By The Great Sun Jester

Kadavar are, initially, a band longtime fans might struggle to take seriously. Superficial examination points to them being clichéd. Once again, we are dealing with a power trio. Once again, we are dealing with a decidedly retro act grounding their sound and songwriting in a long dead aesthetic. Dive in, however, and you discover unexpected depths. The band’s spare and clean sound seems impossibly married to power, but their stripped-back musical simplicity carries surprising muscle and surprising eloquence. One of the abiding strengths of their second album, Abra Kadavar, is its vivid songwriting and that strength continues with their latest release from Nuclear Blast titled "Berlin". 

The album’s opener, “Lord of the Sky”, revisits familiar sonic territory from the band’s first two releases and reminds longtime listeners that, despite a change in bass players, Kadavar’s thrust hasn’t changed. There is much to love about the band’s lean, streamlined efficiency. There’s always an element to the band’s music that recalls the halcyon days of the early 1970’s, but there’s something equally odd pulling on the music, a slightly acidized point of view that distorts the familiar. A hefty, chain-swinging riff interspersed with simmering, dissonant guitar wash drives “Last Living Dinosaur” – this is a much more chaotic, denser Kadavar than listeners are accustomed to encountering. “Pale Blue Eyes” throbs with the same groove heavy guitar theatrics defining Kadavar’s best work and plays to the band’s musical and lyrical strengths. 

Feedback floods the speakers at the opening of “Stolen Dreams” before Kadavar plunge headlong into another minimalist, overdriven riff threatening to piledrive itself into listener’s memories. The riffing carries the entirety of the band’s melodic power, but those riffs are always geared around a specific musical phrase that’s clearly the song’s signature. “The Old Man” sports one of the album’s best riffs and a guitar melody that sounds plucked from a spaghetti western. Christoph “Lupus” Lindemann’s lead work shines here thanks to its visceral tone and condensed phrasing. The same melodic strengths informing the best on Berlin likewise distinguish “See the World with Your Own Eyes”, but the verses are more of a mixed bag and flirt with plodding predictability. However, during the instrumental breaks, Kadavar never fails to soar with the same effortless rise marking much of this album. The enormous pop-edged chorus is the first time listeners have heard the band steer themselves in such a commercial direction, but never plays as pure calculation. 

“Circles in My Mind” is another highlight thanks to its uniquely descending riff that imbues the song’s primary musical motif with a surprising vocal quality. It is likely the case that, when someone eventually consigns Kadavar to history books, Lindemann’s delightfully compartmentalized writing for guitar will be remember as the band’s trademark. The axiom, thanks to Miles Davis and countless others who’ve expressed similar sentiments, goes that it’s not what you play that matters more than what you aren’t playing and Lindemann’s work completely realizes that ideal. 

Kadavar have accomplished what all great bands do – retool after watershed internal fractures and move on with a regenerated sense of purpose. Berlin isn’t any sort of reinvention – instead, its consolidation, reaffirmation, and a handful of purposeful lunges into a brighter future. This is far from a clichéd, ultimately insignificant, attempt to recreate a past that never truly existed. Kadavar’s third studio album, "Berlin", is a one more step up the ladder towards potential immortality. Highly recommended.