Keep It On Wax: Lindemann – Skills In Pills Vinyl
Calling all audiophiles! This one’s for you. The vinyl revival is well and truly upon us and now’s as good a time as any to raid your parents’ collection and dust off the turntable. Stay tuned for our verdicts on the latest and greatest pressings.
Skills In Pills
Gatefold 180gm Black Vinyl
As BLUNT eagerly anticipates Rammstein’s next record, or perhaps just the treasured opportunity to witness their pyro-favouring, dildo-brandishing live shows vocalist Till Lindemann unleashes this venture. He’s paired with multi-instrumentalist Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, under-rated industrial metal project Pain). Pre-release assertions that this debut offers “a mix of Rammstein vocals and Pain music” primarily ring true; the duo clearly revelled in the collaboration. Selected ‘Stein fans may be off-put by the less abrasive, more goth-focused vibe, the other primary difference being Lindemann’s distinctive tones uttered entirely in English. Irrespective, Skills… exudes an unadulterated, wickedly infectious sense of synth-heavy joy. “Golden Shower” and “Ladyboy” are filled with vividly-detailed debauchery. The lurid themes are perhaps no better typified than memorable “Praise Abort’s black comedy (also check out the decidedly NSFW video). You’ll feel absolutely filthy afterwards. – Brendan Crabb – 4/5
WHAT DO YOU GET?
But is the wax release as good as the music? Well, given the flair these two have for theatrics, it’s hardly surprising that the vinyl package is a sizeable, visual companion piece to the album. Every visual element inside and out walks that fine line between being hilariously absurd and downright offensive, just like the lyrics.
The art style is intense. Each piece blends photos of Till and Tägtgren with images related to the themes, kind of like a computer generated graphic novel with ultra vibrant colours that burst off the page. So even though the cover art is the same as the standard CD, it looks fantastic on a larger scale. Inside the gatefold is a stylistically similar reproduction of the Last Supper, albeit with Tägtgren in place of Jesus, a dozen Tills wearing sailor suits, and a bucket load of drugs spread out where the meal should be – plus a blow up doll for good measure.
But the true visual gems are tucked away in the soft-cover lyric and art book that’s a touch larger than A4. For every song there’s an accompanying graphic, and together these paint a bizarre, and somewhat menacing portrait that taps the same vein as a dark, demented vaudeville show. They range from a comparatively tame photos of the pair in cowboy garbs atop a pile of guns, to a shot of the boys dressed as jockeys, riding two women like horses. The quality artwork is a wonderful contrast to the often vulgar lyrics which would be right at home in a piece of pulp fiction.
It’s sinister, it’s ominous, but it feels like the good kind of grimy that’s alluring for some reason you can’t comprehend. The grotesque, sexualised, shockingly and plain strange images are so absurd, you can’t help but laugh at the utter absurdity of it all.
HOW’S IT SOUND?
Like the artwork, the music is an absolute audible assault that blends hard-hitting industrial riffs with dynamic synths and Till’s distinctive booming baritone. The natural warmth and depth of vinyl would usually complement this style of music by providing a solid base for the synths and vocals to build upon, but Lindemann just doesn’t translate well to wax. Or rather, it could have translated well, but this mix does not.
It seems to be a case of misplaced mastering, as though the same set of files was used for each release (CD/vinyl/mp3). So while the digital version sounds great, the vinyl pressing is flat and muddy with compressed dynamics and barely any attack. Everything is absolutely smothered in bass which you’d think would give it some kick at the very least, but the low-end lacks clarity and ends up adding a muffled overlay, ultimately softening what should be really punchy songs.
Once a few layers of sound are applied, the mix becomes a vortex that sucks everything into an inescapable swirling sound, killing the definition between instruments. Even Till’s usually dominant vocals gets stuck in the powerful maelstrom, along with supporting melodics and the top end. These are often the key ingredient to creating the wall of sound that the band is going for, and the second they’re consumed by the bass, the songs lose all of their bite.
Yes! Each pressing comes with a free mp3 copy of the album. The clarity, punch and definition missing from the vinyl version is retained despite digital compression, and the synths and melodics have a much stronger presence. The tracks were encoded in a variety of constant bitrates between 295kbps and 305kbps.
This is an album that demands clarity, a strong bass presence and solid dynamic range to really bring out the aggressive metal elements and melodic synths. The vinyl version lacks these fundamentals and ends up sounding as though someone took the individual tracks, threw them into a washing machine, pressed spin and worked with whatever fell out.
Even though the graphics make up a large part of Lindemann’s artistic vision, this is a collection of songs and people rarely buy a record for the artwork alone. Unfortunately the sound quality here isn’t good enough to justify picking up the vinyl to appreciate the larger artworks. If you’re pining for the art, forget the vinyl version. Either grab the standard CD which includes similar shots, or put a little more money aside and go with the super deluxe CD that comes with a slightly smaller, 80-page hard cover art book.
Skills In Pills is out now through Warner.