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hocico3Tanzbrunnen, Cologne, Germany
16th & 17th July 2011
Amphi Festival 2011 Day 1 Staatenhaus: Hocico, Suicide Commando, Leaether Strip, In Strict Confidence, Grendel, Frozen Plasma, Winterkälte, Mind.in.a.Box, Klangstabil

The first day at Staatenhaus was committed entirely to the electronic side of music and covered a wide range of influences from experimental to industrial over to the harsh and the poppy. This promised to be very interesting.

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Klangstabil (J. “Niggels” Uhlenbruch)

Boris May (vocals, programming) and Maurizio Blanco are the German-Italian duo KLANGSTABIL. They already started producing music under this moniker in 1994 and released their music exclusively on vinyl for the first few years on labels like Shokoy or Mhz Records. Their 2008 album 'Math & Emotion', also available on CD and released on Ant-Zen, was a crossover success in various underground scenes, from Techno to the Goth and EBM scene, where KLANGSTABIL is seen as some sort of acquired taste. As a result, KLANGSTABIL are now also invited to play at festivals like the Amphi festival. http://www.klangstabil.com / http://www.myspace.com/klangstabil

Music & Performance
It seemed a bit wrong to me that KLANGSTABIL were to open the second stage of the first day of Amphi festival, not just because I'm a fan of their recent works but also as their popularity seems to be rising since 'Math & Emotion' and the following singles. However, KLANGSTABIL were surely a nice addition to the festival's line-up, especially as they are not the typical stereotype Goth or EBM band. Actually their gig at Amphi was a first for me as I had never seen them live on stage before.

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KLANGSTABIL started very unpretentious. No intro, no big show, they just walked on stage and welcomed the audience. After a few warm words for the crowd the song 'Math & Emotion' resounded, and at least for me the first surprise came: Instead of the deep, controlled and kind of withdrawn singing style I knew from the albums, vocalist Boris May screamed into the microphone with lots of effects and distortion over his voice. Perhaps nothing new for those who are familiar with KLANGSTABIL life but as I said it was my first time seeing the duo live. Well, I prefer the style on the records, to put it this way. Meanwhile Maurizio Blanco took care of the effects units and devices on the table in front of him, and later on he would take over vocal duties for the track 'Perdere per Vincere', a track in his Italian mother tongue.

Setlist
01. Math & Emotion (the square root of one)
02. Push Yourself
03. Perdere per Vincere
04. Twisted Words
05. You may Start
06. Math & Emotion (the square root of three)
07. Lauf, lauf

Rating
Music: 9
Performance: 7
Sound: 7
Light: 7
Total: 8 / 10

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Mind.in.a.Box (Sebastian Huhn)

The Austrian electronic duo MIND.IN.A.BOX created an own niche inside the electronic music scene. Their unique blend of different styles has conquered the hearts and minds of fans and press all over the world in a storm and is meanwhile known as techno pop. The name MIND.IN.A.BOX is a metaphor “for everything that prevents our minds from truly being free”. The duo was signed to Dependent Records in 2004 and released their first Album ‘Lost alone’ in June of the same year, followed by its successor ‘Dreamweb’ in May 2005. Over 2 years after the release of ‘Dreamweb’, their new Album ‘Crossroads’ as the third part of the so called ‘Black trilogy’ hit the streets in August 2007. In 2010, MIND.IN.A.BOX have put out an homage to one of the most popular home computers back in the days; the Commodore 64 with the album ‘R.E.T.R.O’. MIND.IN.A.BOX live is Stefan Poiss (vocals, synths), Roman Stift (bass), Gerhard Höffler (drums) und Adam Wehsely-Swiczinsky (guitar). http://www.mindinabox.com/ / http://www.myspace.com/mindinabox

