Stuka is a three-track, digital-only EP by Waffenruhe, released this past March by Germany’s criminally overlooked Castellum Stoufenburc imprint as a means to commemorate the project’s eight-year anniversary. The digital release is being offered for free to fans and can be found at this location.
This is a conceptual EP, focusing on the iconic Ju 87 “Stuka Bomber”—the infamous plane used by the Germans for bombing campaigns during WWII. Listening to Stuka, one can’t help but feel like an entire release dedicated to the Stuka bomber has been done before. Indeed, Feindflug—though coming from a different genre while sharing much of the same fanbase as Waffenruhe—tackled this subject with their acclaimed release Im Visier back in 1999, which has seen re-releases and many compilation appearances. Von Thronstahl took a stab at the subject as well with their song “Sirenade” from their Return Your Revolt into Style! album on Trutzburg Thule in 2010.
Thus, we’re left with the proverbial elephant in the room: what can Waffenruhe say or convey that has not been done by other bands before? The answer is, honestly, not much.
The three instrumentals that comprise Stuka are free of vocals and speech samples, leaving only music and historic audio samples of the Ju 87 to make up the lion’s share of content of these tracks. The absence of vocals is of course intentional, as Soldat D. of Waffenruhe states that he only wants to convey images through music: “[a] listener shall create his own world when he listens (sic) to Waffenruhe and shouldn’t be affected by any useless words!” The onus is now on the listener, with only the names of the tracks to assign any given meaning to the songs. Depending on the type of listener, this might make the song more enjoyable, much like listening to an ambient album where the atmosphere is the element that takes hold. For a martial-industrial album like Stuka though, this comes off as shallow. For example, the song “Sturzkampfflieger” is about fighter pilots, not because any lyrics or other particular contents hint at that, but only because the title of the track said so. In theory, the music of this track could have been paired to any title and therefore could have been about any other topic.
While the presentation of the theme is on the facile side because of an inability to convey anything new or unique, the music proper is quite good, especially when compared to the current state of the martial-industrial genre. When closing one’s eyes and assigning the defining characteristics of the track names to the music, one can try to create their own narrative as suggested by Soldat D. The opening track, “Sturzkampfflieger,” is built upon a foundation of thundering bass drumming with pipes and snares merged in. It’s bombastic, rhythmic, and conveys the all-too-familiar feeling of preparing to take the field.
The third and title track, “Stuka,” harkens back to the older style of martial industrial, with samples of the Stuka Bomber layered over ambient synth lines and looped percussion. It’s not bad, but at six minutes, it drags too long for what little variety is in the song. Of the three tracks, it is the weakest of the lot on Stuka.
The second track, “Jericho-Trompete,” is the best of the three tracks and is a great martial song in general. The Jericho Trumpets, referenced in the title, were the iconic sirens used by the Ju 87. In an instance of possible genre subversion, instead of focusing on the sirens in this track, there are synthesized trumpets combined with a rolling snare and piano work. The track starts slow and evolves slowly, introducing one instrument at a time: first trumpet, then snare, and finally piano. The track eventually gains speed and traction, effectively creating a fine build-up that leads to what ultimately becomes an extremely catchy track.
The artwork of Stuka, created by Cold Sun Arts, is issued alongside the music as two jpegs and can be printed off or imported into one’s music managing library. The cover art is fairly plain: a simple vintage photograph of a Stuka Bomber as it dives down on a brownish background under the band’s name and album title. It may not set a high bar for album covers, but it succinctly conveys what the release is about.
The subject matter of Stuka may be shallow, but the music is a top-notch example of martial industrial music at a time that is seeing the genre suffer from lackluster quality across the board. Being offered for free also makes Stuka an attractive option for any fan of the genre to download and listen to.