DJ & Music Writer from the UK

Apoptygma Berzerk – A Listener’s Guide

Coming Home

Apoptygma Berzerk - Major Tom (Cover)

And as far as conventional studio albums go, that’s it.  At time of writing, it’s been over a decade since the last one.  But they haven’t been quiet either.  In 2013, they released the Major Tom EP, a cover of the Peter Schilling song that itself was a thinly-veiled Bowie tribute, but also a song I now most associate it as the theme to Deutschland ’83/’86/’89 series (and also crept into ‘Breaking Bad’).  And it’s the best APB cover version in years, with the electronic and rock aspects of the band’s sound finally finding some degree of harmony, really nailing that iconic ‘4 – 3 – 2 – 1’ bridge that lets that chorus fly.

The rest of the EP is mainly remixes (the other new track, Dead Air Einz, is a case of will-this-do?).  The People Theatre Remix brings back the trancey synths of WTE/Harmonizer era APB, and turn it into a real dance anthem along the way.  Technomancer go for a more electro-pop treatment, but it works just as well.  They also do the same thing to “Shadow”, but I’ve got a feeling nothing’s going to get me into this song, no matter how important Stephan says it is to the band’s canon.  Alon Cohen puts in a version closer to the Schilling original, but loses some of the dynamism along the way, and the Code 64 mix is a stuttering abomination.

Apoptygma Berzerk - Exit Popularity Contest (Cover)

The next few years saw a series of low-profile 12” singles, which were eventually compiled to form Exit Popularity Contest.  And here Apop throw their curviest ball yet.  Long, evolving instrumental compositions of the kind rarely heard since the heyday of Jean Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, mated to the more robotic beats developed by Kraftwerk and Neu! around the same time.  It just so happens I’m really into this kind of thing, though that also means that I know the style well enough to expose any flaws. 

And whilst I can’t honestly say this is the best example of the genre,  with a few tracks (Still Nar Gruppe and In a World of Locked Rooms) simply not developing sufficiently to maintain interest, the collection as a whole is very pleasing on the ear, particularly the shuffle rhythm of The Genesis 6 Experiment, the Equinox-esque progression of The Cosmic Chess Match and (best of all) a reprise of the “Burnin’ Heretic” theme on For Now We See Through A Glass, Darkly.  It’s not the only old track to see an overhaul, but you might need several listens to figure out what U.T.E.O.T.W. really is.

Apoptygma Berzerk - SDGXXV (Cover)

And this radical back path brings us full circle, returning to ‘Soli Deo Gloria’, released in it’s 25th anniversary edition in 2018 (covered earlier), followed by SDGXXV in 2019, which turns out to be that rarest of things, a truly satisfying remix album.  With 18 tracks, some tracks getting multiple reworks, the collection is held together with thumping, no-nonsense takes on Backdraft (by Invincible Spirit), Bitch (by Substaat), Spiritual Reality (by Portion Control) and Burning Heretic (by Ancient Methods).  All of these acts know how to not-ruin a great tune, in each track giving the original tune a level-up in terms of rhythmic intensity without spoiling its essential appeal.

With the key tracks in safe hands, this allows experimentation elsewhere, with even the between-song interludes given a new touch.  The Sentinel is the most extreme example, given the Volkspalast-am-Montag treatment by both Purient and Blackhouse (the latter also appearing on the 25th anniversary edition of the main album).  The other mixes sit between these extremes, and at least one case improves on the original, with the confused Skyscraping given some semblance of order with a melodic synth take from Monster Apparat. 

Apoptygma Berzerk - Nein Danke! (Cover)

As for new songs, we still don’t have a full album to enjoy, but June 2020 finally saw the release of the EP Nein Danke!, having first issues a 2-track teaser late the previous year. After all the genre hops we’ve enjoyed/endured (delete as appropriate), it’s almost relief to hear uncomplicated synthpop that doesn’t try to forcibly hybridize unrelated genres or get lost in some personal orifice.

Songs like Atom & Eve, A Battle For The Crown and (my favourite by a small margin) Soma Coma won’t be topping all-time lists, but they’re at least proof that Apop haven’t forgotten how to write actual songs. There’s an instrumental Jennifer Corvino which both refers to and sounds like a soundtrack excerpt from an Italian horror movie, but alongside music like this, sounds more like a “nice try” attempt at a Pimpf-style outro.

There’s also a couple of alternate versions, including the latest C-64 conversion (Atom & Eve getting the SID treatment this time), and two throwbacks to the 90s’golden age’. The Vile Electrodes remix of “Deep Red” is an ultra-slow total overhaul that drags out a former anthem twice as long as it should be, but the remake of Nearer, here entitled Nearest, works well as a simple-but-effective reminder of one of the ‘7’ albums forgotten greats.

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