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Music & Performance
My first band at Staatenhaus this day and one of my favourite ones already. I wondered if they could improve their performance, based on their past live experiences. The sad bit was, while Roman or Adam actually did move a lot more, Stephan positioned behind a tower of gear at the front didn’t move a lot, really. Another thing marring the experience this time was a sound engineer who obviously couldn’t manage to get a proper mix of the sound done at the venue. The result was the drums covering almost everything and all the inventive sound bits, details and melodies were drowning in the mix. If that due to the acoustics in the hall I don’t know but the sound was crap nevertheless. The choice of songs was nearly the same as on other shows and I was very pleased to hear ‘Fear’ live again and ‘Change’ for the first time ever. Glad to see they’re gradually including different songs in the setlist. Really loved the show except for the mentioned points and so did many of the attendees.

Setlist
01. Remember
02. Fear
03. Stalkers
04. Certainty
05. Light and Dark
06. Identity
07. Change

Rating
Music: 9
Performance: 7
Sound: 4
Light: 7
Total: 7.4 / 10

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Winterkälte (J. “Niggels” Uhlenbruch)

Heavy distortion and pounding beats define WINTERKÄLTE's style of aggressive electronic power noise. Since their self-titled debut single in 1995 this duo, who also runs the influential Hands label, has become one of the pioneers of the second (or even third?) generation of the Noise / Industrial movement. WINTERKÄLTE is Eric de Vries and Udo Wiessmann http://www.winterkalte.net / http://www.myspace.com/winterkaelteofficial

Music & Performance
Pure noise and an orgy of light - that's WINTERKÄLTE's gig at the Amphi in short. Although there were lots of Techno-ish beats as well, and a scarce use of the video screen behind the two protagonists, one on the drums and one behind a keyboard. At times behind the keyboard, as he was moving a lot! All instruments' signals were apparently sent through at least a dozen of distortion effects to create the brutal assault on your nervous system that is WINTERKÄLTE live.

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The flashing LED strobe lights would put you over the edge, finally, and the fans either joined the mosh pit at the front or stared at the stage as if they had been hypnotized. I could swear they actually were! WINTERKÄLTE often put the label “progressive” to their music but I wonder how progressive a music project band can be which sounds live almost exactly the same as ten years ago (when I witnessed a WINTERKÄLTE show for the first time) and which delivers in their set 5-minute sonic attacks at maximum volume which in the end all sound alike. Anyway, forget the “progressive” thing and appreciate WINTERKÄLTE simply for what they are: A sonic attack on body and mind, which is quite a change to the sweet Pop melodies catering the masses at the main stage of the Amphi. It is a good thing to have a band like WINTERKÄLTE at a festival like this. But you either give in to this rhythmic noise, or you go.

Rating
Music: 7
Performance: 7
Sound: 7
Light: 7
Total: 7 / 10

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Frozen Plasma (Sebastian Huhn)

After the split of his very successful band NAMNAMBULU, Vasi Vallis founded FROZEN PLASMA in 2005 together with Felix Marc. The Debut Single 'Hypocrite' was released in November 2005, the first album 'Artificial' followed in April 2006. The EP 'Emphasize' was released later in 2006. The current album is called ‘Monumentum’ and was released a little while ago already. http://www.frozenplasma.com/ / http://www.myspace.com/frozenplasma

Music & Performance
Next one for me ventured into poppier regions with FROZEN PLASMA. The show took off unpretentious with the intro to ‘The End’ announcing the show and the guys appearing on stage where Felix would soon start running up and down, always eager to get the audience involved into the show. Sadly, the vocals weren’t on par at all moments with his fitness. Responsible for that were a bad vocal mix and maybe a bad day on Felix’s side. He can do a lot better.

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Anyway, enough criticism or else I’m going to get burned. Amongst that collection of well-known songs you could find a new one with ‘Deliverance’ that always kept both eyes fixed on the dance floors and had a bunch of good melodies, ‘Condense’ off the first album which I can’t recall hearing live already at all, and one of Felix’s own songs from the new album with ‘The Muse’, suiting the sets direction perfectly. Solid performance, but there was lots of room for improvement! Have seen them doing it a lot better.

