The first two songs on Tohuvabohu suggest Germany’s legendary industrialists KMFDM stumbling right out of the gate, tripped up by conventions meant to be abandoned long ago or simply avoided outright. For one thing, lampooning your fame and your industry with an ironic band theme song on almost every album—here, first track “Superpower”—eventually becomes, you know, part of your fame and your industry. For another, one overly cutesy descending synth passage threatens to undermine the classic aggression of “Looking for Strange.”
Given these issues, we can’t help but wonder aloud if album #15 is a death knell for KMFDM. Then the title track kicks in and almost all is forgiven, not to mention explained. Its name derived from Hebrew meaning “wild and chaotic”—the state of the earth before Creation—the song represents the album as a whole, Sascha Konietzko and his team (vocalist wife Lucia Cifarelli, guitarists Steve White and Jules Hodgson, drummer Andy Selway) bravely if not always successfully exploring new languages and interpreting multiple genres.
“Saft und Kraft,” for example, is a slyly programmed nod to straight-up metal. Cifarelli might be the weakest link in this version of the band, but on “Fait Accompli” and “Bumaye” she still manages to outshine other hard-rockin’ ladies like those from Lacuna Coil and Paramore. Even their cover of the Liaisons Dangereuses song “Los Niños Del Parque” reintroduces not just a keyboard riff but the definitive sound of a musical movement once heard deep on 1991’s Naïve.
Maybe the samples are a little safer than during KMFDM’s first peak in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Maybe the guitar riffs are a bit cleaner than during their second peak, around the time of “A Drug Against War” and “Juke Joint Jezebel.” Nevertheless, Tohuvabohu reveals itself as a reinvigorated blend of KMFDM’s martial vocals and scraping atmospherics.