Industrial metal album is a rather dull affair

During the Rīga 800 celebration last year, one of the highlights for me was the all-day music performances on the big stage by the Daugava River. The entire day was devoted to all kinds of Latvian bands, of all different styles and sounds. Two bands caught my interest. The first was Deus sex machina (formerly named Deus ex machina), followed by Dzelzs vilks. It was a very hot day, and perhaps I was suffering from heat exhaustion, but it appeared that the groups were one and the same—no personnel changes happened between their sets. This is not a surprise as the guitarist, Juris Kaukulis, plays in both groups (as well as sings in Dzelzs vilks). I enjoyed their performance, as the group had a heavy, aggressive industrial sound, balanced by intricate keyboard parts.

After the performance, I picked up the Deus sex machina recording of the Fausts rock opera. Unfortunately, it was not to my liking, though the performances on the album were all good. On that recording, Kaukulis was joined by Andris Vilcāns (the composer of the music) on keyboards. Perhaps I would have appreciated the record more if I had actually seen the rock opera, but this compact disc rarely gets into my CD player.

After hearing and liking the song “Ledus” on the Black Friday Vol. IV compilation, I decided to pick up the latest Dzelzs vilks CD. The UPE Recording Co.‘s Web site explained that it is the band’s third album, but only the first to be released on CD. Even though I didn’t like the Fausts recording, my expectations were still high, since this was a different group on the CD, and the songs were the band’s own compositions. However, I found Lai arī Tu būtu ar mani a rather dull affair.

Kaukulis is joined by Armands Butkevičs on bass, Mārcis Judzis on drums and Kaspars Tobis on programming.  Kaukulis also wrote all the music and lyrics for the record.

The music is all in the industrial metal style. That on its own is not why I dislike the album, but it becomes clear from listening to the record that the participants spent a lot of time listening to bands like Nine Inch Nails and other industrial bands. This results the album sounding like a diluted Nine Inch Nails record, on which Dzelzs vilks tries to recreate the sound of a better-known band, but without great success.

It also seems at times that the guitar sound does not change much throughout the album. It remains in the “crunchy” style from beginning to end. This gives the album a repetitive sound and even after multiple listenings I have difficulty distinguishing between many of the songs.

The album starts out well enough with the title track “Lai arī Tu būtu ar mani.” It is a good introduction to the band, with heavy guitars, prominent synthesizers and Kaukulis singing like a soul in torment. The lyrics of this song also present many themes that reoccur throughout the album,  such as the pain of love and how generally miserable existence can be from time to time.

The recording of “Ledus” is slightly different than on the Black Friday compilation, sounding a bit more polished. This remains my favorite song on the album, becaues I think it has a good melody and is not too repetitive.

I also like “Vienas nakts meitene.” The song is quite different than the others on the album, starting off with a very pretty piano and guitar introduction. The track is less aggressive than the others on the album, and it is a good way for the listener to relax (if briefly) before the sonic assault of the rest of the album.

“Saplēstie stikli” has a very eerie piano introduction that is repeated within the song, though the “Whoa-oh” vocals start getting repetitive after a while.

The album ends with a remix of “Ledus” done by Alis P. Though not much different from the original, this remix brings the beat out more with a louder drum track.

Most of the other songs follow the same pattern—starting with a quiet introduction, then the guitars crash in—which is likely why I cant distinguish many of the tracks.

Though many of the songs show promise, this album was not to my taste at all. This is ideally meant for seriously devoted industrial fans (of which I am not one). The production on the album can also be quite muddy, as the crunchy guitars tend to drown everything else out. These guys have talent and have some interesting synthesizer loops,  but there is not too much of interest on this record for me. You could classify the music as hard rock, but its industrial influences make Dzelzs vilks a far different group than, for example, Līvi, so it would not be fair to compare them. Fans of industrial will likely find everything they are looking for here (synthesizer loops, crunchy guitars, angst-filled lyrics), but I must pass on this one.


Lai arī Tu būtu ar mani

Dzelzs vilks

UPE Recording Co.,  2001

Egils Kaljo is an American-born Latvian from the New York area . Kaljo began listening to Latvian music as soon as he was able to put a record on a record player, and still has old Bellacord 78 rpm records lying around somewhere.

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