Puppenspiel - CD 2008
Unheilig is one of these bands with an unlimited productivity.
Productivity isn't always synonymous with quality, but Unheilig is
like a good old wine.
"Puppenspiel" is for sure a mature production on which you can find
back all familiar ingredients like the deep, penetrating vocals of
their charismatic frontman, the powerful guitar riffs a la Rammstein
and the electro-pop arrangements. Add to this some songs with a
clear, emotional mood and you get an idea about this "Puppenspiel".
The song "Lampenfieber" is my absolute favourite song and even one
of my personal faves ever. It perfectly combines the aforementioned
elements together with a carrying chorus. This is pure sensation!
Next to this great piece of music we also get some attention
grabbers like the opening song "Vorhang Auf" and "Spiegelbild" (both
with the typical Rammstein feeling in the guitar play), the more
emotional and pop-like "Feuerengel" and "Kleine Puppe" for its
carrying and popular sounding chorus. Unheilig delivers an album of
diversity with different captivating songs. In the end we can say
it's a fascinating and successful release!
The end of February 2008 will finally see the long awaited Brand
from German Electro / Metal heroes Unheilig. New album "Puppenspiel"
Play") is a thematic continuation of themes found on preceding
"Zelluloid" and "Moderne Zeiten" with a seamless merging of
guitars and expressive vocals. Unheilig present more musicality and
diversity than ever before on an honest, open set of songs and
of throbbing bass lines, powerful beats and singularly unique
There are many bands that undoubtedly are great
overall, but on every record amongst the masterpieces there’s a
bunch of a lot inferior or even downright bad songs. A prime German
example of such a band would be KMFDM. Every album has its fair
share of instant classics, yet to counter them there’s always a
couple of really insignificant and inane tracks that don’t do
anything to justify their existence. But what does this have to do
Yeah, nothing at all, because Unheilig isn’t like that. On
Unheilig’s latest offering Puppenspiel (released February 22nd) Der
Graf shows yet again his nearly unreal talent in songwriting and
manages to churn out a full 14 tracks (16 if you’ve got the limited
edition, like yours truly), every single one of which are enjoyable.
Yes, the previous albums Moderne Zeiten and Zelluloid were both very
solid and the same could’ve been said about them, but Puppenspiel is
bordering perfection. To be quite honest, I was kind of skeptical
when the first three samples of the album (Der Vorhang fällt, An
deiner Seite and Kleine Puppe) were revealed. They were good, but
they didn’t predict that many changes to the sound and formula that
proved to be a winning combination on the last two CDs. However,
when the urgent intro Vorhang auf exploded perfectly into
Puppenspieler, it grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go until
I’d listened the CD straight through.
Most of the album is darker and notably more furious than the almost
overly sluggish and romantic Moderne Zeiten, especially Lampenfieber
is a surprisingly brutal cut for Unheilig, while the ballads
Feuerengel, An deiner Seite and Der Vorhäng fällt are no slouches
either, as they are genuinely touching and powerful. Guitars seem to
have more of a driving role here than electronics making for a
heavier sound than before, although synths, pianos and strings are
still a large part of the band’s sound. Der Graf also uses his voice
in ways we haven’t heard before. Too bad the limited edition is
already completely sold out, as the two bonus songs are also
terrific additions to the core experience. Probably the only song
that doesn’t stand out as much as everything else is Wie viele Jahre,
which seems more like filler with its weird, out-of-place Gregorian
sample and is grudgingly slow.
In other words, Puppenspiel is tougher, catchier, more epic and
simply put better than anything Der Graf has created before. It’s
chock-full of songs that’ve been composed and produced so
excellently that it’s almost ridiculous, a brilliant, expert
combination of both familiar and new Unheilig elements. For fans
it’s automatically a must-have, and if you’re not a fan of Unheilig
yet, Puppenspiel proves that you bloody well should be, it’s that
damn good. Get it and see for yourself.
Check out samples for each track on Nilaihah’s website, where you
can also order it if you’re in the US. When you’ve got the album,
don’t forget to vote for your favourite title on the German side of
Review by Gregory E. Pilling
Puppenspiel thematically and stilistically
connects to the previous albums Zelluloid and most notably Moderne
Zeiten. Puppenspiel is born from personal experiences of Der Graf
but as a metaphor can also be applied to man and his position in the
world. Unheilig doesn’t introduce any new surprises on this album,
yet brings us where they’re good at: decent electro-rock crossover
tunes somewhere in between Rammstein, Oomph! And German indiepop.
