I came to The Hirsch Effekt via Long Branch Records, when I was exploring the label a few years back. Eskapist (2017) immediately clicked with me, and I definitely think they are one of the strongest and most interesting artists on the LBR label, and quite possibly one of the least known. This is possibly because the German trio are all over the place musically, and certainly are the only band I know to fuse math-rock and emo. Aggressively catchy, and destructively groovy, the band lays down a mix of (sometimes death) metal, (sometimes hardcore) punk and djenty jazz in a succession of ever-changing elements. Throw in some classical/chamber influence (I kid you not), some electronica and some ‘80s pop, and let your ears be assaulted by the epic and enormous sound that this monstrous mash-up of styles creates. And then remind yourself it is only three musicians making this wall of noise!
What I find quite amazing, is how well this album flows. It appears to have been sequenced with meticulous precision, so that as disparate as the sounds can be within a track, or between them, it all segues so naturally. It’s a journey, and is never either too overwhelming or ever approaching boring. With such a loud and heavy barrage of sound, it would be easy for fatigue to set in, but the dynamics and nuances of Kollaps mean interest is never lost, and listening never becomes arduous. I could make comparisons to bands like The Mars Volta, 22, Tool, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Leprous, 30 Seconds To Mars, or even A-Ha, but none would really give you any indication of the sound and style, or rather range of sounds and styles of The Hirsch Effekt. There’s even some hip hop stylings thrown in to second track, and single, Noja.
Being familiar with the majority of The Hirsch Effekt’s discography, I can fairly confidently say this is their best album yet. It’s irresistibly and outrageously indigestible, requiring several listens to truly appreciate – even though I loved it already on first listen. Apparently, the album is inspired by young environmentalist Greta Thunberg, but I don’t speak German – and even if I did, I’m not entirely convinced I’d understand what is being sung anyway. However, given the complexity of the problems of addressing climate change, I can think of no better band to attempt to do than The Hirsch Effekt, with their systematic and bombastic well-ordered chaos.
Whether or not it is to follow the concept, and lyrical message, either my ears become accustomed to the bludgeoning, or the album settles down from Domstol (one of my favourite tracks on the album) onward. It remains heavy and convoluted, but there are some definite quieter (for lack of a better word) moments. Torka provides some gloriously restrained and glitchy electronic passages, and another favourite track. The title track is like a twisted combination of Sunny Day Real Estate and Smashing Pumpkins, tortured and drawn out on a rack until their near-dead corpses are unrecognisable. And as unattractive as that sounds, Kollaps is another favourite, as is the final track, Agera. Only, however, when I’m listening to the album as a whole. The impact it has comes from all that has come before, and built up to it. The whole album feels like one great crescendo to Agera’s climax. The choral passage towards the end never fails to give me goosebumps. And yet, listened to alone and in isolation, Agera doesn’t evoke the same feelings by itself. But this is surely part of the brilliance of the album as a whole.
Kollaps is an album that would be ambitious, even without the concept, but to its credit, it never does collapse. The rich complexities of the harmonies and time signatures wash over the listener in unnerving waves, sometimes crashing down furiously, and sometimes easing off surprisingly and floating over gently. There are brutal blast beats and breakdowns, but these serve to emphasise the quieter moments even more. And there are some simpler passages (particularly toward the end of the album), which are just beautiful. Again, the ludicrously elaborate playing on the album for the most part, really brings out the beauty when the music is more straightforward.
Despite the erratic eclecticism of Kollaps, the music is clear, focused, controlled and cohesive, with every song clearly having been thoughtfully composed and placed within the tightly woven framework. The Hirsch Effekt has made another uncompromising masterpiece, and this well could be their definitive release. Unfortunately, it’s probably unlikely to find wider recognition, and this is definitely in part due to its uncompromising nature. Several of the styles the band incorporates into their own are niche to begin with, let alone being combined with often completely disparate styles that will throw those within one such niche greatly out of their comfort zone.
Kollaps is a towering monolith of sound, built from (according to The Hirsch Effekt’s Bandcamp page) “post-punk, post-rock, art-core, progressive metal, pop and classical music.” Most bands who make such claims to produce music from such a wide palette of styles inevitably fail to do so successfully. The Hirsch Effekt, however, are completely natural and organic at every turn, never sounding forced. There are no clumsy transitions. Everything is fluid. Every musical choice made works. If you want an easy listen, this is not your album, but if you want to be challenged, give Kollaps a go.
01. Kris (4:24)
02. Noja (4:21)
03. Deklaration (3:46)
04. Allmende (4:04)
05. Domstol (5:34)
06. Moment (1:23)
07. Torka (6:21)
08. Bilen (4:23)
09. Kollaps (7:23)
10. Agera (6:48)
Total Time – 48:27
Nils Wittrock – Vocals, Guitar
Ilja John Lappin – Vocals, Bass
Moritz Schmidt – Drums
Anoki – Additional Vocals
Tim Tautorat – Violin, Additional Vocals, Additional Programming,
Record Label: Long Branch Records
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 8th May 2020
The Hirsch Effekt – Website | Facebook | Bandcamp | YouTube