Release Date: 05/04/2019
Record Label: Alcopop! Records
For Fans Of: NIN, Raketkanon
Raketkanon make a reviewers task almost impossible. There is no real reference point for the Ghent quartet as they refuse to be constrained by genre, sound, scene and even language (as their lyrics tend to be formed from their own invented lingo consisting of all kinds of weird and wonderful phonetic sounds). This level of creativity has earned the band a tremendous reputation over the past few years, with the legendary Steve Albini producing their second album in 2015 which then went on to gain the attention of even Iggy Pop. When characters of that calibre start to take notice, it’s clear that you’ve hit onto something great. With this reputation in mind, you might think that the Belgian band would consolidate their position and refine what foundations they have laid so far; you also would be completely wrong in that thought.
It’s true that Raketkanon have built upon previous works yet RKTKN#3 expands everything even further to such an extent that I’m not really even sure if this isn’t them ripping up what has gone before and starting anew. Although this is clearly still the same band with similar ‘hardcore’ tendencies (if you can call it that) the synths have gained a much greater focus, and with it the band have started to cover a much broader range of sounds and styles; the Belgians have even started to explore more ambient passages. The very appropriately titled ‘Hannibal’ does this perfectly to create something that could soundtrack a horror film. With quiet, barely audible ambience stalking you to ramp up the tension before you are attacked by a crazed yelp and stabbing bassline before your hunter skulks away to the shadows once more. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this record is how despite there being so much to take in, it still sounds very minimal most of the time in a very similar way to many of Trent Reznor’s works.
‘Melody’ is a rare example of Raketkanon restraining themselves throughout an entire track, with almost whispered vocal with period electronic sounds over a lazy backbeat. Even when the track seems like it is building to something it never quite reaches a crescendo and instead wanders into a completely different direction which keeps you on your toes despite being one of the most relaxing songs here. In spite of the variety and range, the actual core sound remains dark and futuristic throughout the record which goes a long way to ensuring that it feels at least somewhat cohesive. Here is the major falling point in the album as at times it does feel like a collection of songs and sounds and where individual tracks are brilliant, they don’t seem to fit together to form a proper body of work. This is perhaps most noticeable with the last two tracks on the album as ‘Ernest’ builds into a stomping and distorted rampage before the closer ‘Mido’ meekly creeps along but instead of this feeling like the release of built up energy and its aftermath they feel like completely separated and rather disjointed.
There are moments where it sounds like they have found a groove and might just settle on it, but of course just as you think you have it sussed they either move onto something completely different or the song just ends. ‘Fons’ starts with a fairly regular riff, albeit with some rather unique vocal stylings, and builds upon this before morphing through a more relaxed passage, gathering it’s strength, finally roaring back with a hook that wouldn’t be out of place in a Royal Blood track if only you could decipher what vocalist, Pieter-Paul Devos, was saying.
This is a record that never stands still long enough to ever really figure out what is going on. Raketkanon are experimental and progressive in the best senses of the word, they are stretching their wings and exploring the fullest range of sounds they can produce as a band. Undoubtedly RKTKN#3 will not be for everybody as it plays out like the musical equivalent of a mood-board or a soundtrack rather than a modern rock record although rather than feeling like there is any real progression throughout the album, it does feel like it is a collection of tracks. Regardless, its originality means that everyone should at least give this a go, at only 30 minutes long it will not take up a huge amount of time and most will find themselves coming back for more just to try and figure out what the hell is actually going on. Raketkanon have broadened their sound far beyond previous efforts and this experimentation should be applauded, the real test however, will be to see how they can turn these experiments into a more cohesive work in the future.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Hannibal’, ‘Lou’, ‘Harry’