CD Review: Kontrust “Explositive”

Napalm Records
Tracks: 11 (Plus 2 Bonus Tracks on DigiPack)
Release Date: November 11, 2014

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

When Mike Wolff, guitarist for Kontrust, told me that the new album “Explositive” would be “in your face,” he wasn’t exaggerating. From the opening track “Dance” to the album’s final note in “Bad Time,” Explositive packs a heavy handed punch full of harmonized riffs, hyperbole vocals and deep set drum/bass grooves that would get even the most stoic person to bust a move.

Explositive is Kontrust’s fourth full length album, and fans of their previous releases will certainly find plenty of the yin-yang pop/metal vocals that Agata Jarosz and Stefan Lichtenberger have masterfully produced over the last 9 years. Often contrasting within a song, the duo’s vocals create almost a “Dark vs. Light” effect, especially evident in the songs “Just Propaganda,” anthem-esque “Cosmic Girls” and “Play!”. The shift from Stefan’s rapid fire lyrics that punctuate the melody on “Play!” lead into a beautiful chorus by Agata, a formula that adds another dimension to the chop heavy tune. However, songs like “Dance” and “Vienna” allow the duo to harmonize, creating a wonderful lyrical balance to carefully laid out instrumentals.

One of the distinct differences between Explositive and Kontrust’s previous release, Secondhand Wonderland, is the absence of post-production “effects”. Shooting for more of a “raw” sound, Kontrust relies more heavily on pure instrumentals for the new release, which given the tracks on the album yielded a very positive result. Wolff’s guitar work is extremely crisp and fluid, and Gregor Kutschera’s bass lines are some of the best he’s dropped in the four full length albums. Punctuating the tracks is some mean skin beating by drummer Roman Gaisbock and percussionist Manuel Haglmuller. The beats transition from tribal to thrash with relative ease and display the duo’s prowess for providing the backbone to Explositive’s song structure.

A distinct pitfall encountered by crossover genre artists is repetitiveness, something that Kontrust has managed to avoid over the course of their 9 year lifespan. Explositive is a great example of the band’s desire to change direction at the drop of the hat, so that songs are not only acoustically pleasant, but almost mathematically complex at the same time. Whether it’s the vocals shifting gears, the guitars slinking from metal to funk, or the bass dropping some Parliament-esque riffs into the middle of an otherwise “metal” song, the listener is kept on edge, anticipating the next seamless transition. It’s not only a brilliant tactic, but something that listeners who are bored of “sterile” radio play will appreciate.

Re-visiting the interview I just held with Kontrust, I now realize what Mike Wolff meant when he said that Explositive was Kontrust “reduced to the maximum”. All of the fluff post production has been stripped away and fans of the band will be in for a treat, as the album truly showcases how talented this group of artists really is. Explositive is a great addition to Kontrust’s existing discography and will not only excite the loyal fans of the group, but should also gain them a great deal of new fanfare from listeners hearing the band for the first time. Me, I was hooked the first time I heard Secondhand Wonderland; Explositive just confirms that Kontrust is an artist that needs to permanently reside on my play list.

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