It’s rare that a band seem like they’re part of both the past and the future. An encounter with Kadavar might feel like tumbling through a wormhole to the early 70s, with the Berliners’ beards and tailoring all period-correct, and their playbook in thrall to Tony Iommi and Jimmy Page. But dig into Rough Times, their fourth album, and you’ll find this trio updating stoner and psychedelic sounds while dissecting the modern world.
“All the refugees,” frontman Christoph ‘Lupus’ Lindemann says with a sigh. “All the war. And of course, in America, I don’t understand how you can vote for somebody who’s homophobic, anti-women, anti-science, anti-anything. We kinda had the feeling that the good times might be over, so we called the album Rough Times.”
The album is a trip
Since the band formed in 2010, the boneheaded response has been to cast Kadavar as a Sabbath throwback. But that doesn’t square with their latest album, which unfolds like a saga and sprinkles eclectic influences. “It’s a journey,” Lupus explains. “Because it starts really dark and doomy, kinda Electric Wizard-style, like we’re really pissed off. But then it clears up, gets a little nicer, with this Neil Young vibe. By the end it almost seems like there’s some hope left. Not everything is black and the end of the world.”
The world is their stage
Lupus grew up in post-unification East Berlin, but the shadow of The Wall looms over Kadavar’s often-claustrophobic sound and escapist world view. “My mother always told me, whatever happens, when you’re old enough, leave, just go,” he recalls. “Because they never had the chance. There was the Stasi, spies everywhere, Russian soldiers, you couldn’t say what you were thinking. I’ve always enjoyed that freedom. You come to Mexico City, get on stage and see hundreds of kids freaking out. That’s the moment when all the pain makes sense.”
Their lyric sheet ain’t pretty
A scan of the Rough Times track-listing announces that Lupus is not from the hearts-and-flowers school. “When I’m happy and everything is good, I don’t feel like writing songs. I need anger and hate, to feel uncomfortable. Vampires is about my generation: nobody knows what the future is going to bring for us. Die Baby Die is about the music business, people knocking on your door, trying to make money out of you – then those people move on and they don’t give a fuck about your dream.”
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Kadavar are having an identity crisis
“One night, we were all at the bar and decided we needed animal names,” recalls Lupus. “Simon [Bouteloup, bass] became ‘Dragon’. Christoph [Bartelt, drums] was ‘Tiger’, and I took the Latin name for wolf, ‘Lupus’. But now we’re getting closer to our animals. Tigers are lazy the whole day then they go out for one big hunt – and Christoph might hang out all day, but when he gets up he’s serious. I’m getting more like a wolf, lonely. I used to go out and get wasted, but nowadays I stay home and write.”
Their face fuzz gets them into trouble
Most upcoming bands can’t get arrested. As Lupus recalls with a shudder, Kadavar did – in Texas. “The cops stopped the car because they said we were too fast. But it definitely had something to do with the hair and beards. They had guns pointed at us, put us in a field for hours, blinding us with spotlights, with dogs trying to find drugs. Nobody has ever pulled a gun on me before. That’s a feeling I never want to have again.
They’ve got a split personality
The stage Kadavar and the studio Kadavar, Lupus reminds us, are two different beasts. “People say our records never really catch the energy we have on stage. We are way more brutal, heavy and dirty live. Of course, you want to blow people away, so you do it as fat and big as you can, but we never try to have that on the records. We are not really fans of big, fat production. Maybe we have two identities. But on the new album, I think we’ve caught both of them.