A Sky Harsh Blue Turns Black
It’s notable that the likes of VNV and Covenant remixed Wumpscut last time out, as it was projects like these that began to dominate the industrial-gothic club sound as we entered the 21st century. Had Wumpscut become last season’s fashion? Not if Wreath Of Barbs was anything to go by. Opening The Gates Of Hell might be standard issue dark electro W-style, but it’s still indicative of a return to form after the hiccup of the previous album. This leads to Deliverance, one of the more brisker tracks and with a notably ‘cleaner’ sound than most, the interplay of the synth layers and vocoded chorus again indicating a return to quality after the some of the cluttered mixes we’d encountered a few years previous.
The vocoder stays out for Wreath Of Barbs. Add a Lep Zeppelin drum loop, a psaltery twang and then stack the synths on top, and the result is probably the catchiest tune Rudy ever released. If “Deliverance” kept Wumpscut on scene dance floors during the futurepop boom, this was the kind of thing that FILLED them. Well, it was either that or C(K)hristfuck (spelling differs by version). The one ‘up and in your face’ cut from this era, it’s conceptually a successor to “Golgotha”, sharp keys simultaneously fetishizing the Crucifixion of Christ whilst highlighting the futility of his sacrifice, working in a hint of ‘Fight Club’ for good measure.
Alas, the album isn’t as consistent as the mid-90s releases. Dr Thodt is a tedious grind, a disappointing return for Aleta Welling’s spoken words, and the final four tracks are more of a procedural march to the end of album than any real attempt to see it out with a bang. But for now at least, Wumpscut is safe in terms of continued relevance.
Singles: These were still a thing. ‘Deliverance’ got a six-track release with four alternate versions – two ‘close to the album’ edits and two remixes – the “Reminsicing Mix” is a repetitive slog, the “Soldatengrab” interesting but hardly revolutionary stripped-down take. There’s also an exclusive track “Ruda”, referring to Daniel and Manuela Ruda, a couple recently tried and convicted for murder. Look up the story if you don’t remember it– but the track it inspired is just a load of noise and spoken words with no real spark of inspiration.
As for ‘Wreath of Barbs’, it got the full deluxe treatment. Several remixes were commissioned and fans were also invited to submit their own, with the result being two EPs, the ‘Classic’ EP containing versions that kept to the pattern of the original song, whilst ‘Freestyle’ EP was kept for submissions that twisted the original samples into something quite different. Unlike “Totmacher”, this was a tune that had no shortage of hooks (or should that be ‘barbs’?) and hence the vast cast of mixers had plenty to work with. There was even a remix pack released so fans could submit their own, with the contest winners included on the disc.
Working through all of them is no small undertaking – some mixes deviate into Volkpalast-am-Montag obscurity (Der Blutharsch) or IDM minimalism (Press To Transmit), whilst others extract new melodies from the track’s signature psaltery sample (Der Blutrausch and Grey/Scale). But if you just want to pick out the best one, it’s “Neuroticfish Mix 2”. Actually masterminded by the bands keyboard player Henning Verlage, it ups the songs rock quotient, including a new NDH-style vocal that finally allows you to hear what the words are! (This version is also known as the ‘Unheilig Remix’ – I’ll explain this later!).
Versions: The usual slew of alternate versions and reissues, though the deluxe selection box was actually a bag this time. The bonus CD contained within was “DJ Dwarf One”, which was really the ‘Deliverance’ single retitled. Amongst the extras was a drink called ‘Liquid Soylent’, though I’m told it’s just Red Bull in the can. As a note, most versions, even the basic CD (but not the LP) include the bonus track “Eclipse (Kaelte Container Version)” – the Wumpscut remix of the Kirlian Camera song.
The Concentrated Camp edition also includes the complete DJ Dwarf One, plus a sizeable collection of additional remixes, many dating many years after the original album. There are some non-essential mixes of the albums lesser tunes, plus yet-more takes on the title track. This unfortunately sees the first of many ‘Nigen Remixes’, who saw it fit to do dubstep spin-offs of Rudy’s music – the later Camp editions are particularly blighted by these.
But enough of that shit for now – there’s at least three worthwhile versions. Solitary Experiments and A7ie put in competent interpretations than manage a decent even-parts mix of their ideas and Rudy’s. The highlight is the “Violet Remix” – really a cover version by The Violet Steam Experience. Dark electronics given the steampunk treatment with a newly recorded female vocal? It actually works in a German grufti-baiting cross-genre kind of way!
There was a three year gap before the next studio album, with compilation/exploitation releases filling in the gap (more on those later). This was the last time we’d experience such a gap. From 2004, Rudy would issue one album every year until 2016. Bone Peeler began the series of Wumpscut annuals, and if it was anything to go by, it wasn’t a good sign of things to come. Crown Of Thorns opens the album. The clock chime, marching beat and alternating harsh/vocoded voices were all trademark sounds of this project. But the somehow the track simply didn’t have any mark of greatness. It did what it did well enough, but no part of it leap out of the speaker cones and impressed itself upon you.
