September 28, 2022

Undertow – Bipolar Review – Your Online Magazine for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal

Label: El Puerto Records

Genre: Doom Metal

EU Release Date: July 8, 2022

List of tracks:

When tears turned to scars
On the fire
life kills
call of sin
Shadows
The longest breath
unstoppable
Reflux
I’m staying

Metal force Undertow is no stranger to German heavy metal. The group started in 1993 and has eight albums to its credit. The latest was the smashing record “Reap the Storm”, which, like each of the previous records, received critical acclaim.

Four years later, Undertow returns with the next record. “Bipolar” is the title of their perfectly crafted new album, a longplayer that features great music and fresh twists. Undertow has been partly described as the German version of Crowbar, which, listening to previous versions, has a reason. In recent years, the quartet has stayed true 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 up where they left off with “Reap the Storm” and continues their evolutionary approach.

One of Undertow’s key ingredients is frontman Joschi Baschin’s gripping vocals. His vocals and intonation are so intertwined with the Undertow sound that they have become the band’s trademark. Another important moment for the quartet was the arrival of Markus “Brandy” Brand in 2013. Having him in the group opened a new door to more versatility and variation. This has already blossomed on the last album and finds a next level sequel on ‘Bipolar’.

Now let’s see what the new songs bring to the plate. It all starts with “When tears became scars”. The group wastes no time and embarks on its ninth album with full force. The piano intro, however, is the first sign of versatility. Slowly but surely, the opening gains in intensity and evolves into a power that deserves the lead position. The alternation of heavy and calmer moments shows the level of writing of the group. “On Fire” is the album’s next song and a well-chosen diversion from the monumental opener. ‘On Fire’, the title says it all. Fast and furious is what the song echoes, a headbanger’s delight. Number three in that batting order is “Life Kills,” one of the most layered songs that’s been slow to show its full potential. Full firepower is what “Call of the Sin” reflects with the galloping pace and direct approach.

The dark side of life resonates with ‘Shadows’. The beginning reminds me more of an elegy and I have rarely heard Baschin’s voice so intense. It goes under the skin. ‘Shadows’ is the emotional leader of ‘Bipolar’ with ‘The Longest Breath’. The emotional song with a personal connection to real life is a masterpiece in the history of Undertow and belongs with seven minutes to the longest on the album. After these impressive melancholic milestones, it’s up to ‘Unstoppable’ to bring back the pure and raw power. A little related to thrash, the track is a real energizer.
An unexpected moment is a song called “Undertow”. Usually a band name song comes earlier in a band’s career, but Undertow is different. The guys waited almost 20 years to record such a song and it’s an instrumental. Now, I mentioned that Joschi Baschin’s voice is a big part of Undertow’s sound but here it’s not missing. The song has a depth and intensity that speaks volumes and it was a good decision to stick with an instrumental. 100% Undertow is still featured in the band’s first instrumental and the song is definitely a highlight of “Bipolar.”
Acoustic guitar starts “I Remain” and the song stays in that pattern. You could say it’s the Undertow ballad from the album, but that would be too short. “I Remain” is a dark and moving song, calm and touching. It’s a heartbreaking moment that has the potential to touch the heart of the listener. It’s another twist on the album and shows the band’s desire not to stand still. To put such a song at the end of the album instead of having a big pulverizing finale requires self-confidence and courage. Undertow has both in his mental toolbox.

Undertow never really disappoints when it comes to their releases and their music. Instead, the band sticks to its roots and builds on its history. “Bipolar” fits perfectly into this context. The disc contains 100% Undertow and at the same time marks the next step in the so far impressive vita of one of the most underrated German metal bands.

Written by: Markus Wiedenmann

Rating 9/10

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