DJ & Music Writer from the UK

Wumpscut – A Listener’s Guide

Because It’s Me Who Can Tell You How Hard It Is To Live

Wumspcut - Bunkertor 7 (Cover)

Bunkertor 7 arrived in 1995, and at this point we reach what most critics would call Rudy’s ‘maturity of sound’ phase.  We still get the no-holds barred slammers, if that’s all you’re interested in. Dying Culture appears in its definitive version, and it’s a fitting farewell to the sound of Slaughtering Tribes.  Mortal Highway twists a sampled riff into an industrial blast of Ministry-level intensity.  Corroded Breed, Torn Skin and the title track also achieve similar ends, but to focus on these would be to detract from the real sense of progress.

Because this album’s true strength lies in its subtleties.  Die In Winter is a rare example of dark electronics set in waltz time, the 3/4 groove really playing up the song’s morbid overtones.  Thorns is an instrumental combining rich synths and a plucked acoustic melody that is almost medieval in nature, offset by a cold, hard rhythmic backbone.   The real stand-out is Capital Punishment, a track that unfolds ever-so-slowly with a tale of a condemned man awaiting the gallows, before the trapdoor opens at the halfway point and the song explodes into life (or should that be death?). A dynamic contrast that Rudy would rarely equal, and never surpass. 

Versions: This album has been issued many times.  Avoid the American issues titled “Bunker Gate 7”.  They alter the track list too much, subbing in two alternate versions of ‘Die In Winter’ in place of the original.  Devoted collectors will want to seek out the Ant-Zen box set version, featuring ‘Preferential Legacy’ as a bonus LP, though these early compositions are available in several other forms if you just want the actual music.

Sadly, for all the versions, this album’s release history is one of the least generous for bonus tracks.  The ‘Concentrated Camp’ edition omits some of mixes from the alternate CD issues, but instead offers a number of early takes.  “Corroded Breed” is recognisable for what it is, but “Capital Punishment” is very different, lacking the crucial ‘hit’ of the final version and possibly indicative of the work that went into getting it just right.  These two tracks also get a Haujobb remix, both to be filed under ‘technically proficient’.  Is that damnation with faint praise?

There are also several :W:-remixes of tracks from the album that originate from the ‘Resample Edition’, a re-recorded version of the album issued in 2009.  The full version isn’t available on Bandcamp, but it’s really of interest to completists only, as many of the tracks suffer from being reworked for their own sake and losing much of their original impact.  The strongest rework by far is “Thorns”, working in new loops alongside the original sounds to create an intriguing, if quite percussive fresh interpretation.  Thankfully, this is one of the half-dozen tracks chosen for the ‘Concentrated Camp’ download, so you can enjoy it without too much hunting on Discogs.

Wumpscut - Embryodead (Cover)

And we now we come to Embryodead from 1997.  Depending on your interpretation, this album is either the pinnacle of Wumpscut’s musical achievements and a landmark of late-90s industrial, or the most depressing, god-awful, no-hope-for-mankind collection of songs in existence.  Both interpretations are valid.  I knew what I was letting myself in for when I opened the CD for the first time and found this dedication.

“(Embroydead) is dedicated to all foetus acting wisely enough to die in their mother’s womb before they could be thrown into this cruel world of blind hate.  May they never know how hard it is to live without any reason, without any sense…”

If that sums up your view of humanity, then this album is for you.  The quote is referring to the title track, which might have been five and half minutes of the usual drum-hammer and cold synths with periodic crescendo, but Rudy’s misanthropic rant, attacking our own species from the point of conception, can’t fail to move you.  The subject of childbirth (or rather it’s failure) also features on Womb, a foetus-centric view of abortion, and the album closer Stillbirth, which is probably the best example I’ve encountered of getting the ‘creepy child’s music box’ concept to achieve it’s intended effect.

No Wumpscut album is a single issue affair, though.  The album opener Golgotha takes the now matured musical concepts of “Soylent Green” combined with story of the futility of Christ’s own sacrifice to provide what was probably the stand-out club hit from this album.  War goes into full on noise loop territory, memories of the project’s brief tenure on Ant-Zen.  Is It You has a more sinister edge – like a horror movie set to music, it’s one of the few Wumpscut tracks ever performed live.  By Velvet Acid Christ rather than Rudy himself, but we’ll take what we can get here.

