Alter Der Ruine’s new album Son of a Bitch is by far the most sonically unified thing the group has ever released. On their previous three records the group has dabbled in power noise, EBM, electro and IDM amongst other sounds, often over the course of a single song. That’s been both a blessing and a curse for them; the same wide-ranging touchstones that made the group more interesting than a lot of other outfits plying techno-fied industrial has also served to hold the group back from developing a sound uniquely recognizable as their own. Son of a Bitch is the first album that largely holds to one style, but it’s one of their own making, and what’s more, it’s one that successfully pulls from their previous genre experiments to craft something new, and (thankfully) very characteristically them.
Describing Son of a Bitch ends up being a bit of a task for that very reason. If it’s the first album that recognizably makes a case for an Alter Der Ruine sound, the natural question that follows is “What does Alter Der Ruine sound like”? The answer is, well, like a lot of things really. To my ears the squelchy, bass-driven tracks that make up roughly half the album bear a resemblance to the dirty club electro being produced well-outside the industrial sphere by artists like Fukkk Off and Kill the Noise. A tweaky dancefloor number like “It Speaks”, with its analogue bleeps and slippery lead, or the bouncy “Boozetooth” could fairly easily fit into a DJ set with tracks from either artist without too much difficulty. The same vein gets mined a bit further on closer “Snake Oil Salesman”, although the addition of melodic vocals and a heavy rock-like chorus end up making it a strong contender for crossover club play.
Lest anyone be concerned that ADR have strayed too far into predictability, “Lady Jamz pt. 2” and “You Owe Me Blood” (the latter featuring a *gasp* dubstep breakdown of sorts) amp things into the spastic, distorted territory the group has touched on numerous times previously, effectively laying to rest any concerns that the group may be softening up, or abandoning industrial (whatever industrial means in 2011). Penultimate song “The Bread Snake of Lamb’s Lion” starts in the same neighbourhood as the latter two before a punky breakdown mid-song steers it off in a different direction altogether. Therein lies the appeal of Son of a Bitch; despite sounding unified across its 10 songs, it still shows that ADR are willing to throw curves if the situation calls for it.
It may seem like I’m damning Alter Der Ruine with faint praise by saying that Son of a Bitch is the sound of them hitting their stride, but I can’t stress enough how pleasingly simpatico the album sounds when listened to in one sitting. Questions of identity are ever the bane of artists with eclectic palettes, especially in the world of electronic music where subgenres routinely blur and bleed into one another. ADR deserve commendations not just for putting together a solid record, but for carving themselves a sonic identity to go with it.