Setlist
01. The End
02. Deliverance
03. Condense
04. The Muse (Felix Marc cover)
05. Irony
06. Murderous Trap
07. Warmongers
08. Tanz Die Revolution

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 6
Sound: 6
Light: 6
Total: 6.8 / 10

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Grendel (J. “Niggels” Uhlenbruch)

GRENDEL from The Hague is one of the few Dutch bands which proved longevity and success in the EBM genre. The roots of GRENDEL, whose name originates from a character from the old Anglo-Saxon tale 'Beowulf', go back as far as 1997, and since the year 2000 mastermind VLRK and his varying collaborators produce GRENDEL's typical harsh and aggressive EBM which some people might describe as Hellectro or Aggrotech. With their second album 'Prescription : Medicide', released in 2004, GRENDEL broadened their audiences significantly and the following EP 'Soilbleed', released one year later, spawned two massive EBM club hits with 'Zombie Nation' and the title-track. Recently GRENDEL is working on their next (and fourth) album entitled 'Timewave : Zero', which is set for release later this year on Infacted Records and Metropolis respectively. http://www.grendel-base.com

Music & Performance
As quickly as GRENDEL entered the stage they had to leave it again - right in the middle of the first song there was a electrical power breakdown! After some irritation the band left the stage and it took a while until the crew was able to solve the problem. But at least GRENDEL could go on with their show in the end. Some mean old bastard remarked later sarcastically that the moments of silence was probably the best about the gig but the GRENDEL fans surely would not agree here.

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Performing as a four-piece with shouter VLRK, a keyboarder, a drummer (electronic drum kit of course) and a guitarist for some songs, GRENDEL delivered a compact set with songs mainly taken from the 2007 album 'Harsh Generation' and the 'Soilbleed' EP but also presenting a new song from the forthcoming album. However, “new” isn't the attribute I would personally attach to GRENDEL's music and performance. While their music is admittedly a solid piece of workmanship, their style is on the other hand not that original. Trance layers, four-to-the-floor Techno beats, shouted vocals, stereotypical movie samples - there are simply too many bands with the same formula. This recipe is probably good enough to spawn a few club tracks but for one hour of entertainment, be it a live show or an album, it is in my opinion simply not enough to keep up my interest. Maybe it's just that I saw too many live gigs of electronic bands who all had a similar sound and setup. Anyway, the fans seemed to love GRENDEL's show, and some perhaps didn't care too much about the music anyway as long as they can dance to it - which would be the only explanation why some Cyber Goths decided to go through their dance routines to GRENDEL's pounding beats in a hall next door, where they of course couldn't see a single thing of the show and where the sound was even worse.

Setlist
01. Intro
02. Harsh Generation
03. Void Malign
04. One.Eight.Zero
05. Soilbleed
06. Dirty
07. Hate This
08. Zombie Nation
09. Chemicals + Circuitry
10. Shortwired
11. [new song]

Rating
Music: 6
Performance: 6
Sound: 7
Light: 7
Total: 6.3 / 10

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In Strict Confidence (Sebastian Huhn)

IN STRICT CONFIDENCE is surely not a new name in the Electro / Industrial scene. Mastermind Dennis Ostermann creates his own vision of dark electronic music since the early 1990s and with various collaborators he produced massive genre hits such as ‘Zauberschloss’, ‘Kiss Your Shadow’ or ‘Englesstaub’. IN STRICT CONFIDENCE turn out to be more of a live band than one might expect from their Electro dominated studio material. With a fully-fledged acoustic drum kit and a guitarist they sound much more organic than many of their colleagues who rely too much on pre-recorded music data. The latest release ‘Exile Paradise’ dated back to 2007.The EP 'My Despair' brought the final end of a long hibernation period, followed up by the release of the new album 'La Parade Monstrueuse' in February 2010. ISC is Dennis Ostermann (songwriting, lyrics), Jörg Schelte (songwriting, programming, keys), Steve Vesper (rhythms, programming, drums), Nina de Lianin (vocals) and Haydee Sparks (bass). http://www.instrictconfidence.de / http://www.myspace.com/instrictconfidence

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Music & Performance
Before that show I heard of many people really looking forward to this one, especially as a young lady. Well, I just hoped they’d get a better sound than previous bands so people were able to fully embrace the sound of IN STRICT CONFIDENCE. Didn’t work out a 100% I have to say, but it’s been a little better than before. ‘My Despair’ was meant to be the show’s opening and did it properly with a good balance of melody and a doze of harshness. It was followed by ‘Promised Land’ which did benefit a lot from Nina’s vocals, if only they had been a little louder. It seems to be she’s constantly holding back and I don’t see the point in having a classically trained voice and not using it properly. I mean, seriously, picture ‘Set Me Free’ with her full vocal range. Dennis wouldn’t stand a chance, no offence. With ‘Silver Bullets’ they delivered another floor cracker. A little more movement to suit the song’s direction wouldn’t have hurt. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch more of the show as I had to jump back to the main stage to catch the other half of the TANZWUT show.

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Setlist
01. Intro
02. My Despair
03. Promised Land
04. Seven Lives
05. This Is All
06. Forbidden Fruit
07. Set Me Free
08. Away From Here
09. Silver Bullets
10. Engelsstaub
11. Zauberschloss

Rating
Music: 8
Performance: 7
Sound: 7
Light: 7
Total: 7.4 / 10

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Leaether Strip (J. “Niggels” Uhlenbruch)

Danish most prominent EBM act LEÆTHER STRIP is the project of Claus Larsen, who started making music in the early 1980s and using the moniker LEÆTHER STRIP since 1988. LEÆTHER STRIP was one of the earliest and most prominent acts on Germany's now defunct Zoth Ommog record label on which he released his first album ‘The Pleasure of Penetration’ in 1990 with another full-length, entitled ‘Science for the Satanic Citizen’ following that same year. Claus Larsen has always been the sole member of LEÆTHER STRIP and also started a side project called KLUTE. Larsen continued to release albums until 1997, including the genre-defining ‘Solitary Confinement’ from 1992, which is still considered as one of LEÆTHER STRIP's finest works. The number of bands Larsen influenced with his music seems to be endless, and almost any band from today's EBM / Hellectro / Aggrotech scene is directly or indirectly influenced by LEÆTHER STRIP. In the year 2000 the EP 'Carry Me' marked the end of an era, and Larsen stopped releasing music entirely. The title of the LEÆTHER STRIP comeback album in 2005, 'After the Devastation', indicates that Larsen went through dark times in his private life. But with a new record deal with Alfa Matrix he has commenced the most prolific time of his career with 5 studio albums, nine EPs, two compilations, a box set, a DVD, several re-releases - he even announced an new album with his side project KLUTE, which he renamed for legal reasons to KLUTÆ. Since 2009 Larsen is even playing live again - something he refrained from for more than 15 years! http://www.myspace.com/leaetherstrip