Indeed, with the exception of the directionless Pest (hint – don’t sample drum loops from Genesis!), all the tracks on this album serve some musical, conceptual or atmospheric purpose.  But even this darkest of all albums offers a single moment of redemption.  Just as NIN’s ‘The Downward Spiral’ gave us a single “Warm Place”, ‘Embroydead’ offers Angel.  Free of the rhythmic grind, the delicate chimes and arcing synths offer one hope of divine redemption, a redemption that is ultimately neither delivered nor deserved, and with it goes the last hope that this album could offer any respite from grim reality.  But what a gloriously grim reality it proves to be.

Versions: Writing this part seems like an anti-climax.  The album has been issued many times – an early box set version includes a bonus disc ‘Music For A German Tribe’, containing German-language versions of some of the early Wumpscut hits.  This is now more easily obtained on other releases, so we’ll get to that later.   Other versions contain various remixes and instrumental versions, with the Concentrated Camp edition omitting German tribe, but otherwise containing the complete spread. 

The instrumentals aren’t essential listening and ultimately feel like they’re filling out a rather sparse set of extras, though some of the remixes are of interest..   Two alternate versions stand out.  “Down Where We Belong (Minimal Setup)” is one of best attempts at meshing a rapid techno loop to a Wumpscut original – a concept that would be tried many more times, rarely with any success.  Brain Leisure’s remix of “Angel”, meanwhile, achieves the unthinkable, grafting a rhythmic element to a composition that worked so well without a single beat, and not fucking it up in the process. 

Wumpscut - Boeses Junges Fleisch (Cover)

The problem with greatness is it is inevitably followed by some form of decline, but 1999s Boeses Junges Fleisch must have seemed as a mere wobble at the time.  There was nothing wrong with Rudy’s desire to write songs in his native German  – it’s a language highly suited to this style of music, and much of his fanbase originate from German-speaking nations anyway.  But somewhere along the way, the song writing lost its direction. 

It opens with Wolf, a rather cluttered composition that inconsistently stabs away without ever really making its point.  Totmacher tries to offset a clear guitar sample with full-on rhythmic intensity, but lacking the mark of greatness.  Somewhat by default, the standout track is the mid-tempo grind Ich Will Dich – conceptually solid and genuinely interesting in its sonic detail, but few will pay much attention to these qualities given the dominance of overtly pornographic samples.  Resorting to such base influences isn’t exactly off-limits for a project of this nature, but it still feels like a step down.

Flucht is a more conventional bleep’n’beats blast, reminiscent of the early 90s Wumpscut sound, but then the album really starts to lose the plot, with several successive tracks throwing together an assortment of drum loops, samples and synths without really producing anything memorable.  The violin part on Draussen could have been more special that it actually was, whilst Ewig and Vergib Mir just bash inconsistently against the eardrums with making any lasting impact.  The only late album highlight is Sag Es Jetzt, the female vocal cutting though the mix, ensuring this track at least shines amid what is the first Wumpscut album to disappoint. There would be others.

Singles: This was the first Wumpscut album to offer accompanying singles.  ‘Ich Will Dich’ is remixed three times, twice by Wumpscut himself and once by Forma Tadre.  There’s also a Das Ich remix of Flucht, which will be of interest to followers of  Bruno Kramm’s rather distinct way of doing things, but it’s a complex mix too esoteric for the more casual fans

Wumpscut - Totmacher (Cover)

Totmacher’, meanwhile, was issued as a double CD EP with more mixes than there were tracks on the original album.  Despite the presence of some seriously big names in terms of VNV Nation, Suicide Commando and Covenant, plus a Daniel Myer double (Cleen AND Haujobb), no-one has any inspired ideas as to how to inject life into a track that really wasn’t a prime candidate for a full blown remix marathon.  The best mixes are those that don’t bother trying to insert huge quantities of the original song and just do their own thing (thank you Suicide Commando!).  When VNV has to jump headlong into rhythmic noise in order to make something interesting happen, you know something is wrong.

Versions: The album was released in the USA under the title ‘Eevil Young Flesh’, but only the titles are translated into English – the actual songs are still in German.  There was also a ‘Fleischbox’ with various goodies (baddies?) within, such containers now becoming something of a treat for Rudy’s more devoted fans.  The album was issued several more times, combining various remixes from the singles with new versions. 

The Concentrated Camp edition excludes the Totmacher double EP (it can be obtained separately from the same place), instead delivering a single 21-minute “Grave Digger Party Megamix”, a DJed medley of the various remixes, though I’ve yet to actually find a party where such a mix could be played.  It does include the full ‘Ich Will Dich’ single, the 2006 remix of said song (dropping the sexual elements and bringing in a darker, richer bassline) and various other oddities, including the first two remixes from Advent Resilience, later to become something of a serial re-worker of Rudy’s music.

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