Review UNDERTOW ‚Bipolar‘

Metal force Undertow are no stranger when it comes to heavy metal from Germany. The band started in 1993 and has eight albums under their belt. The latest one was the smashing ‚Reap the Storm‘ record, that, as each of the earlier longplayers, was a critically acclaimed one.

Four years later Undertow return with a next record. ‚Bipolar‘ is the title of their excellently crafted new album, a longplayer that features great music and some new twists. Undertow was partly described as the German version of Crowbar, which, listening to the earlier releases, has a reason. Over the past years though, the quartet has been stuck to their roots and at the same time added more variety to their music. Sludge, doom, groove and thrash metal is what the previous release offered. Now the band picks it up where they left off with ‚Reap the Storm‘ and continue their evolving approach.

One of the key ingredients of Undertow are the striking voice of frontman Joschi Baschin. His voice and intonation are so much connected to the sound of Undertow and became a trademark for the band. Another important moment for the quartet was, when Markus ‚Brandy‘ Brand joined in 2013. Having him in the band opened a new gate to extra versatility and variation. This blossomed already on the latest album and finds a continuation on a next level on ‚Bipolar‘.

Now, let‘s have a look what the new songs bring to the plate. It all starts with ‚When Tears Became Scars‘. The band doesn‘t waste any time and starts with full force into their ninth album. The piano-based intro though is a first sign of versatility. Slowly but steady the opener gains intensity and evolves into a powerful one that deserves the lead-off position. The alternation of heavy and calmer moments shows the songwriting level of the band. ‚On Fire‘ is the next song on the album and a well-chosen deviation from the monumental opener. ‚On Fire‘, the title says it all. Fast and furious, that‘s what the song echoes, a headbanger‘s delight.

Number three on this batting order is ‚Life Kills‘, one of the more layered songs that takes a while to show the full potential. Full firepower is what ‚Call of the Sin‘ reflects with the galloping beat and right-into-the-face approach.

The darker side of life echoes with ‚Shadows‘. The beginning reminds more of an elegy and I hardly have heard Baschin‘s vocals being so intense. It gets under one’s skin. ‚Shadows‘ is the emotional leader on ‚Bipolar‘ together with ‚The Longest Breath‘. The emotional song with a personal real-life connection is a masterpiece in Undertow‘s history and belongs with seven minutes to the longer ones on the album. After those impressive melancholic milestones, it is up to ‚Unstoppable‘ to bring back pure and raw power. A bit thrash-related the tune is a real energizer.

An unexpected moment is a song called ‚Undertow‘. Usually a band-naming song comes earlier in the career of a band but Undertow is different. The guys waited nearly 20 years to record such a song and it is an instrumental. Now, I mentioned Joschi Baschin‘s voice being an important element for the sound of Undertow but here it isn‘t missing. The song has a depth and intensity that speaks volumes and it was a good decision to stick to an instrumental. 100% Undertow is still represented in the band‘s first instrumental and the song is certainly a highlight on ‚Bipolar‘.

The acoustic guitar starts ‚I Remain‘ and the song stays in this pattern. One could say that it is the Undertow ballad on the album but that would fall too short. ‚I Remain‘ is a dark and emotional song that is kept calm and is touching. It is a tears-triggering moment that has the potential to touch the listener‘s heart. It is another twist on the album and shows the willingness of the band to not stand still. To place such a song at the end of the album instead of having a pulverizing grande finale demands self-confidence and braveness. Undertow has both in their mental toolkit.

Undertow never really disappointed when it comes to their releases and music. Instead, the band sticks to their roots and builds on their own history. ‚Bipolar‘ fits perfectly into this context. The record features 100% Undertow and at the same time marks a next step in the so far impressive vita of one of the most underrated German metal bands.

Rating: 9 out of 10.

Tracklist:

  1. When Tears Became Scars
  2. On Fire
  3. Life Kills
  4. Call of the Sin
  5. Shadows
  6. The Longest Breath
  7. Unstoppable
  8. Undertow
  9. I Remain

Label: El Puerto Records

Genre: Doom Metal

Release Date EU: July 8th, 2022

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