØL – Jord
Aesthesys – Achromata
Kamelot – The Shadow Theory
Barren Earth – A Complex of Cages
Memoriam – The Silent Vigil
Kino – Radio Voltaire
Borealis – The Offering
W.E.T. – Earthrage
Auri – Auri
Purest of Pain – Solipsis
Susperia – The Lyricist
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse