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Der Blutharsch - When Did Wonderland End?

In interviews Albin Julius often spoke of the industrial ghetto so it's hardly surprising that with When Did Wonderland End? Der Blutharsch have taken a new musical approach. In many ways Der Blutharsch were the epitome of martial industrial. Over the course of their career they delivered a heady mixture of martial drums, strident percussion, declamated lyrics woven with speeches and orchestral samples. Their later releases When All Else Fails and Time Is Thee Enemy contained elements of a more rock-oriented sound, while their recent Live At The Monastery was the work of a fully fledged live unit.

On When Did Wonderland End? they have transformed themselves into a rock beast, of sorts. After the nursery nightmare of the opening track and the untitled second track that pits the voices of Albin and Marthyana against a distorted wall of distortion, with thumping martial beats, rattling percussion and wavering vioin score they become almost undetectable from the unit that spawned the martial industrial genre. Pummeling low end bass dominates on the rock oriented tracks of When Did Wonderland End? Untitled three has Bain Wolfkind's Iggy Pop-esque deep crooned vocals over pounding bass, distorted guitars and sporadic guitar chime. Untitled eight with its incessant bass throb, scintillating guitars with swathes of acoustic strum conjures up a dustbowl atmosphere. It's one-part Lee Hazelwood, and one-part Boyd Rice as Bain Wolfkind commands you to "bring down your iron rain on me". It's a highlight of the album and pure industrial americana. Their past is literally cast away on untitled seven as Marthyana delivers a treatise of speak no more of love, death, sorrow, ceremony over lumbering bass, serated guitars and soaring guitar lines. Only the simple percussion (kettle drums, bells, tambourine) and occassional sample is identifiable with previous Der Blutharsch.

Yet it's not all dark rock music. Untitled 5 invokes a nightmare culture with childlike lyrics delivered in a queasy heavy set manner by Bain Wolfkind over forlorn acoustic strum and rattling handbells. It's followed by Der Bluthrasch's take on 'Frost Flowers', co-written by Albin Julius and Douglas P. for Death In June's Take Care and Control. Shorn of its orchestrations it's a melodic acoustic setting with Marthyana's voice lending the track a sensual fragility missing from the original.

When Did Wonderland End? isn't without its flaws though. A number of the other "rock" tracks are fairly rudimentary and the production is muddied at times. Still it's a courageous step from Albin Julius at the helm of this expanded Der Blutharsch line-up featuring Bain Wolfkind, Jorg B and aided by Matt Howden and others. Let's hope this isn't their swansong, as it appears to be, as on When Did Wonderland End? Albin Julius has commandeered his troops out of the industrial ghetto and into the murky world of sleazy rock music. For more information go to www.derblutharsch.com or www.tesco-germany.com