Crematory - Unbroken

Crematory Unbroken cover
Crematory
Unbroken
Napalm Records
2020
6.5
It’s hard for me to consider several of the newer albums by Crematory, since they’re a band I was actually able to follow from their very early steps up to a certain point where I largely gave up on them only listening to their newer albums by chance or to review them. The long standing Germans, that will have been around for thirty years next year, have rather recently suffered the exit of several member, by now, leaving only singer Felix and the Jüllich couple (drums and keys), as original members.
 
Moving away from their early Death and Gothic metal roots in the 90s to a more electro dance sound afterwards, caused their popularity to mostly wane. Then changing record companies kept them from managing to keep their level of popularity consistent, coming to the point where the band’s drummer Markus ended up having a war of words pretty recently claiming that the band’s earnings have subsided to the point it makes little sense to continue. It turned out – rather ugly with fans sympathizing, while trolls, well trolling and making personal attacks.
 
Yet, Crematory return once more under the aegis of Napalm, a company whose vast percentage of artists I’m not exactly the biggest fan of, but none could deny the seer commercial success.
 
“Unbroken”, which is graced by a very striking cover, opens with the eponymous track of electro-gothic metal, which treads precariously closer to dance than metal and seems to read like a small historic account and a renewal of the band’s vow and intend to continue. At this point and age, I dunno what else they could do than hope and cast their lot, collectively, trying for the best.
 
“Awaits Me” is closer to more typical Crema-fare, which is good, but Connie “Connor” Andreszka’s clean vocals seem to be a little too different that Felix’s deep growling, sounding a bit like a cleaner Biff Byford. Still it’s a very pleasant track in the right direction, even comparable to pre-millenial material, if not for the somehow worse sounding/budget production. The predicament arising from streaming offering no “returns”.
 
“Rise and Fall” is similarly melodic and slower with the contrast between the growls and cleans becoming even more apparent. And while it’s not bad, I will be the one to still lament Lotte Forsts’ exit from the band, since his deep and stentorian cleans did really perfectly complement Felix’s growls and he also seemed to make nice compositional contributions. This “Connor” dude’s just to clean and week/thin sounding to ever meld well in.
 
“Behind the Wall” makes a half-hearted return to the industrial-dance arena with electronic beats polluting it. Not the worse track, but the band seems unable to make a sane decision over direction, or at least one that makes good sense.
 
“The Kingdom” is closer to the Gothic era of the band, with Connor even relaxing his vocal… overall there’s a bit of a Bowie vibe to the clean parts of this track, which is not necessarily a bad thing… I guess.
 
“Inside My Heart” drops speed to a minimum for a growly ballad and probably the best more inspired dueting vocals on the album as this time Felix makes an effort to close in on Connor’s lines. Not bad.
 
“The Downfall” once again approaches things with an almost pre-millenial fervor, which is a welcome thing… the more guitar than keyboard oriented direction which is not to say that keyboard textures are not ever present and while there, they are taking a bit of a more passive role. Especially memorable is the interesting solo on this number. This is a track that might have fit well in either “Awake” or “Act Seven”, some of the band’s better material, imho.
 
“My Dream Have Died” is probably as gothic a title as you might have thought, but again the gruff/clean vocal rift and contrast makes an unwelcome return.
 
“I Am” has a more danceable beat and it’s simple rhythm and repetitive nature make it a little boring, if I’d be perfectly honest. In a stronger album that might have gone relatively unnoticed, but with “Unbroken” not exactly being a creative pinnacle, it’s a bit of a sin, not a cardinal one, at least.
 
“Broken Heroes” is a middle of the road, heavy track, which is plagued by the antignomy and mismatch of vocal styles, mostly, not being a bad track per ce.
 
“Piece of Time” by virtue of its title alone, reminded me of one of the band’s first hits “Tears of Time” way back in their “Illusions” era …. ahh those were the days. It’s a welcome change of pace I guess.
 
“Voices” could have been a better track if it had less cleans, again plagued not by bad, but from somewhat incompatible performances.
 
“Abduction” is an electro-death tune with Felix even breaking into some of his clean singing, which I’m not sure if he’s done in recent times and might have benefited the album, if it was more widely used and adopted in it, with Connor’s vocals only harmonizing in the back. Not as bad, as I expected.
 
“As Darkness Calls” is again is a kind of track that would have been a nice throwback, with some more gothic sounding cleans.
 
Lastly, “Like the Tides” dares to go all clean, giving Connor complete vocal lead control. It’s different and I can’t say if it’s for better or worse, it’s far different that anything with Felix on it, but at least it’s consistent within its own microcosm and a decent piano ballad.
 
Still this is a rather confused output that while managing to be above average, without having to try too hard, probably has a handful of tracks too many and somewhat lacks in direction, trying to get EDM, goth and extreme metal, under one roof. It ends up being a bit like a soundtrack to a multicultural wedding. Way too diverse for its own good.
 
At the end of the day, it’s nice to see that these old dogs still have a bark and who knows, maybe they could still bite hard should they decide to remember their more primal side.