Gott Mit Uns is German, but not just German, it's wonderfully German. It has such a classical, factory-driven sound that it reminds me of a short scene in the famous continuous-shot film here in Russia known as Russian Ark where the camera comes upon a symbolic representation of Germany and comments "you smell like formaldehyde". I'm going to assume most of you don't get that reference, I guess it's something only a Russian would understand, but in this case it comes with every bit of respect! Kreuzweg Ost has been in hiding for almost seven years, and this is the band's second release on the mighty Cold Spring Records, whose release it's a great pleasure to have a chance to review. It came to me with a small promo sheet which suggests that Gott Mit Uns is either Christian in origin, meaning rooting in actual religious belief, or it's deceptively Christian and merely used for style. Either way, this release has a pulse few industrial acts can manage today and it mixes it beautifully with dark, atmospheric ambient and effective samples. It tends to move a little too close to soundtrack (film or video game) quality, but still manages to impress by the end.
Gott Mit Uns opens with an epic intro and then moves into the first track, "Calvaria". "Calvaria" begins with German-language film samples, which make up the bulk of the sampling work in the album, and then leads into a set of classical string pieces with some military percussion that slowly builds. By the middle, you're treated to a combination of flutes, further sample layers (sounds like they were taken from some sort of medieval war film), and echoing timpani drums. This style makes up the general sound of Gott Mit Uns, but it goes back and forth from military, factory marching to ambient textures with lighter instrumentation. Track three, "Stammen", features piano lines in the background, more strings, very faint but touching samples of a girl, and even samples that sound like they were taken from some sort of piston or machine pulsating with rhythmic steam. This movement from heavy industrial sounds using classical instruments to ambience provides an excellent mix for fans of both styles, but yet with aspects of each in every song that you won't find yourself moving ahead to something more to your liking, depending on your affinities. "Heiliger Gehorsam" features organ, proving Kreuzweg Ost can run the battlements with any classical instrument, "Thy Will be Done" features strange, breathe-like samples and swords that build the bulk of the beat, sounding like an army of orcs. This is combined with English-language samples from some sort of film that seems to involve the Crusades. Either way, the Christian imagery is clearly militaristic and Romantic in nature.
One great aspect about Gott Mit Uns is the uncertainty of the samples' origins. This might not be an issue to some people, but personally it gets to me when I can tell from where a particular sample or soundbite came. Kreuzweg Ost has been clear in their meaning, or so it seems at least, but it's doubtful you'll know where they got any of it, and this provides a much better sound pattern to build on because the listener gets lost in the meaning instead of the context from which it was taken. Also, the usage of classical instruments in a more modern fashion works quite well. The only complaint with Gott Mit Uns is its repetitive nature. Once Kreuzweg Ost gets into a good pattern, it basically continues for the rest of the song. It might move from one arrangement to another, but it frequently comes back to where it began and continues for quite awhile. I should also mention that sometimes it comes off as a little too purposefully epic, and it sometimes goes from sounding like a soundtrack to a famous film to sounding like a soundtrack to Runescape. It's largely a successful release, but keep in mind these few issues before you check it out.
Written by Alyssa Prague