Eskapist by The Hirsch EffektRelease date: August 18, 2017
Label: Long Branch Records
I’ll start this piece by restating one of my (many) unpopular viewpoints: German is a language of cruel understated beauty, one that I dare say matches the elegance typically attributed to French prose, one that is all too frequently reduced to its stereotypical representation as throat-scraping, eardrum-piercing authoritarian speech. Furthermore, bands like Rammstein certainly haven’t helped in dispelling this image, be it through their use of exaggerated enunciations that stress hard phonetics or their grave, martial word flow. The Hirsch Effekt are a band that I hold in high regard, specifically for their challenging of these aforementioned misconceptions, having chosen to articulate their intricate classical-infused prog compositions alongside luscious, soaring vocals sung in the bands’ mother tongue.
Eskapist is the name of the bands’ fourth and latest full-length release, an album announced as their darkest effort to date, revolving around the general theme of escapism, be it through the form of alcoholism, radical extremism or fleeing one’s country as a refugee. Picking up where the heavy Holon : Agnosie left off, the album hurls you into the heart of the action, skipping formal introductions and immediately detonating to the sound of yelled vocals, twangy lead guitar licks noodling up the chromatic scale and syncopated drumming that thrash at your eardrums, sending an electrifying bolt of adrenaline up your spine. However, alongside ‘Aldebaran’, ’Lifnej’ is one of the few consistently heavy numbers on the 12-song tracklist, Eskapist being significantly more steady-paced than its predecessor – although still retaining the same pathological aversion to steady symmetrical 4/4 time signatures.
Starting from ‘Xenophotopia’, the record steadily eases us out of the initial mathcore adrenaline buzz into a slower pace, setting an peculiar, ambivalent mood upon which a fair deal of the album plays, immersing its listener in a world of impermanence where anything can happen. Surely enough, the soothing calm of the tracks’ flute interlude is abruptly crushed by the blunt force of distorted guitars picking up the pace, accompanied by dramatic orchestral arrangements. From sludge metal to jazz and classical music, the Hanoverian trio borrows from a number of different stylistic musings, unloading them at every left turn to keep things fresh and exciting. Tracks like ‘Natans’ and ‘Inukshuk’ also hint towards a heavier, leaner approach to production.
Regrettably, it does occasionally polish off the bands’ distinctive raw chemistry in favour of a blander ‘djent’-type sound. Thankfully, these gripes concern no more than a few sections on the whole record, Nils Wittrock’s trademark twangy guitar tone still shines through the production and the band still rely on the efficiency of their writing rather than a thick production to deliver the goods. ‘Lysios’ – a 14 minute epic delving into the subject of alcoholism – stands out amongst the albums’ most best tracks – definitive, exhaustive evidence to the bands’ creative brilliance. The track steadily gathers momentum, hitting us with one wave of pummelling riffs after the next, eventually shedding its grave mood through a jazzy intermission narrated by a suave voice, followed by a cacophonous frenzy of sax-attacks, thrashing riffs and high-pitched screams. Amidst the erratic, bipolar nature of Eskapist, The Hirsch Effekt does however maintain a clear, focused control over their craft, every song being thoughtfully fleshed out and fitted within the records’ tightly woven progression.
On the whole, Eskapist marks yet another honorable release for the german trio, one that nicely counterbalances the consistent mathcore-driven aggression of its direct predecessor through its effective and cohesive musical narrative. While it may not be the groups’ defining record, every track on the album points to a band whose sound has yet to find due recognition in the international scene. Were I to further bolden my last sentence, I would go so far as to say that – while Eskapist may not be a classic album by any means – I truly believe that it is through the uncompromising approach of acts such as The Hirsch Effect that we may hope to see the metal and hardcore scene thrive and escape its current creative rut.