It would not be out of line to call German rock band Messer timeless. If you think about it, the word has multiple meanings. On the one hand, the band has not (yet!) been around long enough for their music to have withstood the test of time. On the other hand, their post-punk meets new wave sound could be straight out of yesterday or today. It is a subtle blending of influences and sounds that creates originality.
But there is more than just rock music you can get from this post-punk band. As German language learners, it is always an opportunity to learn! So this month, let’s get to know Messer better and learn German with music!
Get to Know Messer
Messer was formed in 2010 in the German city of Münster. The original line-up was frontman Hendrik Otremba, bassist Pogo McCartney, guitar player Pascal Schaumburg, and drummer Philipp Wulf. That same year, they released Alle Tage, a cassette single.
After releasing two albums, the group parted ways with guitarist Pascal Schaumburg. Stepping in to fill the spot was guitar player Milek.
In addition to pursuing music, the band have additional artistic outlets. This is particularly true of singer Otremba. He is a journalist and published author having written two novels: 2017’s Über uns der Schaum and 2019’s Kachelbads Erbe. And, he is an accomplished artist who has painted the band’s album covers.
The Music of Messer
You could describe Messer’s initial sound as buzzing and electric post-punk. On their 2012 debut full-length release, Im Schwindel, the band comes out swinging. Otremba pushes his voice to the limits. His raspy not-quite-sung delivery offers a textured layer against the somewhat melodic tracks like the driving Sonic Youth-inspired “Augen in der Dunkelheit.” Otremba practically growls over Schaumburg’s bouncy guitar riffs of “Sulai.” Closing track “Romy” offers a slower, heavier side of the band. It is a wonder Otremba’s vocals made it that far.
On their sophomore follow-up, Messer ditch any semblance of what might be considered traditional melodies in rock music. Twangy, jangly, and angular, Die Unsichtbaren grinds while remaining fluid. Throughout the album from 2013, guitar harmonics ping and bend skillfully over quick percussive rhythms that send hips twisting and toes tapping. It is still post-punk but taking a step past their debut. It adds a pinch of goth. A hint of grunge. A smidge of shoegaze. The opening track “Angeschossen” evokes ’80s and ’90s Berlin post-punk bands Die Haut. But halfway through the album, Messer offers lighter and more atmospheric tracks like “Neonlicht.”
After two albums in two years, there is a bit of a gap before Messer released their third album. 2016’s Jalousie takes a slightly different approach than its predecessors. Otremba is less of a growling punk frontman. He opts, instead, for a more precise and monotone delivery. In an unexpected twist, his vocals are at times paired with those of a female singer. Meanwhile, the band’s instrumentation has a bit more freedom and takes on a somewhat experimental flair. The album is spacy but still somber.
2020’s No Future Days sees the band return with a brighter version of themselves. There are still angular rhythms and monotone vocals. But instrumentation tends to be looser; like a reggae new wave sound by way of The Police. From the swinging single “Der Mieter” to the intense “Tapententür,” the Messer of early days is still in there. Just perhaps just a bit less…punky. Eight years after their debut they are understandably just different now.
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Photo by Moritz Hagedorn, courtesy of DQ Agency. This post contains affiliate links.