The heavy guitar centered songs have gained depth with an
instrumentation that contains violins, as can be heard in songs like
‘Spiegelbild’ and ‘Fang Mich Auf’. The songs are mostly
characterized by a balance between power and melancholy and the
production is just great. It is also danceable with the heavy
electro sequences, beats and grooves. Listen for example to ‘Dein
Clown’ or ‘Lampenfieber’. It however are more than ever before the
quiet songs, such as the beautiful ‘Sei Mein Licht’, which deliver
and with that the bans shows they are still developing and able to
address an ever growing fanbase. Puppenspiel again makes a good
Unheilig album that will be a delight to the fans.
Review by TekNoir for
This is the first release for Unheilig to be domestically available in the United States, thanks to Nilaihah Records. This band has been putting out albums in Germany since 2001 and it really shows with their release of Puppenspiel. Fans of acts like Eisbrecher and Rammstein will delight at the deep vocals sung in German and the heavy handed guitars mixed with electronics. There is a bit of a symphonic feel to the album through the use of strings in some of the tracks as well. Overall the vocals are smoother than their aforementioned peers, lending a more goth feel to the sound rather than a rough industrial one. There’s still enough energy charged into things to keep it from getting boring, repetitive and sounding generic. There’s a good mix of guitar driven tracks and slower more ballad-like songs to make it a good listen from start to finish.
Review by DJ Rift for
With his new Album 'Puppenspiel', der Graf shows what he can do best: producing catchy, haunting electro-goth-rock songs... ...'Puppenspiel' comes along with a perfect mix of impulsive club tracks, melodic poppy songs and ballads... ...The production with the help of Henning Verlage brought a lot more pressure, warmth and lucency (lucidity)... ...Fans will absolutely LOVE Unheilig's new release 'Puppenspiel'...
Review by -Sascha Blach for Zillo Magazine
What began thematically with the successful predecessor, "Moderne Zeiten", the initiator, main figure and vocalist, Der Graf, sets forth with his band on the new album. Also on "Puppenspiel" all those human characters are being described in words and music that we all know but don't want to face. Unheilig have all creative strings of the emotional components in their hands and skilfully lead them. The pleasantly both modernised and electrified Gothic Rock is set to scene with all kinds of unpretentiously present electric guitars. Especially the (dark) romantic and ballad-like song passages on "Puppenspiel" go deep under your skin and adequately contrast the Industrial, machine-like elements of the music. The very balanced homogeny of the album should be quite mass-compatible and even features one or the other danceable song, too.
Review by -Markus Eck for metalmessage.net
The wait finally comes to an end! At the end of February 2008 the keenly anticipated Unheilig album “Puppenspiel”, a consequent refinement of its predecessor “Moderne Zeiten”, will be released. Once again The Graf deals with human concerns and desires, often reflecting autobiographical experiences of past and present times, and projects them onto the world of puppet shows.
The puppet show -as a special kind of performing art- represented an exceptional challenge for The Graf during the composition of this concept album. On the one hand, he is able to act the role of the puppet player leading and directing the characters, on the other hand, however, he also plays the part of the animated artifact itself which is rigidly tied to existing mechanisms.
Unheilig also covers the full range of puppet show topics: ancient elements such as the archaic theme of heaven and hell, the medieval good and evil, the romanticism of the 19th century are used alongside with the visual arts of modern times. Compared to its predecessors Unheilig has concentrated more on details and nothing was left to chance. Both production and visual elements of “Puppenspiel” are more distinct than ever before: the guitars are more precise, the voice more thrilling and passionate and the concept as a whole is a lot more expressive. Never before has Unheilig presented such a musical abundance.
“Puppenspiel” is a frank, honest and straight forward album which combines bass, beat and guitar elements with breath-taking emotional ballads. Although a variety of textual and musical elements is presented, the album never gets caught in opportunism but rather accentuates the unmistakable voice of the The Graf and thus bestows a final and unique distinctiveness onto this album. Raise the curtain!
Review by- AudioGlobe for klangkurier.ch
Never before, UNHEILIG presented an album so heavyset like 'Puppenspiel', which combines strong basses, beats and heavy guitars with breathtaking and emotional ballads. The distinctive voice of 'der Graf' stands above everything and gives 'Puppenspiel' its final, unique style.
Recipe: Wolfsheim meets Rammstein with Bruno Kramm (of Das Ich) on vocals and songs written by Ronan Harris.
With the release of Puppenspiel on American label Nilaihah, Unheilig finally makes it to the USA—and none too soon! Puppenspiel is the product of mature band in full command of their talents. It features depth, variety, musicianship—and hooks galore! Puppenspiel is a big, glorious album—one not afraid to take risks and to mix things up and one on which the hits far outnumber the misses.
The introduction to the album, “Vorhang auf,” lets the listener know what he’s in for as it begins with the sound of an orchestra tuning up, overtop of percolating percussion. Synth strings and piano are added in and the intensity builds until the Rammstein-esque crunchy guitars crash into the mix and the song seamlessly segues into the title track—the adrenaline-infused “Puppenspieler,” which should be commanding dance floors around the world.
Track 3, “Spiegelbild,” is an exercise is juxtaposition—and one that encapsulates the two general thrusts of the album as a whole. While it begins with gravely vocals and crunchy guitar, it then shifts into a much more melodic mode with clean vocals suggestive of Das Ich’s Bruno Kramm—think Wolfsheim meets Rammstein. The track then moves back and forth—quite effectively I might add—between these two modes and is unified by orchestral string throughout.
The subsequent album features a variety of different tempos, song structures, and tonal qualities. Track 4, “Dein Clown,” is of the EBM dancefloor cast and calls to mind And One, while track 5, “Sei Mein Licht,” is a slower, melodic ballad featuring piano and sweeping strings. Also in the dancefloor vein are tracks 6, “Fang Mich Auf” and 11, “Lampenfieber”—the latter of which features a choral background that wouldn’t be out of place on an E Nominae album and this E Nominae flavor carries through to track 12, “Wie Viele Jahre,” which fuses Gregorian chant (at the beginning) with a spoken/sung delivery.
The two tracks least to my taste are the two that deviate most from the electro-industrial mold. Track 9, “An Deiner Seite,” comes across as a New Agey lullaby—a more syrupy version of U2’s “With or Without You.” And I’m not quite sure what to make of Track 13, “Der Vorhang Fallt,” which has an '80s soft rock feel.
But as I said above, the hits on this album substantially outnumber the misses and one has to give Unheilig credit for having the courage to try out different forms and to show their sensitive side! At 14 tracks and close to 70 minutes in length, this is an album that goes above and beyond the call of duty and shows what talent and patience can produce in the process.
Great If You Like: VNV Nation, Bruno Kramm, Joachim Witt
Reviewed by- Cypheractive for Vampirefreaks
The end of February 2008 will finally see the long awaited Brand New album from German Electro / Metal heroes Unheilig. New album "Puppenspiel" ("Doll Play") is a thematic continuation of themes found on preceding albums "Zelluloid" and "Moderne Zeiten" with a seamless merging of Electronics, guitars and expressive vocals.
Unheilig present more musicality and diversity than ever before on an honest, open set of songs (and ballads ) full of throbbing bass lines, powerful beats and singularly unique vocals.
Putting “Puppenspiel” into my CD player I had my fears: is the Master who's been on tour for so long, who has been so active able to record a good, well thought out, innovative album? After I first listened to “Puppenspiel” I said “no” and added “well, Graf is overworked, he's lost a distance to his music”. But then I listened to it the second, then the third and the tenth time and I've changed my mind. Now my answer is “yes and no”...
Let me start with why 'no'. If you expect nothing but fireworks such as of “Das2Gebot” or “Zelluloid” the album might disappoint you.
It strictly follows Unheilig music line: rhythm, dynamism, momentarily harsh guitars and catchy passages the Graf is famous for, plus interchangeable ravishing and lyrical atmosphere... yes, it's all here and it's of perfect quality, nothing has changed in this respect.
But, it's nothing new. If you'd expected a sharp turn, surprise, novelty – well, it's not here. No, no, and once again NO.
Still, the question is: to what extent it's a drawback. If you believe constant changes and experiments are crucial, then, truly, you may accuse Unheilig of the lack of such new, unusual ideas. On the other hand, the follower of the approach „do not play more than you have inside of you, just enrich it” or „why change good things?” will definitely appreciate and like „Puppenspiel”.
