APOPTYGMA BERZERK: 7 (1996)
1) Love Never Dies (part 1); 2) Mourn; 3) Non-Stop Violence; 4) 25 Cromwell St.; 5) Rebel; 6) Deep Red; 7) Nearer; 8) Half Asleep; 9) Love Never Dies (part 2); 10*) Mourn; 11*) Electricity.
On 7, the early «Gothic» stage of Apoptygma Berzerk reaches its peak. It gets more and more difficult to stay indifferent to this sound: the temptation to dismiss Groth's techno-doom for representing «Apocalypse Dance Music for Silly, but Pretentious Teens» is likely to be as strong in some people as the temptation to find within it the ultimate answer to the problem of life and death will be in others.
My own perception will always be biased: I have a deep internal dislike for «futurepop» (the very name itself is absurdly arrogant, not to mention contradictory by nature — and if the message is that in the future all of pop music will look like this, I'd rather have silence), I don't care much for sampling (apparently, 7 goes very heavy on the stuff, quoting everyone from the Shadows to Kurt Cobain to Red House Painters to Carmina Burana), and I cannot even find anything particularly laudable or original about Groth's lyrical skills: same old tales of sexual repression and complaints about human cruelty.
Even I, however, cannot deny that 7 is a one-of-a-kind synthesis of influences, much more than just a plain old generic techno record. Opening with a stern church organ recital; having a tribute to the passing of Kurt, sampling the riff to 'The Man Who Sold The World', as its key track; featuring songs about sadistic maniacs set to cheerful synth-pop riffs on the back of gloomy synth bass patterns; ending it all with a starry-eyed female-sung romantic ballad hearkening back to the days when art-rock ruled the world — well, even if one wants to assert that Groth has essentially failed at making it all work properly, you can never say that he didn't try real hard.
Techno lovers are definitely welcome to embrace 'Non-Stop Violence' and 'Half Asleep', rough, gritty tracks that easily hold their own against the likes of Prodigy — judging by their own terms, they are quite adequate as, respectively, a martial-style protest against zombification of the nation, and a musical recreation of a maniacal nightmare. 'Deep Red', in which the maniac actually gets a chance to act (against some angelic back-vocal harmonies, no less), is also a «highlight» of sorts, perhaps.
I will, however, confine myself to 'Mourn', whose main synth loop I am always trying to cut out in my mind in order to get a really pretty, sensitive tribute to a fallen hero; 'Rebel', an industrial (or would that be «post-industrial»?) collage that seems to be dedicated to the passing of Jesus (yes, we're that serious) and gets along on the strength of sheer weirdness; and that last ballad, not very memorable (except for the fact that it features the only bit of acoustic guitar on the entire album) but a cute conclusion all the same. A fairly small payoff for all of the album's immense ambition, but at the very least, getting to know this sort of approach is always instructive, and sometimes interesting.
Check "7" (CD) on Amazon
Check "7" (MP3) on Amazon