by Dennis Gudim
Conceived as a step towards perfection, sequels can often be problematic when it comes to realization. Offering a logical continuation or simply re-applying the tried formula, they risk ending up more pedestrian or inferior to the original. And while attempting to cross the same river twice might not be without merit, there is always a question of what one is looking for on the other side: a retreat to the safety of repetition or a necessary reassessment of the elements of the original’s success?
Miel Noir is a collective that is no stranger to sequels. After a major reboot (around 2011), the project is now a creative union of Marcel P. (Sagittarius) and Dimo Dimov (Svarrogh and Sturmpercht), with Gerhard Hallstatt (of Allerseelen) as a mentor and shadow-member. With a dedicated following from the members’ other respective projects, the reformed unit has quickly become a darling of the post-industrial scene, and even succeeded in capturing attention of broader audiences – by the means of their uncanny ability to find a common denominator for sounds from a vast variety of genres.
Arriving a mere year after the acclaimed From The Ashes, the project’s latest stop on their path of self-reinvention is titled Honey-Beat. While its graphics make it visually similar to its predecessors, the album doesn’t hold back in establishing its own identity from the very first notes. “We are coming… We are here” warns a mechanized voice, and then “Wake Up” kicks in with a stern, yet almost playful vigour. The band isn’t one bit hesitant to demonstrate their revised take on their music – the electronic elements of previous albums have been assembled into a full-blooded EBM-assault, demonstrating both the required catchiness and a much more nuanced, pointy production. The disciplined delivery of this first track definitely sets the mood for the rest of the record – “The swarm brings fire, the swarm brings heat. Move – to the honey-beat” – the hive is buzzing again, and it sounds meaner than ever!
Earlier on, the band described their musical output as “avant-garde pop”, a tag that underlines the dark/sweet interplay within the name Miel Noir, while serving as a declaration of the forward-thinking nature of their music. In the continuous refinement of their style and sound, Honey-Beat finds the band concentrating on songwriting and production values, rather than further expanding the genre-jumbling that has been their trademark. The experimentation on Honey-Beat is far more contained and organised, making it easier to discern the clusters of songs with similar genre stylistics applied.
A firm use of EBM elements is where the band gives full throttle. All the flirtations with more accessible electronic genres seen on previous records – ranging from quite modest to daring (remember “Es Ist Aus”?) – have almost inevitably led to this new upgrade, where the dancefloor-friendliness has been embraced fully. Direct and uncompromisingly catchy, echoing the the later works of Die Krupps, Front 242, Clan of Xymox and even Spectre-era Laibach, those tracks are easily the album’s most prominent features. The pulsating, explosive core of the record rests with the assertive, techno-industrial “Wake Up”, the robotic, Kraftwerk-esque “Triggerwarning” and the playful, edgy “Duldungsstarre”. All are assembled to get attention from an ear with pop-sensibilities.
The band continues to develop the industrially treated post-punk anthems that first emerged on tracks like “See you on the Other Side”. Buzzing guitar slabs combined with fetching electronic drum work and prominent keys are still working magic rooted in simplicity. With an extra measure of ‘swing’ added to the mix (most likely chosen to further accommodate the aforementioned EBM-influenced tracks), Miel Noir offers us pure hit material that is bound to stay in your head for hours.
Ear-friendly as they are, tracks like “Not Sorry” and “Die Leere” with their droning walls of guitars and sombre vocal delivery are underpinned by brooding lyrics, proving that this material is anything but light-hearted. Even the upbeat tracks like “What I Want” possess their share of dark humour, making it sound more unnerving than genuinely careless.
By the beginning of the fourth track “End of The Line”, and its iconic “everybody dies alone”, the record takes an even darker tone. Since the early days, one of the band’s many facets has been their bluesy, minor-key (dare I say, gothic) ballads. Accompanied by either low-end guitar dirges (“End of The Line”), distinct new-wave bass-lines (“What Once Was Lost”) or simple piano (“Anymore”), those tracks carry the emotional weight of the record, fearlessly exposing the vulnerability that leans on their technically simple compositions. The abstract direction of the lyrics of previous records has given way to topics of lost love, betrayal, emotional highs and lows, personal nihilism and triumph of the ego – the kind of existentialist matter that many of us face during a lifetime. The gravity of Marcel P.’s presence at the helm of majority of tracks undoubtedly pulls the record closer to the audience both sound- and composition-wise.
With their connections to neo-classical, martial industrial and more experimental electronic music, Miel Noir have always managed to bring forth the unorthodox aspects of beauty in their work. More accessible genres might receive a place in the spotlight on “Honey-Beat”, but the firm drumming and epic grandeur of “Honey Offering (Demeter’s March)” affirms that the band isn’t quite ready to leave that less conventional part of their history behind. Combined with distinct nods to the band’s earlier periods, the quiet ambience of “The Legend of St. Ambrose” and the contrasting looped noises of “What It Was” demonstrate the band that is fully aware of its past even when taking another step into the future.
The inclusion of reworked and remixed tracks has become a feature of Miel Noir records, another way of presenting their music as evolving entity. Re-interpretations of two tracks from 2011’s “Honey & Ash” – “Honing-Traum” and “Schwarzer Honig” – make curious additions that tap into the potential and relative obscurity of the originals. Three remixes at the end of the record offer different takes on the tracks with the highest dancefloor potential, and while those remixes offer some interesting twists (especially the massive cinematic treatment of “Wake Up” by the brilliant Winterhart), the results still end up sounding quite close to the originals. For me this unobtrusiveness, sadly spells a missed opportunity to take listeners to new, less expected territories. I would personally love to hear some of Miel Noir’s tracks re-modelled into less recognisable, surprising forms by some adventurous soul.
The evolutional prevails over the revolutional on Honey-Beat, as Miel Noir places their bet on perfecting their expression, while turning the experimentation down a notch. Focus and accumulation are undeniably the key points here. Yet bringing forth more conventional elements within the genres and relying on more streamlined song structures, memorable choruses, and foot-tapping melodies also helps tie up all the influences into solid knots and deliver a record with its own unique, almost malicious, edge expressed through higher production values and a choice of lyrical themes. In that sense, the band remains true to the vision expressed in their name and delivers material that sounds both sweeter and darker than its predecessor, creating a perfect sequel to the brilliant “From the Ashes”.
Put together with a precision of a beehive, while preserving the sparks from the strongest moments of their discography, Miel Noir’s latest opus is another fruit of collective labour and love that is still able to tingle the senses in anticipation of what comes next.
- Wake Up
- Not Sorry
- End Of The Line
- Honig-Traum (2016)
- What I Want
- What Once Was Lost
- Honey Offering (Demeter’s March)
- Die Leere
- Schwarzer Honig (2016)
- The Legend Of St. Ambrose
- What It Was
- Wake Up (Winterheart Remix)
- Triggerwarning (Insect Plazma Remix)
- Duldungsstarre (Deadlights Remix)
- Honey Apocalypse
The Temple And The Trigger (Bonus EP, ltd. ed)
- At The Doorstep Of Our Temple
- Triggerwarning (Phobos reactor Remix)
- Our Time, Our Place