Thrash Metal: 'Kreuzen For A Breuzen' by Mike Gitter ('Century Days')
Take a trip to Wisconsin sometime and learn the true meaning of "malevolent ground." Lots of cheap beer, cheese, porn emporiums by the score, overweight locals driving pickup trucks and packing shotguns...Ed Gein, the guy whose cannibalistic exploits inspired such cinematic bloodbaths as Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, was a local, and gained quite a reputation for hacking off the breasts of his female victims and wearing them as he wandered through the backwoods on moonlit nights. Did Ed ever have any sons? No one knows for sure, but Die Kreuzen are proud heirs to the longstanding tradition of Wisconsinite mayhem.
Die Kreuzen are shadowy figures rising from a slime-encrusted Wisconsin swamp, vocalist Dan Kubinski's piercing scream clinging to the October chill as the band launches into a "dance of death" that echoes the cryptic finale of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (Look it up, budding thrash cinemaphiles-Ed.) Are they pretentious death rockers? Nope. Die Kreuzen are far smarter than that, maintaining a fierce independence from stylistic pigeonholing. They pack the gut-squeeze of Swans and the Birthday Party, the sheer technicality of Metallica and Killing Joke, and the inventiveness of Wire-not to mention the gloomy aesthetic of the Sisters of Mercy. Plenty of bands have copied 'em-witness VoiVod's derivative Killing Technology-but Die Kreuzen are simply too good for the bulk of you, and deserve Metallica-like stature amongst the denim-and-leather set.
"We never really surrounded ourselves with a set of rules," says scarecrow-like vocalist Kubinski, "From the beginning, we were willing to try different ideas and approaches to achieve something fairly original."
Kubinski and guitarist Brian Egeness started the Die Kreuzen ball rolling in 1980 with the Stellas, a band described by Egeness as a "get drunk and bash the joint around" outfit. Die Kreuzen took its current form and its current moniker in mid-1981, with the lineup rounded out by elfin bassist Keith Brammer (who bears a striking resemblance to Sisters of Mercy frontman Andrew Eldrich) and drummer Erik Tunison.
The band's name, which literally translates from German into "the crosses," was happened upon by a roommate of Kubinski's in a German textbook. "We thought it sounded like a great name," says Kubinski. "We didn't want something with obvious connotations, with people coming up and telling us we were the thrash-meisters or anything like that, since we never wanted to be that narrowly defined as a band. Most people don't know what our name means, and even more don't know how to pronounce it." (That's Dee-Kroytzen for you phoneticists.)
Century Days, Die Kreuzen's third and latest LP, rates as the quartet's most varied and best developed effort yet.
"The new record is going to surprise a lot of people," says Brammer. "It's much better produced than (last year's) October File and continues the way that one went, with even more song variation. There's different production styles on each song, and we even use a horn section on one song. It's definitely a widening."
"Erik came up with the title for the new album," reveals Kubinski. "He told me it was about the sheer amount of stuff that goes on every day when your on tour, that you never really know about. Also, when we were in the studio it was exactly one hundred years to the day that Thomas Edison invented the phonograph! That was a cool coincidence."
Hardcore survivors? Hardly. By stressing musical iconoclasm throughout their career, Die Kreuzen continue to progress and develop in a fresh and exciting manner. "Too many bands stayed the same." says Dan. "They all had the same set of rules that they kept blindly following. Too many bands believed that they had to play incredibly fast and write songs about Reagan or the trouble down South, and it got old after a while. We were never really like that."
"Since the beginning of rock 'n' roll, there have been a number of bands who choose to remain in a certain little category and don't choose to expand beyond that," interjects Keith. "A lot of possess a planned obsolescence, because nothing stays the same forever. I'm glad to see that there's a resurgence of bands doing really cool, original stuff, like the Butthole Surfers or Killdozer-stuff that actually takes a chance."
Kubinski and Brammer have also gained relative notoriety for their work in the Wisconsin-based "industrial" combo Boy Dirt Car, crashing and banging along the lines of Teutonic industrialists Einsturzende Neubauten and Chicago's now-defunct Big Black.
Meanwhile, Die Kreuzen are finally beginning to achieve the recognition they've so long deserved. Last year's Killing Technology, by Canadian techno-metallists VoiVod, rings highly of Die Kreuzen worship, with axeman Piggy demonstrating much the same noise-chording inclinations originated by Egeness. "They're really cool, nice guys." Brammer says of VoiVod. "We met them last year when they were on tour, and they were really friendly and nice to us."
If they are indeed the long-lost bastard offspring of Ed Gein, the members of Die Kreuzen would undoubtedly be proud to assume their dad's bloodthirsty legacy. Shame old Ed kicked the bucket a few years back. He'd probably be a big Die Kreuzen fan.