The Hirsch Effekt are a German band that have been around since about 2010. The album under review was suggested by a reader and came out in 2012. They tend towards a progressive metal and post rock sound with use of string sections and choral parts.
Overall, the band is really good at building to effective climaxes with their dynamics and instrumentation. On the first few listens, this made for some memorable moments, and I instantly wanted to like this album. Unfortunately, the more I listened, the less interested I became. Once the instant gratification of those moments wore off, I was left with something that felt pretentious and tried too hard.
Let’s get into the specifics. I don’t understand the first track. It is essentially a piece for string orchestra that doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. I thought it was a neat idea the first few times, but the strangeness rubbed me the wrong way after a while.
First, the overuse of the 9th chords is a little grating. It feels like it is trying too hard to be “cool.” Second, the strings have a syncopated pattern, again attempting to be cool and interesting. Then the drums come in which ruins it. Why do they use an on-the-beat bass drum/cymbal pattern which locks it into a marching band feel when they spent so much effort making a syncopated groove before that?
Lastly, the whole thing feels out of place. Sure, strings come back in other songs, but not in this way at all. Sure, the melody introduced comes back later. But these things don’t make the song cohere with the rest of the album. This awkwardness can be explained simply: the band made a straightforward rock album, but wanted to make it “arty,” so they added these things to up its status in the indie world.
Obviously, I have no idea if this is true, but as we will see, this theory seems to explain many aspects of the album. The second track has a bit of a punk vibe, but cycles through several styles. This might be my least favorite track, because the riff they repeat is so short and uninteresting that it annoys me when I hear it. The track ends with a part I genuinely consider interesting. They build up a really dense, noisy chromatic ending. It only last a few seconds, so it is kind of strange in context.
The third track sounds like something Periphery would do. It is more melodic and progressive than the earlier parts. The song builds into a heavier section and they use some interesting call and response techniques. I like the song, but there’s not much about it that sticks with me. It is a fairly common sounding prog song.
The fourth song brings back the strings. This is one of the songs I referred to in the beginning. They make effective use of the all the instruments to build into a satisfying climax. I still can’t help but feel that the song has too much instant gratification. The orchestra hits and chord progression reminds me of those Goo Goo Dolls songs on the radio in the early 2000’s or the middle section sounds like when Metallica made those poppy orchestra songs. This song is one of the more memorable ones, but at its core it is a pop-rock song.
The next song slows things down. This one has a long patient build to its climax and is the first to incorporate “vocals” (they are neutral syllables, so it is hard to tell whether they are synthesized on a keyboard or sung). I think this song is pretty good. It is patient and they quickly have the song fall apart after the climax in an interesting way (which mirrors the lyrics “Ich zerfalle”).
The next song has the most metal in it, but the same types of comments still apply. It’s not bad, but not that memorable and is all over the place. This makes it feel like they are trying too hard to be interesting. It feels very forced. We go from the heaviest, most technical part of the album to an immediate drop off to a capella SATB divided choir. The transition is awkward, and doesn’t make much sense. It sounds like a gimmick to make you say “WTF just happened? They are so unique.” The first time I heard it, this trick worked, but now that I’ve heard it a few times it doesn’t.
Overall, I really wanted to like this album. But in the end, it seems built around the idea of instant gratification and then trying to disguise that with a bunch of awkward “arty” ideas like using strings and chorus. Sometimes you’re in the mood for this type of thing, but it isn’t something that will make a lasting impression on me. I give it a 5/10.
Here’s a sample: