Despite what Gene Simmons would have us believe, the jury is still out on whether rock ‘n’ roll is well and truly dead. It’s true that pure rock music has been on life support since the boom and bust cycle of hunger dunger dang bands like Creed, Staind, and 3 Doors Down, but the continued success of both The Foo Fighters and Nickleback demonstrate that there’s still a market for straightforward hard rock. While quality rock acts may be few and far between in the current neon wasteland of pop music, enterprising fans can still find gems hidden in the rough. One of these gems is Germany’s Kadavar, a trio of classic rock acolytes who worship at the altar of all things 1970s.
Dedicating yourself to retro-rock can be a dicey proposition. Bands working in this type of music run the risk of coming off as glorified karaoke acts – look to the tedious musical stylings of Jet to see just how bad things can get. Fortunately for retro-rock aficionados, the guys in Kadavar not only have a firm grasp on the sounds of the 70s, but the song writing chops to execute their vision.
Berlin is the band’s third album overall and second on Nuclear Blast. It’s also their best. That’s saying a lot considering their last album, 2013’s Abra Kadavar, set the bar extremely high for other practitioners of retro-rock. This power trio has once again managed to take Led Zepplin, Thin Lizzy, The Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, and countless other rock and psychedelic acts from the Me Decade and fuse them into a set of songs that sounds familiar without also sounding derivative.
Kadavar is a band that doesn’t shy away from wearing its influences on its sleeve. Just try listening to the strutting guitar on “Last Living Dinosaur” without immediately thinking of Led Zeppelin. Likewise, “The Old Man” is obviously heavily influenced by The Scorpions. However, none of the songs on Berlin sound contrived because the band never lets one influence overshadow the others. For example, “Stolen Dreams” and “Into the Night” are proto-metal anthems, but both songs are tempered with psychedelic flourishes that lend a spacey feel to the music. If you’re still trying to wrap your head around what the band is doing on this album, imagine a less pop-influenced Ghost without all the diabolic theatricality.
It’s rare to find an album that’s nearly flawless from beginning to end, but Berlin is the total package if you’re a fan of rock ‘n’ roll. The worst that can be said about it is that the bonus track, a cover of Nico’s “Reich Der Traume (Land of Dreams),” is a bit superfluous. That’s really the strongest criticism that can be leveled against it. Every song cruises along and there’s no filler, so the album never drags over the course of its nearly sixty minute run time. Don’t be surprised when this record pops up on a lot of peoples’ year end lists. It’s a stunner and it’s available now on Nuclear Blast Records.