The Ancient Gallery
~ review by Kristina Rogers

The Ancient Gallery, a dark industrial dance project hailing from Dresden, Germany, is a group that I have to admit being unfamiliar with before this disc came across my desk for review.  Sleekly produced and chock-full of potential dance-club anthems, I was pretty-well hooked right away and left to wonder where this band’s been all my life.  Clearly I need to get out more.

Alles Ist Nichts is apparently the third installment in the band’s growing industrial discography, following up 2001’s Deinstallation and Kopfdelay released shortly thereafter in 2002.  I’d be remiss not to allude to the band’s inescapable similarities to Rammstein, although I hesitate to make a big thing of it – it would definitely be a mistake to carelessly dismiss this band as simply another member of the Rammstein wannabe club.  The Ancient Gallery holds their own.  Still, the metal-tinged guitars layered over entrancing synths, topped off with raspy, aggressive vocals should definitely appeal to fans of Rammstein, Project Pitchfork and other Deutsche industrial frontrunners.

The album starts out instantly captivating and accessible with “Mit Mir,” (With Me) and “Vorwärts” (Forwards).  Heavy guitar and dark, rhythmic bass riffs blend effortlessly with pulsating synths, pretty much setting the tone for the whole CD.  The stark vocals, delivered unforgivingly by Robin W., manage to sound appropriately enraged without sounding unapproachable – passionate without being preachy.  Varying in tone and depth, a combination of sung, spoken, whispered, screamed and snarled, this band has something to say – and whether you understand it or not… they’ve got you listening. 

Tracks 3 and 4, “Was Wir Wollen” (What We Want) and “Teil des Ganzen” (Part Of the Whole) throw in some middle-eastern sounding vibe in the opening synths, (which I’m always a big fan of) before the guitars crash the party, and “Ich Leer” (I Teach) ventures into some cool spoken rhythm – the rap-punk stylings of SMP definitely come to mind.  The disquieting vocals of “Very Hard To” are undeniably Manson-ish, while the chorus of “Was Wir Wollen” treats us to an almost operatic experience.  Yep kids, there’s something here for everyone.

Lyrically, this CD carries a strong self-affirmative, “kiss my ass” sort of tone throughout.  Most tracks have an anthem-esque quality, sneering in the face of adversity, speaking out against shallow materialism, that sort of thing.  English-speaking fans needn’t be too frustrated at not understanding the lyrics.  While they are mostly clever, angry and appropriate for the music they’re written for, you aren’t missing any profound, life-changing revelations here.  The “points” the songs are trying to make for the most part aren’t in-your-face and leave a lot of interpretation up to the listener.  Translation is difficult, as illustrated in “Druck” (Pressure) by the clever usage, twists and variations of the word “druck” which simply can’t be translated into a single English word that would make the same sort of sense.   In short… don’t think too much.  Just kick back and rock out!

That being said, here’s a stab at translation of “Ich Leer,“ which I feel is pretty representative of the album’s tone:

Ich muss bewahren was ich weiss     I have to warn of what I know
Ich muss glauben was ich denke        I have to believe what I think
Ich will wissen was ich lüge                 I want to understand my lies
Ich will glauben was ich rede               I want to believe what I say
Muss sagen was ich denke                 Must say what I think
Ich will suchen                                       I want to search
Ich will wissen                                       I want to know
Ich will wissen                                       I want to know
Das wissen sind die hügel                 The knowledge is the mountain
Die täler weit                                        The valleys deep
Die reden klein                                     The speeches shallow
Nicht leben wie wir denken                 We don’t live the way we think
Nicht spielen wie wir fühlen                We don’t play the way we feel
Wir wollen wie wir müssen                 We want what we have to want
Und reden was wir brauchen             And speak of what we need
Und lieben leben wie wir lügen          And love, live the way we lie
Lieben leben wie wir lügen                 Love, live the way we lie

Wir rennen, laufen vorbei an dir        We run, walk right past you
Wir rennen, laufen vorbei an dir        We run, walk right past you
Ich will                                                   I want
Ich leer                                                 I teach

I’m impressed with the band’s decision to keep the vocals for the most part in their native tongue.  It definitely lends them more clout, less cheese (and I’ll save my rant about foreign bands scrambling to sell out to the largely English-dominated music industry for another day).   It also struck me that, despite the fact that the band comes from a city in former East Germany where they’ve likely witnessed their share of political upheaval (not to mention the resulting tension and mutual east/west resentment that still sadly persists), The Ancient Gallery doesn’t appear to want to make any overt political statements with their music.  (Even though they’ve undoubtedly got plenty to be political about.)  The main goal and emphasis of their music really seems to be on entertainment value… and I applaud that.  Mission definitely accomplished. 

I find it an interesting decision on the band’s part to include 3 or 4 songs on Alles Ist Nichts that already appeared on their last release, Kopfdelay, which don’t appear to be remixed or revamped versions of the first.  With 2 years between CDs I can see that sort of thing becoming a bit redundant for die-hard fans.  And while this is obviously an impressive and consistent release from start to finish, I do still see room to grow for the band, especially in adding diversity from track-to-track (resulting hopefully in more unique and stand-out tracks on their next venture) and a bit more instrumental variety.  That being my only constructive criticism, I’d like to thank my good friend Jyri Glynn for my long-overdue introduction to this talented act, and I’ll definitely be keeping an ear on what will hopefully be a long and successful career for these Dresden industrialists!