The album surely features several gems (though, I'm afraid, not of “Maschine” class:), e.g. rhythmical, very dancy “Fang mich auf”, strongly guitarish “Puppenspieler”, or firm, definite “Kleine Puppe” (perfect, strong beat plus deep, hard-bitting vocal of Graf and the controversial 'la la la’ :), interesting, a bit gloomy and pugnacious “Lampenfieber” and the bonus piece “Spielzeugmann”.
We are also offered some heart-rendering pieces, soothing with its gentleness where Graf's voice gains the quality of the warmest blanket at the coldest night: “Sei mein Licht”, “An deiner Seite” or “Der Vorhang fällt”. The quality of such songs always makes me wonder how the warm, soft, sensual, moving, appealing and magical can be the vocalist's voice if properly used and framed... after all, even a diamond fades in a poor case... and Graf seems to have obtained the knowledge how to enchant the listeners with his velvety and a bit hoarse voice. The perfectly weighted proportion of depth, power, warmth and coldness (not to mention the technical mastery) stands for the strongest advantage of the vocal.
“Puppenspiel” also includes the songs of „the center” of a moderate pace, featuring more instrumental games, characterized by music solutions that scope attention, for instance “Spiegelbild”, “Feuerengel”, “Dein Clown” (fantastic intro, really hard grip :), “Die Bestie” or instrumental “Memoria”.
Which pieces representing two sides of emotional coin Graf is playing with did I love most? “An deiner Seite” - the voice infiltrates and reaches deep down enhanced by frugal, discreetly accompanying melody – for marvelous demonstration of lyrical strength and heart-rendering, so well-known ravishing power. On the other had we've got dynamic, absolutely stunning bonus track “Spielzeugmann” and “Puppenspieler” where the vocal and beat speed are intertwined in a fantastic way, seasoned with sullen guitars and the pace so smashing that it gets you off your feet.
Generally speaking, the album is a bit like a good poem of an author whose output is close to you: it doesn't show all its trumps all at once, but in the course of reading it reveals unexpected layers of meanings and introduces a familiar sound scape ... The music is perfectly harmonized, it presents technical artistry and it is greatly balancing through various tints passing from lyricism to rock blast. If you add the lyrics basing on Graf's experience to it (well, even the title suggests a certain philosophical context) then a remark „a good, well-prepared album” comes almost immediately. And naturally.
Even if I had expected a surprise, “Puppenspiel” didn't fail me... and besides, I feel like a marionette too... though I sometimes try to break strings.
Reviewd by- Karolina Moszkowicz for yesternight.pl
In 1999, the first sign of life of UNHEILIG appeared in the form of the first single ‘Sage Ja!’ which became a smash hit in the clubs and stayed in the DAC charts for several weeks. The first album ‘Phosphor’ was released in 2001, followed by live appearances on various festivals and open-air events. The second album ‘Das zweite Gebot’ was released in 2003 and was presented to the fans on a tour together with L’ame Immortelle. ‘Zelluloid’, the third album, followed in 2004 together with a tour with Terminal Choice. In 2005, the time had come for the release of a Live CD and DVD. The next regular studio release was called ‘Moderne Zeiten’ and has been released in January 2006. UNHEILIG went on tour as a headliner for the first time to play the new songs live. In 2006, Der Graf (The Count) retreated to his studio to work on the new album ‘Puppenspiel’ and only appeared for a few concerts. The work is now finished and ‘Puppenspiel’ is close to release.
01. Vorhang auf
This one has the function of an introduction though it has a small text and starts out with only strings and a quiet percussion like beat to become faster with a more solid beat using a distortion effect and in addition female chorals also appear.
The Puppet Masters scour through the lands and come to every city and every town to tell the stories written by life in a different way, mostly with a happy end because that’s what we all want… a happy ending. ‘Puppenspieler’ picks up the elements of ‘Vorhang auf’ and is therefore a continuation of the sound, incorporating also harsh riffing and straight fast-paced electronic beats.
The song fades in with a mid-tempo rhythm together with rocking riffs and dark, dramatic strings before ‘Der Graf’ starts the chant with a deep and dark vocal style. But the mood changes at the chorus parts, when the strings become more mighty and melancholic, while the vocals are now changing to a cleaner style.
