Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church O - The End of the Beginning [WKN - 2012]Albin Julius Martinek. Reverend Sunlight. Alvin. Herr Fruitcake. The man’s many names and incarnations testify to his now iconic status in the post-industrial world. And a well-deserved status at that, if you think the 45-year old Austrian almost single-handedly spawned two entire sub-genres of underground music in his previous life. Hell, he could fart on a piece of wax or offer an ultra-limited one-sided seven inch for sale at insane prices for a quick Euro and be guaranteed it sells like pretzels. One of which, at least, he has been known to do.
Released back in August of last year, The End of the Beginning is his second album proper under the band’s expensed moniker after 2011’s The Story about the Digging of the Hole and the Hearing of the Sounds from Hell, both of which were released on the man’s very own WKN label. The fact that the songs now bear titles and that the album is also available on cassette are but minor, albeit revealing, details in the grand scheme of things. It really is the music that sets DBaticotlh (as lazy-fingered journos call it) apart from its cumbersome ancestor. The equation is simple. If you liked the kind of psycho-electro-krautpop delivered by the band over the last few years, The End of the Beginning will not disappoint. If, however, you were hoping against all odds for a return to the band’s genre-defining glory days, you might as well stop reading here.
Featuring the now established line-up of Albin, sweet half and aspiring singer Marthynna, as well as long-time collaborators Bain Wolfkind (Novo Homo) and Jörg B. (Graumahd), this new album, adorned with some rather sexy artwork which would do both Lewis Carroll and Albert Hofmann proud, is a pretty straightforward and one-dimensional affair. Trapped between a guitar-based intro and a synth-laden outro that don’t add anything to the proceedings other than serve as a stylistic compendium of the whole, its eleven remaining tracks are, in their vast majority, hallmarked by the sort of Hammond-and-drum-backbone-meets-reverb-drenched-guitar-licks mélange which may sound appealing on a cocktail of red wine and LSD or prove perfect to enliven Upper-Austrian bar mitzvahs but grows frankly tiring after an alarmingly short period of time. The truth is, Marthynna’s pipes aren’t exactly the stuff of legend (though in all fairness, she only takes on lead vocal duties on one single track, the deliciously ominous ‘Right in your Head’) and Jörg’s guitar antics, however sonically-appealing they might appear at first, start to sound rather tired and repetitive a couple of tracks into the record. As for Albin, he still manages to shine through with his keyboard on some of the songs (‘Glad You’re Here’ being a point in case) and the juvenile audacity with which he attacks his parts is one of the few heartening aspects of this album.
As has been the band’s habit since Time Is Thee Enemy all those light-years ago, The End of the Beginning boasts a fine array of guest musicians and soul brothers, each of whom contribute in their own peculiar way to giving the album a well-needed boost of originality. Lloyd James’ (Naevus) appearance is probably the most convincing of the lot, while Lina Baby Doll’s (Deutsch Nepal) drunken antics are as charismatic as we’ve always known them to be – a good thing since he gets to sing on two tracks, most notably the oh-so-suitably-titled ‘The Other End of the Bottle’. DYI punk legend Peter Hope’s and Viennese actionist Jozef Dvorak’s appearances are more historically significant than truly artistically convincing while Sheffielder virtuoso Matt Howden’s (Sieben) violin is buried so deep in the mix as to be indistinctive. The list wouldn’t be complete without Varunna’s Alessio Beterelli, who takes care of bass duties for the band on live occasions and lays down guitar on two tracks.
It would be useless, not to mention unfair, to try and judge the band against what must assuredly prove a large-looming legacy. And at an age when most musicians are happy to just rock out and cash in on past glories, the very fact that Albin keeps trying to re-invent himself should not be held against him by people who think they know better. No doubt any criticism on his recent output will be regarded by him as the inevitable symptom of betrayed fan-boy-ism. Which, in all fairness, is probably the case in some instances. But that need not detract from the fact that for all his innovative qualities and unmistakable compositional genius, the Austrian isn’t the genre-defining and insultingly memorable artist he once was. Whether that is down to the infamous drying-well syndrome rearing its ugly head at last or some temporary adjusting issues in the wake of a long-planned coming-out, only time will tell. What is sure, though, is that if he is to be honest with himself (and his fan base), he would be well-advised to get rid of the first two gothic-lettered words in his band’s name once and for all and abandon the iron cross symbol altogether.