Saltatio Mortis’ nine band members have been a part of the German medieval rock scene since the year 2000. This scene came to life in the middle of the 1990’s when medieval market bands started to mix traditional instruments like bagpipes, bouzoukis, didgeridoos, flutes, harps, shawms, whistles, and so on with rock instruments like electric guitars and bass guitars, drums, and sometimes even keyboards. Next to Subway To Sally and In Extremo, Saltatio Mortis can, perhaps, be cited as the third most important force of the genre.
Das Schwarze Einmaleins or Das Schwarze IXI is Saltatio Mortis’ ninth studio record in only twelve years. They are surely among the most productive bands of their genre and should get some credit for this. In addition, I have seen them in concert a couple of times and they perform very well live. Let’s also add that Saltatio Mortis are one of the more metal influenced bands of their genre. Their first single “Wachstum über Alles”, includes very critical lyrics that attack the financial system and cold-hearted managers and politicians that have led Europe and Germany during the last few years. The chorus of the song is based on the melodies of the German national anthem, and the angry lyrics over it create a very punching atmosphere. The German national anthem played by bagpipes and sung in a punk rock style with new lyrics is a courageous concept that really surprised me pleasantly. I’m not a patriotic guy at all, but the German national anthem has always touched me. In addition to this, the band invited three other medieval rock bands (Das Niveau, Omnia, and Subway To Sally) to cover their song in their own style on the single, which I consider to be another great idea. The single and the album artwork are based on a comic strip style and add a new fresh twist to the genre, though I would have preferred something different and more traditional.
What about the record? The vivid opener “Früher War Alles Besser” hits the same vein as the single, and mixes intriguing lyrics with strong guitar riffs and bagpipe melodies. The lyrics laugh at those people who always claim that everything has been better in the past and that the contemporary world sucks. This is easily one of the best songs the band has ever written. Another great song is “Idol”, where the singer declares that he should never be seen as an idol, and that he has a lot of negative aspects. In addition to the honest lyrics, the music on here is catchy mixing medieval instruments with great guitar riffs in a great balance. Another true highlight on the new record is “Abrakadabra”, a very dark song with strong Arabian folk elements and emotional lyrics. The whole thing is crowned by an unforgettable chorus.
On the entire record, the band mixes more traditional folk inspired tracks like the charming “Der Kuss”, with more modern and metal driven songs like “Nur ein Traum”, and without forgetting to include a couple of more laid back songs like the ballad “Sandmann”. The diversity on this album is great, but thirteen songs plus a bonus track are too much. Amidst several tracks that are among the best the band has ever written, there are several fillers, like “Satans Fall”, “Galgenballade”, or “Randnotiz”. There is also one English track on here called “My Bonnie Mary”. Instrumentally, this track is decent, but the singer’s pronunciation is awful. In fact, I don’t even understand what he is singing, as he has a very strong German accent (and I say this being a German myself). The band has sung a few tracks in French and Latin before, and they clearly sounded better than this English track. I hope the band avoids this sort of thing in the future.
Despite a few flaws, this record is an entertaining fun ride, and should be tried out by anybody interested in the increasingly popular German medieval rock genre. I would say that the band has released one of its best records ever, though nothing will ever top Aus Der Asche, which came out in 2007. This new album is better than the latest releases by Subway To Sally, and most other German medieval rock bands in my opinion.