04. Dein Clown
When you’re sad then I should be the one to lift you up and put a smile on your face and you’re not interested what’s going on behind the make-up as long as I make you happy but I don’t want to be your clown anymore and I don’t want to smile, when I feel like crying. The track continues the tradition of combing a straight dance beat with harsh riffs and some low atmospheric layers in the back accompanied by bells. Always with the distinctive voice of ‘Der Graf’.
05. Sei mein Licht
A light can be just something that lights up the dark, but in a symbolic way it can also stand for a very special person on your life that guides your way back into life, when everything around you falls apart. A very slow beat is the base for longing and spherical synth lines and layers and make this tune a very dreamy ballad where also small piano lines fill the atmosphere with their sounds.
06. Fang mich auf
Further on with one of those songs of the kind that invites you to dance along to it, carried by a straight beat combined with some guitar riffs, having a similarity to one of those dance songs before using the same kind of basic elements. On top of that you’ll get male choirs and mighty strings in the chorus.
Many of us had one, when we were children. One of those imaginary beings, only we could see and, who protected us. In this case, such a being comes in the form of a fire angle. The sound of ‘Feuerengel’ has something epic to it because of the extensive use of strings of any shade. One time darker or changing to a more layered type underlined with gentle piano chords and mid-tempo beats.
08. Kleine Puppe
‘Kleine Puppe’ has a similarity to ‘Fang mich auf’ in my opinion. It uses the same basic beat patterns, but with a slightly different tempo and fills them with some of those driving synth lines, some guitar riffs and a catchy hook accentuated by choirs.
09. An deiner Seite
You fought bravely but unfortunately it was in vain. You were a good and loyal friend for a big part of my life and you always stood by my side. But now the moment I hoped would never come has arrived and when you will close your eyes forever I will be by your side, so that the last person you’ll see will be me. I will never forget you...sleep well my friend. A rather sad text and so is the musical accentuation. Mostly very fragile, only with the fragile chant and spherical piano lines, but later on also strings and acoustic guitars appear before a slower beat and guitar riffs set in, though I think the riffs don’t fit to the mood of the song.
10. Die Bestie
The beast… or better the dark side that lurks inside all of us. Sounds already very dark and menacing and the song has indeed a threatening undertone. You’re actually waiting for a breakout but it doesn’t come, but the menacing feeling remains. The rhythmic patterns, though they’re pretty straight seem to have some more layers compared to the other songs and the orchestral elements add to increase the overall dark mood.
I can imagine this song will be loved, when it’s played live. The pumping beat will boost the adrenaline of the attending fans to the maximum and the will not be able to resist the call to move their feet right away and dance as if there would be no tomorrow. I can’t come to like that song but in the end that’s only a matter of taste.
12. Wie viele Jahre
He promised you a new life and hope. He said exactly, what you wanted to hear, but he’s just manipulating you, so you will follow his path, believe in everything he says and do what he wants you to do. How many years does it take until you comprehend? Gentle acoustic guitars and male choirs are the only companions of the vocals before a slow electronic beat appears and after a while gets more solid.
13. Der Vorhang fällt
‘Der Vorhang fällt’ welcomes you with a mixture of melancholic female choirs, acoustic guitar parts and gentle beats with some guitar riffs with the clean and restrained vocals of ‘Der Graf’ on top not forgetting the piano chords. The laid-back beats become more present in the chorus and some more orchestral string arrangements appear as well.
14. Memoria (Instrumental)
The album concludes with a instrumental picking up some of the elements already heard on the first track of the album ‘Vorhang auf’ like the lightly distorted beat pattern or some of the synth lines but expands it with mighty orchestral string arrangements, choirs, guitar chords and piano sounds.
It’s not an album that knocked my socks off except for ‘An deiner Seite’ which reminds me of something, that happened not so long ago. To come back to the other songs: There is a clear progression in the production, that is fresher and more up-to-date but apart from that not much has changed in my humble opinion. The songs are switching between danceable and melancholic, while the more danceable sounds sound rather similar. If you didn’t like UNHEILIG before, this surely won’t change your mind. For the fans it’s a must have anyway.
Reviewed by-Sebastian Huhn for reflectionsofdarkness.com
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