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Music & Performance
Two years ago, Claus Larsen aka LEÆTHER STRIP made a first appearance at the Amphi, which was exciting news for all EBM-heads as it was one of the first LEÆTHER STRIP live gigs in almost 20 years. Back then Larsen performed alone on the main stage, just him and some equipment in the sunlight. It was great to see him back on stage but I have to admit that in the end I wasn't too overwhelmed by the performance itself. This time LEÆTHER STRIP played indoors at the Staatenhaus and he brought his partner (and husband actually) Kurt to play the keyboards. The effect of these two details was quite considerable! LEÆTHER STRIP's music works so much better without sun light, and Claus Larsen didn't look as lost as on the huge main stage in 2009 and obviously felt much more comfortable on stage - perhaps also thanks to the numerous gigs he played since his last Amphi gig. Starting with 1990 track 'Satanic Citizen', LEÆTHER STRIP were about to not just play a live gig but also to make a musical statement, intentionally or not. But after seeing so many modern-day EBM/Electro bands at the Amphi as well as many other festivals and concerts LEÆTHER STRIP demonstrated where the likes of AGONOIZE, COMBICHRIST, GRENDEL, HOCICO etc pp got their ideas from! Outsiders might claim that LEÆTHER STRIP does sound almost exactly the same as some of the mentioned acts but this is actually the point, but the bulk of the songs LEÆTHER STRIP performed at the Amphi date from 1989 to 1992. This should tell you something about how “progressive” most of today's so-called Hellectro / Aggrotech acts are! And while all the copycats and epigones do their best to fit overused clichés and hollow stereotypes Claus Larsen fills his songs with life and identity - not bad for a chubby, middle-aged dude and a keyboarder who looks like retired maths teacher!

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From the debut single 'Japanese Bodies' to the club classic 'Strap Me Down' to the title track of the 2008 album 'Civil Disobedience' to the cover version of SOFT CELL's 'Sex Dwarf' as the show closer, LEÆTHER STRIP delivered a stripped-down but storming show. Quite impressive, despite the lack of any show effects, videos or any other gadgets. Or because of the lack of them, at last someone who trusts the strength of his compositions enough to abandon all “shock value” effects! The only sour note was that LEÆTHER STRIP played at the same time as DIE KRUPPS at the main stage - still want to kick the arse of the guy who decided this!

Setlist
01. Satanic Citizen
02. Turmoil (Fuel for Fascism)
03. Civil Disobedience
04. Black Gold
05. Black Candle
06. Strap Me Down
07. Adrenalin Rush
08. Evil Speaks
09. Japanese Bodies
10. Sex Dwarf (Soft Cell cover)

Rating
Music: 9
Performance: 8
Sound: 8
Light: 7
Total: 8 / 10

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Suicide Commando (Fee Wundersee)

One of the veteran projects in the electronic music scene is SUICIDE COMMANDO! A lot of years have passed since Belgian native Johan van Roy founded this project as a mere studio project in 1986. Three years later, he released his first tape under that moniker and made an appearance on the vinyl compilation, ‘Electronic’. Following years brought more self-released tapes and compilation appearances until in 1994 the first SUICIDE COMMANDO CD ‘Critical Stage’ got released on now defunct German label Off Beat followed by ‘Stored Images’ shortly thereafter in 1995.Those two included two of the project’s biggest club hits ‘Where do we go from here’ and even more ‘See you in Hell’. Only the start of a strong of other club hits that was top follow in the years to come as van Roy continuously unleashed new material on an ever growing fan base all over the world. In 2006 followed his still most recent album ‘Bind, Torture, Kill’. In May 2009, Van Roy signed to Out Of Line and released ‘Implements of Hell’ in 2010. SUICIDE COMMANDO live is Johan van Roy (vocals), Torben Schmidt (keyboards), Mario Vaerewijck (drums) and Jan L. (keyboards). http://www.suicdecommando.be/ / http://www.myspace.com/suicidecommando

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Music & Performance
When SUICIDE COMMANDO started their great show we were already done. The weather made me nearly collapse. Johan van Roy began his show with ‘Severed Head’, a song of his latest album. I like the song, the audience did too. But I remember not many visitors singing along. This just changed when they played ‘Dein Herz, meine Gier’. It’s a bit older song and so I think more known. The video just fit to the lyrics and Johan was doing a great show. With his serial killer smile he made the perfect bridge between lyrics and the blood-filled videos. The audience enjoyed the show and when the band started playing ‘Bind Torture Kill’, the whole Staatenhaus was dancing and screaming the lyrics. The show finished with ‘See you in Hell’ after the audience wanted an encore. In my eyes there was no better song to finish a show that made me and all the other people there sweat. A little minus was the sound at the Staatenhaus. Whenever a band started there were sound problems. As well the music sounded creepy the more away from stage you watched the show.

