You really know what to expect when you’re listening to a Crematory record. Germany’s most popular gothic metal band comes around with simple song writing structures put into catchy mid tempo songs between three and five minutes. The band mixes crunchy guitar riffs somewhere between death, gothic, industrial and occasionally thrash metal with simple but efficient melodic keyboard patterns. While the rhythm section is rather unspectacular, the band usually convinces with a good mixture of growls by singer Gerhard “Felix” Stass and clean parts sung by guitarist Matthias “Matze” Hechler. In many songs, the verses include charismatic growls while the choruses and bridges feature more melodic parts or a duet of both vocalists. One should also mention that the band operates both with English and German lyrics. Even though Antiserum only includes two German song titles, many other tracks feature German verses and English choruses. While Crematory has never written too sophisticated lyrics, the German lyrics always sounded rather limited and this is also the case for this record. Despite a few flaws, these charismatic and somewhat charming key elements have been working very well for almost 15 years.
This time, Crematory tried to create a more electronic music driven release in the key of the popular comeback record Revolution that came out ten years earlier. In order to reinforce this element, the band joined forces with Elmar Schmidt from the Electronic Body Music band Centhron. This band might only be known to EBM fans but it’s a quite respected brand in the German gothic scene.
While the electronic elements are more prominent than on the last record Infinity that had a few thrash metal driven anthems, I must admit that the announced impact on the music is only minimal and that we can’t talk about a refreshed new direction. Everything pretty much sounds as usual. Some songs feature a few EBM sounds here and there but they are only there to open some tracks and already disappear thirty seconds into the songs. All in all, I’m rather disappointed by the use of EBM elements on this record that I was rather looking forward to.
If a band doesn’t come around with new ideas, it should at least write a few catchy or passionate tracks but this isn’t the case on the new record. Crematory has shown us in the past how to write great genre anthems. Any gothic metal fan should know songs such as “Tears Of Time”, “Ist Es Wahr”, “Fly”, “The Fallen” and “Greed”. The band also showed us recently that it was still able to write memorable tracks such as “Left The Ground”, “Infinity” or “Sense Of Time”. If the band didn’t convince with its own tracks, they came around with some convincing cover songs like Depeche Mode’s “Black Celebration” on the last output or the classic rendition of The Sisters Of Mercy’s “Temple Of Love”. That’s why I’m surprised that no track on Antiserum has the qualities of the aforementioned tracks. Many songs on the new album need multiple spins before they even grab the slightest of your attention. It’s quite hard to mention any outstanding passages or highlights on the new record because the band repeats itself without featuring the catchy hooks it stood for in the past. It’s easier to point out the more disappointing songs. “Until The End” is a rather faceless opener, “Kommt näher” and “Virus” feature stereotypical and almost amusingly weak lyrics and songs like the predictable “Inside Your Eyes” or “Back From The Dead” are obviously filler material.
After several spins, I have found a few personal favourites on the record but they are nothing more than good average songs. The classic “If You Believe” is a song Creamtory fans will adore. It features atmospheric but also energizing keyboard passages, sharp riffs and a great mixture of growled verses and a more melodic chorus. The laid back and atmospheric bridge with the creepy spoken word passage is probably the highlight of the song.
The single “Shadowmaker” finally features a more prominent use of EBM and other electronic elements. Some of these sounds are interesting but others rather odd. The crunchy background noise in the verses that sounds as if somebody was stretching an elastic band is quite ridiculous for example. While the song includes all Crematory trademarks such as thrash metal orientated verses, energizing growls and a few more atmospheric sounds in the bridge, the song somehow feels too calculated. The track sounds like Crematory song writing by numbers as if the band desperately wanted this track to be its new anthem. In fact, “Shadowmaker” was the band’s first single release in nine years since “Greed”. In comparison to the latter, the new song sounds really pale. It’s a good average track but definitely nothing more.
“Welcome” features a good use of the announced EBM elements in the beginning moments only but the song is saved by crunchier and faster riffs in the verses and an almost symphonic chorus that gets stuck on your mind after a while. The mixture of these three elements is nothing new for the band and could have been more organic. It speaks volumes if a solid average track like this can already be considered as a highlight on the record.
The closing title track “Antiserum” convinces with a dark atmosphere carried by some melancholic piano melodies, symphonic keyboard sounds and longing clean vocals. Crematory often closes its records this way and even though the track doesn’t come along as a surprise or as one of the band’s better album closers, it’s still one of this record’s most organic tracks.
In the end, my verdict is very simple. I’m a long-time Crematory fan and I will of course try to purchase the limited edition of this release. I will try to catch the band up during a summer festival and I will cheer along to old and new songs. My subjective fan heart is happy that the band is back with a new record after an unusually long waiting time of almost four years. From an objective point of view though, the new album offers nothing new and also lacks the charisma and passion of similar releases in the past such as Revolution. Honestly said, the new album is one of the band’s weakest efforts in 23 years. I thought the previous Infinity was a little bit shallow but it’s still definitely better than Antiserum. This release is for old fans and collectors only and probably won’t attract any new fans to the German gothic metal legends.
If you’re new to the band and want to hear what they sound like today but where they also sound best, start your discovery with Believe, Revolution and Pray or maybe the decent greatest hits compilation Black Pearls.