“FFO”. Those three letters that can almost derail a band before a single note is heard. I try to use that acronym sparingly but I am certainly one of the worst offenders when trying to break down a band’s sound for new ears. I will compare bands’ sounds six ways ‘til Sunday in an attempt to properly describe what I’m hearing even though I know that it is better to come to a release with a clean slate and, much as in the case with Kollaps, an open mind that can be blown away upon first contact.

That said, the promo we received for the newest release from Germany’s Hirsch Effekt declared Kollaps of interest to fans of other bands such as Periphery, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Between the Buried and Me. These are fairly lofty comparisons for any band and if you’re going to have expectations set high, well… this will get that done. However, the band opts to slow-play those expectations by waiting until the third track, “Deklaration”, to fully deploy the lessons learned from those influences. The track, excellent as it is, feels deliberately placed to nod to those elements but in sequencing the album to this point, in this way, allows us to see more of what’s on offer rather than sinking into the simplicity of easy comparisons.

The sequencing of the album also becomes an element that is hard to ignore as you wade through the chaos the band unleashes here. There is the semi-orchestral nature of “moment” that seemingly serves as an intermission before the latter half of the album kicks in. “TORKA” winds up serving its purpose to bring us back into the band’s world. We’re given another song beset with clean passages and even cleaner vocals. That is, until Moritz Schmidt’s drumming rips the door off the hinges and flings us off into a maelstrom of guitars and shredded vocal chords.

Even that feels timid, though, than “Bilen” which is more a slice of gleeful madness (particularly when you take it in as the soundtrack to the video the band released) than an aggressive flex of the band’s tremendous musical chops. To be sure, the song features the kind of gymnastics that would probably impress the likes of Blake Richardson or Billy Rymer. In its own way, this song feels like the releasing of the last pin holding the band on some sort of firm ground to make the songs make sense. 

It’s hard to settle on which aspect of the album is the most disarming. The construction of the album is such that it feels very much like seeing an epic, expansive film as it simply builds for the duration but for the one moment – no pun intended – that feels like some kind of pause. The thing about that break is that you don’t realize you needed it until you’ve fully absorbed most of the album and arrive sonically bludgeoned the final tracks, “Kollaps” and “AGERA”, swirl around you in what essentially feels like open space.

The final track spends some of its ample run-time trying hard to pull everything back together as the band tries to bring the curtain down on this bit of art cinema disguised as songs. In fact, “AGERA” feels as much like a ballad as anything the band could likely attempt in that form. That vibe is so strong that, in places, it almost feels apologetic. It’s almost like they’re that party guest who destroyed the house and, now that everyone’s leaving, feels it necessary to apologize profusely and oddly earnestly. That’s to say, though, that even with all of the evident lessons and references inherent to being a band following in the wake of the likes of their influences, this album stands tall on its own. Well, except when Hirsch Effekt brings it crashing down around your ears. This one is definitely for fans of hard-hitting, complex, challenging technical metal or hardcore. Math, prog, whatever. Go forth into the Kollaps.

Kollaps is available May 8 via Long Branch Records.

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