The Inchtabokatables - Ultra (1994)

Ultra

Tracklist

  1. Intro (Air)
  2. Wars Only Wars
  3. Rightful King
  4. End of the Night
  5. Dangerous
  6. Kinderlied
  7. Namenloses Lied
  8. Education
  9. Sometimes
  10. Old Indian
  11. Paris
  12. Extro (Air)
  13. [silence]
  14. Wars Only Wars (Long Version)
  15. [Fax noise]

The Inchtabokatables were a unique band in many ways. First and most importantly the band never used any guitars on their albums, even though their Folk-influenced tunes were obviously rooted in Rock music. All guitar parts are instead played with distorted violins, an aproach one might remember from Apocalyptica, who got famous doing similar things with Cellos, but the Inchies were not only first to do this kind of thing, their style is also very different.

The Inchtabokatables had two albums preceeding this album and those were mostly sung in German. For the release of Ultra they somehow drew the attention of Justin Sullivan, mastermind and vocalist of New Model Army who also toured with the band. (Tobias Unterberg also played with NMA on their 30th anniversary shows). Justin produced this album and gave their music a punchy sound, that works really well.

The album starts with a violin-only intro which goes straight into the magic four five songs of the album. Wars only Wars and Rightful King are definite highlights of this record. A somewhat punky attitude thanks to the driving violins, which, it must be said again, are not guitars, a fact hard to believe at first. End of the Night follows and is a welcome slowdown of pace with its celtic-inspired bridge in the middle, before Dangerous finishes the opening tracks, returning to previous formular.

The next chapter of the album consists of three songs and those are a odd bunch of tracks. Kinderlied is sung entirly by children citing macabre rhymes. There is a certain vibe to this track, one that builds a certain fascination, but yeah, this is definately a strange song. Namenloses Lied builds on this vibe. The rocking aspects of former tracks is completely lost and replaced by some kind of ritual chantings. The final track of this section is Education, which returns to the present, but the strange vibe remains.

If you decided to stop listening by now: you shouldn't. Because what follows now is a masterpiece of a song, which somehow manages to combine both aspects of the album in one song. Sometimes starts again with a rather cold, distant vibe just like previous songs did, but the melodies here just work. And then the song suddenly gains momentum. This is where Justin Sullivans influence is most obvious. the bass and the drum sound reminds one of The Ghost of Cain.

Another noteworthy song is Paris which seems to have been recorded in a station. While definately a gimmick the choice to make this seem like a street musician (including all surrounding noises) just works. The album then ends in a variation of the intro and longer version of Wars only Wars.

Ultra is not a perfect album. Its middle section remains a strange couple of minutes even 20 years after I first heard it. But even those share a particular quality of a band that was definately unique. And the rest of the tracks is of such high quality that I still consider this an absolute classic.

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