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Setlist
01. Severed Head
02. Hate Me
03. Death Cures All Pain
04. Dein Herz, Meine Gier
05. God Is in the Rain
06. Cause of Death: Suicide
07. Time
08. The Perile of Indifference
09. Love Breeds Suicide
10. Die Motherfucker Die
11. Bind, Torture, Kill
12. See You In Hell

Rating
Music: 9
Performance: 8
Sound: 8
Light: 8
Total: 8.5 / 10

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Hocico (Fee Wundersee)

The Mexican cousins Erk Aicrag (vocals, lyrics) and Racso Agroyam (programming) started with making music at a young age. Finally, their interest in EBM sounds led to the founding of HOCICO in 1993. Four years later, HOCICO released the debut album `Odio Bajo El Alma´ that stood out from the crowd of other EBM long-players due to the especially flaming temper and raw-edged sounds that were perfectly in line with the explosive lyrics dealing with religion, sex, death and abuse. The rousing and exhausting live appearances of the guys enthused a large audience in Germany in particular. Aicrag and Agroyam reached their final breakthrough by releasing `Aqui Y Ahora En El Silencio´ (2000) and `Signos De Aberracion´ (2002). In 2008, HOCICO played in Japan for the first time. As the Osaka show was a very special experience, they recorded the live album `Tora! Tora! Tora!´ that delivers a great insight into the spectacular concert atmosphere of HOCICO appearances! A new single was just being released with ‘Dog Eat Dog’ as precursor for the new album ‘Tiempos de Furia’, released in October 2010. http://www.hocico.com/ / http://www.myspace.com/hocicoh

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Music & Performance
For me, every HOCICO show is something special and a highlight of every festival. I can remember only visiting Amphi Festival because of them. When Erk Aicrag from HOCICO entered the stage after singing ‘Breathe me tonight’ behind the stage, the audience screamed for more. It’s always the same thing: HOCICO’s playing a festival and so many people are there to see them. It doesn’t matter what time and what place, the audience is always so energetic. They sing, scream, dance. I can’t remember any other fan audience doing this with this intensity. The younger fans liked the newer songs such as ‘Bite me’ or ‘Dog eat Dog’, the older fans preferred ‘Instincts of Perversion’ or ‘Forgotten Tears’. So the setlist included a good mixture of new and old songs to satisfy everyone. On stage Erk Aicrag was like a tornado. He always is and he blew his audience away. When he wants people to clap their hands, they’ll do it. When he wants people to jump, they’ll do it. Absolutely fascinating. Of course they had these TV screens on stage and played videos on it. My personal favourite is the video for ‘Tiempos de Furia’ where a little clown is dancing an then gets attacked by dogs.

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I missed Racso on stage though. He wasn’t even playing at Wave Gotik Treffen and we hoped he’d be back at Amphi. But he wasn’t there, but replaced by Grigory Feil who is also playing keyboards in RABIA SORDA. Hopefully Rasco will be back later this year, we miss him. Racso not being on stage is the only little minus I can tell.

Setlist
01. Breathe Me Tonight
02. Flesh to Lacerate
03. A Fatal Desire
04. Where Words Fail, Hate Speaks
05. Dog Eat Dog
06. About a Dead
07. Bite Me!
08. Spirals of Time
09. Altered States
10. Untold Blasphemies
11. Twist the Thorn
12. Tiempos de Furia
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13. Forgotten Tears
14. Poltergeist
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15. Bloodshed

Rating
Music: 10
Performance: 10
Sound: 9
Light: 10
Total: 9.8 / 10

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So after even the day’s last band had completed their set and people were streaming towards the exit we were just starting a little late birthday celebration with the crew and some friends. Thanks for that again. Was great and no of course we didn’t drink any alcohol…

All pictures by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.black-cat-net.de/ / www.myspace.com/vorndranphotography / www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)


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