Endzeit is the first full-length release from German one-man martial act Gabe Unruh. Originally formed as a duo, their first release was a split in 2009 called Overblijfsel / Wiederklingen with the Finnish group Droefheid. After another split in 2010 with fellow Germans Art Abscons, 2013 saw the ushering in of Endzeit. It includes collaborations with SkullLine label-mates Strydwolf, Art Abscons, Shattered Hand, and In Scherben on a four separate songs, which at first gives one the impression that Endzeit is just one more in a string of split albums that have opened up the artists’ career, but Gabe Unruh manages to keep the sound cohesive throughout this release.
Gabe Unruh describe their music as ‘Melodram-Deutsch-Pop, Martial, Ambient, Neoclassic, Endze.’ While this genre-smashing mouthful seems a bit imposing, their sound can, in fact, be reduced to a simpler description: in terms of arrangements and song structures, Endzeit could almost be a modern industrial dance album. The transitions, breaks, intros, outros and samples are in all the right places, exactly where one would expect—like Agonoize without the distortion. Witness the almost compulsive filter sweeps on every track, or the intro to ‘Illusion’, right down to the exclamatory sample that brings on the full instrumentation at the one-minute mark.
The difference is that these songs aren’t really that danceable—this is where the stylistic ramjet comes into play. There is rarely a solid 4×4 kick drum and most of the songs lack a body-moving groove, so club play doesn’t make sense. Instead, Endzeit contains brass instruments, piano, a marching snare, a bit of clean vocals, and even—confusingly enough—an acoustic guitar interlude on ‘Far North (Kaosversion)’. It’s almost as if Tactical Sekt was all ready to record their new album and someone stole into the studio in the dead of night, turned off all the distortion, deleted the vocals, and swapped out their keyboard patches. Or perhaps it’s like a synthpop artist had a martial neoclassical album described to him and attempted to create it without ever hearing an example.
The ‘ambient’ part of their self-description almost makes sense, but a better term might have been ‘minimal’. Only three tracks feature singing (although almost all have the de rigeur spoken-word and sampled passages), which, for compositions like these that are built upon such simplistic structures, leaves them feeling quite empty at points. ‘Sie Sind Da’, for example, is one of the more interesting tracks instrumentally, with mechanical hisses and clanks worked into the beat and an actual groove that can get my head bouncing. But it leaves long stretches of the track just going along to get along, without any changes, crying out for a vocal line or some kind of melody over the top.
Endzeit, however one describes it, falls into the classic cross-genre trap: attempting to hybridize too many styles, it cannot capitalize on the strengths of any, and bends under the weaknesses of all. The tones are too weak to harsh-out to, the grooves too minimal or slow for dancing, the atmospheres not mellow enough to sit alone by yourself and stare at the walls, and the vocals not frequent enough to carry a message or be the centre of attention.
01) Art Abscons feat. Gabe Unruh – Somnium (Spec)
04) Strydwolf feat. Gabe Unruh – Streit und Kampf
05) Deutschland Treffen
06) Shattered Hand feat. Gabe Unruh – Far North (Kaosversion)
07) Sie Sind Da
08) In Scherben feat. Gabe Unruh – Heimkehr (Gesang)
09) Wollen Wir Weiterleben?