[:SITD:] aren’t going to reinvent the wheel at this point. Now eight LPs and twenty-odd years deep, the German trio has their sound and style on lock and rarely vary it. Rather than anticipating dramatic shifts, listening to their newest release has become a somewhat formalized exercise for us at ID:UD – note slight variations, identify highlight tracks, enjoy the band’s consistently grand production style. Stunde X fits this pattern to a tee.
The religious imagery which surfaces on many of the LP’s tracks never coalesces into much more than a vague thematic interest, but neither does it get in the way of the record’s ease of approach, and tends to meld well with the sober and earnest tone so much of the band’s material has always had. Indeed, the heavenly theme of opener “Greater Heights” serves as a solid establishing shot of the band’s formula of catchy and impetuous leads over heavy mid-tempo percussion before later tracks vary the delivery a tad. If a track like the loping instrumental “Symptom” sounds a bit dated for its rote dubstep production, “Olymp” shows just how au courant [:SITD:] can be with the most minor of tweaks. The dry and punishing bassline which kicks the track off sounds like a dead-ringer for present-day EBM-techno, but the rest of the track, from Carsten Jacek’s vocals to the harmonic synths, are classic [:SITD:]. It’s this sort of tasteful nod to present trends without swerving too far from course which more scene bands (or at least those as entrenched within the scene as [:SITD:]) could benefit from studying.
But even when they’re sticking with the club-minded, well-polished brand of electro-industrial which first garnered them attention, [:SITD:]’s savvy production skills are on display. The simple but effective filter work on lengthy dancefloor workout “Grenzenlos” had me flashing back to the intensity and craft of the first Memmaker record, though its nine-plus minute run-time is perhaps asking too much. As a matter of fact, about half of the record’s numbers clock in at or above six minutes. [:SITD:] have never lacked for ambition in the sound design woven through their songs, and giving them as much time as Stunde X does has mixed results. The string section which is woven in at the end of “Revelation” feels earned, with the band paying off the track’s slow build rather than trying to pull out all the stops to communicate bombast from the first instant.
If you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you have a solid enough idea of what to expect from an [:SITD:] record in 2019, and believe me when I say that your expectations will likely be borne out by a first pass at Stunde X. [:SITD:] have, over the past ten years, remained a band who never surprise, but also never disappoint. There are worse fates.