Released: 2013, AFM Records
I have heard of Norway’s Gothminister, but never actually listened to any of their albums until now. UTOPIA is the fifth album from the band, which formed in 1999 in Oslo, Norway. Led by front man Bjørn Alexander Brem, Gothminister has built a respectable following, particularly in Germany, where the band’s new album UTOPIA has resided high in the charts since its release in the middle of May. Given the industrial similarities that Gothminister shares with Germany’s own sons, Rammstein, success there cannot be considered surprising, especially with German label AFM fully supporting and promoting the band. Mildly intrigued, I decided to explore Gothminister’s back catalog before penning my thoughts on UTOPIA.
The first thing that fans will notice is that UTOPIA is a heavier album in many respects than anything the band has done in the past. There or more tremolo picked guitar passages reminiscent of black metal, faster double bass drums, and in some places almost stoner metal chord progressions. The creepy keyboards are still present, and the pulsating bass/drum synchronized thump of industrial and dance music is utilized on several tracks. Still, that dance thump is not as prevalent as on the earlier albums. Combine that with gothic/symphonic elements and Brem’s tendency to do his best Peter Steel impression and the band does not leave out the genre that is part of their namesake. “Horrorshow” showcases some of the band’s heavier and more varied explorations, while tracks like “Nightmare” contain some nice melodies and gothic tones sorta ruined by an “ooh so scary” spoken piece in the middle. There are at least three instrumental, soundtrack-type pieces interspersed through the album, no doubt designed to convey a cinematic mood to the project. To my ears though, they just interrupted the flow of the album, if flow is what you would call the industrial mechanical hammering.
UTOPIA is a decent album for those that like industrial Goth metal. There are certainly some cool riffs and pummeling bits mixed with Gothic depression. The chief issue for me though was the lack of consistency. There are lots of cool ideas and pieces of tunes that the band just could not seem to sustain through an entire song. I do like the band’s decision to move in a heavier direction though, as on the earlier albums you need only listen to “Gothic Anthems” to hear how derivative they were of Rammstein. I think it is a positive move, and one likely to bear fruit as the band becomes more adept at combining aggressive music with Gothic elements. Remove the pulsing dance beats, add some consistency and they could become the next Sentenced, though that is probably much more optimistic than Gothminister deserves. Fans of Deathstars, Rammstein, and even latter day Samael will find much to like on UTOPIA.