Label: Kick The Flame Publishing
Author: Isabell Köster
Four years after taking the front stage with their debut record ‘First Escape’, German gothic metal quintet CANTERRA have just released their highly anticipated sophomore album, mysteriously titled ‘Heartmachine’. In an interview with Female Fronted Power, singer Korinna König revealed that the band’s second output has two overarching themes: “When the songs were finished, we noticed two very clear binding elements, which we then transferred to the artwork. On the one hand, there is the matter of the human self-destruction through the poisoning of our environment and the man-made climate change and on the other hand the tackling of things, becoming active and living and working in your own dreams.” Particularly the second issue plays a prominent role in several tracks. The remarkable cover artwork was created by renowned artist Holger Much and digitally refined by Andraj Sonnenkalb. It has a cool steampunk feel to it and visualizes both major aspects in an intriguing way: On the cover man and machine become one, the heartmachine is pumping red hot blood through your veins, or is it in fact machine oil? “Heat the fire – Heat the heartmachine!“
Musically CANTERRA, who are hailing from Wave Gotik Treffen capital Leipzig, have moved away from the gothic metal of the early days and on ‘Heartmachine’ incline more towards symphonic metal, allowing different musical influences (classic rock, power metal and some eighties pop) to enter their universe and make their sound more organic and unique. Singer Korinna’s beautiful mezzo-soprano has a sweet quality to it, but is powerful at the same time and makes the 8 songs on ‘Heartmachine’ even more memorable.
The opening track ‘A Lifetime’ skilfully juxtaposes heavy riffs and mellow vocals. The overall vibe of the song is dreamy and warm. It also has an extraordinarily strong message that resonates even more in times of a global pandemic: “Just for one moment we are – We are unbreakable”, sings Korinna in the chorus. Listening to her passionate performance, you can’t help but feel uplifted and really want to believe that you, even though you are only human, can be unbreakable and don’t have to worry about your fragile life. But the song doesn’t only encourage you to believe in your own strength, but also addresses the harsh reality of life: “Another life is gone, and I can’t sleep at night / And all that’s driving me will end in endless nights / Where is home? Another day goes by / And all we do is fight and run / We run towards the day we die”. As human beings we know that we won’t live forever, so all we can do is hope for the best and cherish the moment.
The title song is an energetic number with a bouncy vibe and a catchy chorus that makes you want to sing along and bang your head in unison with the band. But ‘Heartmachine’ is not only a party song, but also has a profound message. “The Heartmachine can be a kind of mirror inside you, which finally tears down the walls to your soul, wipes away the unimportant and pulsates”, states front lady Korinna. The title track is a powerful anthem motivating you to follow your dreams, live life to the full and concentrate on the important things in life (whatever they may be for you).
The third track ‘No Bitter End’ is fast paced and dominated by energetic riffs and terse drums. The rhythm section of Tom (bass) and Max (drums) lays a firm foundation for Harry’s playful fretwork and Hannes‘ punchy riffs. While Harry and Hannes are having a blast, Korinna’s gentle and elegant vocals manage to draw you in completely. In terms of content, the song is about hope and taking charge of your own life. “We keep on holding onto our dreams / And make them real, and make them real”, Korinna proclaims emphatically.
Next up is ‘The Day’, which is undoubtedly my favourite track on ‘Heartmachine’. The chorus is outright enchanting, has a classical flair and carries you far away to another world. Overall, ‘The Day’ displays all of CANTERRA’s trademarks: Passionate riffing, catchy melodies and arresting female vocals. The message is poignant and immensely powerful: “When I look beyond the shore / Waves of dirt pile up once more / Endless nightmares of a dying world / Want to burn it down – Need to burn it down / Need to wash it all away”. If we don’t fight the destruction of our planet, there is no hope for us. Life is short, so don’t waste your life on meaningless things, but fight for your beliefs and goals. “There comes the day we all will die”, intones Korinna ardently. In this sense, ‘The Day’ can be construed in the ancient tradition of Memento Mori (literally ‘remember (that you have) to die’) and in this sense as an artistic reminder of the inevitability of death. Moreover, Korinna’s (nearly) operatic vocals at 3:40 perfectly embody the transience of life and are heartbreakingly beautiful.
‘Another Tear’ is a heartfelt ballad penned and lovingly arranged by singer Korinna and producer JP Genkel. Chanteuse Korinna’s voice shines very bright in this emotive piece and she is finally able to display her full vocal range. The epic choir arrangement and delicate piano sequence towards the end are nice touches and intensify the melancholic atmosphere of the song.
The sixth track is another favourite of mine. The guitars at the beginning of ‘Revolution’ are playful, punchy and have an earthy quality about them. The song is fast paced, inclines towards power metal and has a cool fantasy vibe. The lyrics reinforce this impression and make you feel like you are listening to a fairy tale (“Seven sorrows – Once were brave / Seven cities – doomed by time / Seven shadows – reign with fear and blood”). Besides, the number seven is often highly symbolic, especially in fairy tales. In the chorus Korinna’s voice takes on a magical quality. And when she ardently intones “So don’t hide in the night – Shout it out / Feel the heat of your heart / Let’s start a revolution” – you feel utterly enchanted and want to join her in the revolution no matter the cost.
Next on the agenda is a cover song. ‘When The Rain…’ was extremely popular in the eighties (it was released in 1984) and performed by singers Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora. The band were clearly having much fun recording this track and creating a metal version of it: “Despite the serious themes on the album, it is very important to us to say that not 100% of the time is spent on musing and gloomy thoughts, so there is still a very positive sound throughout the whole record. If you always take everything too serious, you go crazy. And so ‘When The Rain Begins To Fall’ for example is just a song for fun”, emphasises Korinna. More importantly, Korinna’s voice suits the song very well. In short: It works! And it reminds me of modern metal band Volturian’s recent cover of Roxette’s ‘Fading Like A Flower’, which is also worth listening to.
The final track on ‘Heartmachine’ is ‘Fear Me – Fast’. The eighth song was written and released in 2010 on the first demo EP ‘Echoes Of Fear’ under the band’s previous name Avatar. ‘Fear Me – Fast’ has a distinct gothic metal vibe and shows that even as they evolve, CANTERRA still cherish their roots.
Simply put: ‘Heartmachine’ is carefully crafted, full of passion and shows that CANTERRA are growing as a band. They are developing their artistic vision, daring to take risks, and are encouraging their listeners to do the same. Even if they do address some hard truths, every track contains a positive message. With its shorter length, ‘Heartmachine’ has more of an EP feel than a full album. Regardless, tracks like ‘The Day’ and ‘Revolution’ are excellent and will leave you wanting even more of CANTERRA’s magic.