If progressive bands have one duty to fulfill, it's to keep the surprises coming. THE HIRSCH EFFEKT have already defied the odds to some degree: singing in their native German and seldom conforming to any particular sub-strand of post-djent heaviness, the Hannover trio have become one of the most well-respected tech-metal bands around by never quite doing or being the expected.
As a result, no one should be too startled by the revelation that "Kollaps" is absolutely not a straightforward sequel to 2017's "Eskapist". Most of THE HIRSCH EFFEKT's established trademarks are here, of course, but where previous albums seemed to be edging the band toward a more expansive and experimental approach, their fifth full-length record is pointedly economical and succinct, with only three songs exceeding the five-minute mark. A cynic might expect the next piece of news to be that THE HIRSCH EFFEKT have made their most melodic record to date, and while that may be superficially true, the real impact of the trio's switch to shorter songs is to necessitate the cramming in of every conceivable idea into a much briefer timeframe. So, while singles "BILEN" and "NOJA" are both undeniably catchy, with vocalist Nils Wittrock demonstrating how much his clean vocals have matured over the years, they are also densely packed with twists, turns and moments of demented extremity. There's an uncompromising edge to this retooled sound, as THE HIRSCH EFFEKT maximize the potency of each idea, spurning repetition in favor of a scattershot, machine-gun approach. "DEKLARATION" is a particular highlight, with its serrated-edge riffing and gleeful, VOIVOD-meets-DILLINGER complexity. "TORKA" is equally stunning: a rambling, ambient overture gives way to waves of soaring post-metal and bursts of polyrhythmic noise.
Brevity plainly suits this band just fine, but it may be significant that the title track stands out so strongly here: a languorous, pitch-black stumble through dense, emotional fog, its lengthier span enables THE HIRSCH EFFEKT to conjure the depth of atmosphere that emerges only intermittently during those hectic, shorter songs. "AGERA" nearly repeats the same trick, but with a more overtly prog-inspired sense of occasion, before "DOMSTOL" brings the curtain down; a malevolent post-hardcore bad trip that explodes into outright insanity halfway through, sinew-snapping blastbeats and feral screams included.
Full of surprises but still seemingly — almost voluntarily — in a state of evolutionary flux, THE HIRSCH EFFEKT are still one of the most distinctive bands around and "KOLLAPS" is their most fascinating work to date.