The Beatsteaks – Limbo Messiah
aaamusic | On 08, Jul 2010
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you will most likely be at least vaguely aware of Germany’s burgeoning punk rock ‘n’ roll festival circuit. Therefore it was only a matter of time before the maverick drive of so many punk summers seeped into the music. Berlin’s The Beatsteaks deliver the madness and aggression of punk in spades with a finesse and sound all their own.
Coming in at a whipcrack 31 minutes for 11 songs, ‘Limbo Messiah’ is a beast of an album, coiled and ready to spring with manic riff after riff – the first five tracks not even reaching the three-minute mark – and totally fearless in its consumption and use of every genre it sees fit to include.
The opener, ‘As I Please’, is a boozy punk monster with a riff like Motörhead played even faster, revelling in its own aggressive musicality and confrontational call to the rebels, before the leading single ‘Jane Became Insane’ rubs the listener’s ears in gleefully abrasive melody wrapped around a sneering punk rocker.
Arnim Teutoburg-Weiss’s rasping vocals sound like he is about to crack at any moment, and as the album progresses he lurches with an unreasonable amount of grace between totally unhinged yowling and soft croons in a truly admirable fashion. His rhythmic vocal gymnastics on ‘Sharp, Cool & Collected’ are quite something to behold, as is the impossibly fast, and totally solid drumming that is to be found holding not just this track but the entire album together.
Then, just in case it was all becoming a little inaccessible to the casual listener, the bleakly dreamlike ‘Meantime’ offers up a shimmering pop cut beneath the sweat and blood, switching down the tempo to tell the story of holding your head up high and carrying on: “Watch me overcome what I’ve been running from,” barks Teutoburg-Weiss in a manner that is almost approachable in tone, as the cymbals, bouncing bass and sunny riffing sound almost cheerful. However, this proud cheer lasts for only a short while before ‘Demons Galore’ beats everything back underground for a chaotic, stomping morass of hurtling melodic interplay between seismic bass and surgically precise guitar that surges towards the climactic title line before one last shouting round of “this is mine, it’ll never be yours”.
‘Cut Off The Top’, as well as being the first track to cross three minutes, is a dense, genre-bending wonder, hybridising slowed-down ska-punk with a pitch-black europop/dubstep bass sound that is fed through every fuzz and synthesiser pedal from here to Berlin to create a truly mesmerising standout track that fades into the ether, leaving the listener in a much-needed period of silence before the instant-moshpit pummelling of ‘Bad Brain’.
‘She Was Great’ stops press completely, a caustic yet fragile Michael Jackson falsetto accompanied by what seems to be a dance-pop song played by a bare-bones punk rock band. This could go wrong on so many levels, but goes right on nearly all of them.
‘Soljanka’, by far the longest track on the album, is another trip down the darkly claustrophobic recesses of modern sturm und drang as razor-wire guitars wrap themselves around shattering drumbeats and some truly talented vocal work. Everything is tense, ominous, and ready to explode. The band also show off their songwriting skills here, with punky poetry pacing perfectly alongside some twisting guitars before the rest of the band crank up the pace and volume to seething intensity before supernova-ing to the final wind-down chords.
But wait, it is by no means over. ‘Hail To The Freaks’ brings us back to the beginning, a rough pop-punk number as raw and rabid as you could hope for, and that bursts into the tightly-coiled knife-edged menace of ’E-G-O’ where catchy hooks jostle for room with rabid shouting and brittle longing, and that’s where the album departs, leaving the listener dazed and rather in awe of what has just taken place.
Trying to think of bands to compare The Beatsteaks to, I considered The Ramones, but they don’t quite cut it. There’s flavours of The Misfits, The Hives, Motörhead, Hot Water Music, The Clash, The Jam, Mando Diao, indeed some pop a la Michael Jackson, and a million others past and present, and above all, there is a distinct sound all of their own that has been brewing for fifteen years.
‘Limbo Messiah’ is not for the faint of heart or the closed of mind. Many may balk at the thirst for invention and individuality, but many more will find a refreshing showcase of truly talented musicians pushing the boundaries of their own sonic diversity and finding success after success. By turns scorchingly abrasive and viciously artistic, this is an intelligent band who have learned the ropes and by no means are about to be tied to anything with them.
Author: Katie H-Halinski