Just A Tenderness had the same problem. Built around a metronomic loop, it throbbed and pulsed away, neither repulsing the willing listener nor drawing them in. If the number of remixes commissioned was anything to go by, it was obviously intended as the stand-out club track. But with harsher forms of industrial becoming the dominant force club play around this time, a recording this ordinary was never going to get much attention. And the album carries on like this – occasionally an attractive synth texture or well-placed sample, offset by the some overly-forced rhymes or deviations into pointlessness, but it sounds like Rudy is just going through the motions.
There is a single highlight, most likely accidental. Rise Again nails the mixture of catchy, flute-staccato synth riff and a memorable turn of phrase. But when the stand-out lyric is “Is it worth to rise again?”, it is too easy to associate this line with Rudy himself rather than the messiah or rebellion figure he probably intended this song to represent.
Versions: There was a bonus remix disc that came with most of the European versions of this album – even the non-boxset version. The box itself gets an additional 12” single, and, as usual, you can obtain the complete story on the Concentrated Camp version. Note that there’s a copy-protected version of the CD out there somewhere, which could be problematic for some. Copy-protected CDs were never popular in an era where many people, especially tech-savvy industrial music fans, listened to albums on PCs, but that’s the first and last we’ll hear about this in the Wumpscut story.
There’s a decent collection of name remixers at work – a pity that they didn’t have much interesting material to work with. Many tried, but no-one knew what to do with “Just A Tenderness” (there’s even a remix pack if you fancy a go yourself). Suicide Commando tries and nearly succeeds in injecting some life into “Crown of Thorns”, Das Ich have an earnest attempt to make something interesting out of the otherwise-forgettable “Your Last Salute” and Haus Arafna devise a radical darkambient “Rise Again”. But like the album, the only real moment of success occurs largely by default – Datom adds a livelier rhythmic element to “Rise Again”, resists the temptation to alter the song structure to any great extent, and we have our diamond in the dust.
And now for the divisive moment. 2005’s Evoke. For this album, Rudy adopted a cleaner tone, both in terms of production and artwork. Female vocals are also more prominent here than on any other Wumpscut release. For the industrial purists still gripping onto the 1990s, it was a travesty. For scene DJs, it was too soft and slow to work into their sets. But there was something special occurring here for those with more open minds. It was a Wumpscut album with a distinct “feel”.
Sure, if you want a club cut, Churist Churist is as good as any – driving rhythm and unsubtle synth stabs adorned with constructed-language lyrics and apocalyptic samples from “Protect and Survive”. With that box ticked, the remainder of the album is able to focus on more subtle concepts. The title track, for instance, is a downtempo affair, the angular beat layered with mellow synth tones, chiptune flourishes providing the hook.
It’s the female vocal tracks that will really divide the audience. :W: regular Aleta Welling ain’t on here – instead the guest voice is the previously-unknown Jane M., singing rather than speaking the words on three songs. The album opener Maiden revives the concept of waltz time Wumpscut to good effect, Don’t Go is darkwave pop that would also have worked if the lyrics weren’t so repetitive, but Hold is the real gem. Plucked strings and a minimal tech groove the basis for one of the few genuinely touching Wumpscut tunes. The back end of the album doesn’t offer any individual highlights, but the album as a whole works as a complete piece. It’s the last time I can honestly say that occurred.
Singles: There was a spin-off EP entitled Blondi. Unfortunately, it’s mainly based around remixes of “Rush”, one of the albums lesser tracks. That said, Der Blutharsch makes a surprisingly strong attempt at injecting some life in a tune in his unique psychemartial style. There’s also the “80 64C” remix, a partial conversion to the chiptune style alluded to by the title track, and actually enhancing the appeal of a song that simply didn’t develop sufficiently in its original form.
Versions: Like ‘Bone Peeler’, the European version had an extra remix CD as standard, and also an ‘Evokebox’ with a double vinyl version of the album. As usual, the Concentrated Camp edition has the lot, including all the mixes from ‘Blondi’ and several alternate versions of almost every other track.
Unless you’re a devotee of the usual band of retainers, just head straight for the two mixes of “Hold” by the two projects that really know what to do with a female vocal. Yendri’s version blends a walking bassline with countless embellishments that take the song in new directions, whilst Kirlian Camera deliver what is really a quasi-cover, with Elena Fossi re-recording the vocal and the mix drawn out to seven-and-three-quarter minutes. The end result is a dark synth epic with an orchestrated outro, a must-hear for KC fans, no matter what Rudy’s usual crowd thought of it!