Wumpscut, one of the most loved yet most divisive electro-industrial artists, has a new album out called Fledermavs 303 (you can find it on Bandcamp). Its release comes as somewhat of a surprise given that Rudy Ratzinger, the man behind Wumpscut, called it quits in 2017.
By that time, Wumpscut was releasing a new album every year, and Rudy had become a punching bag among certain circles. Every album seemed worse than the last, the cover art became increasingly more ridiculous, and the songwriting just felt lazy (at one point, he actually made a song called “Fuckit.”)
The new album, his first in nearly four years, is a somewhat relaxed affair with midtempo beats and silly titles like “Nein Nein” and “Squeal Like a Pig.” It probably won’t change any of his harshest critics’ minds.
Still, we’ll always have classic Wumpscut. There was a time in the mid ’90s when Wumpscut defined the dark electronic scene and ruled gothic-industrial dancefloors. I’m counting down my 10 favorite Wumpscut songs, and most of them come from that era.
10. Thorns (1995)
If you’ve ever been to a gothic-industrial nightclub, you’ve heard this song. It’s a perennial hit that fills dancefloors with goths twirling and flailing about to its Renaissance-flavored beat. The album version is mostly instrumental (there’s a “Distant Vocals” version that features lyrics about birds), but the big moment comes near the end when Rudy drops a modified sample from Highlander: “Tonight you sleep in hell.”
9. Christfuck (2001)
Wumpscut has a penchant for combing two words into portmanteaus (see also “Embryodead”). “Christfuck” is cleverly created to piss off Christians, but weirdly the song about a dying lover seemingly has nothing to do with Christ or religion. The rapid-fire pace of the chorus makes it a lotta fun to sing.
8. Angel (1997)
“Angel” might be a close as Wumpscut gets to a ballad. It’s dark and mysterious with tender lyrics expressing his love for an angelic creature. There’s no beat, and you keep waiting for a drum pattern to blast off near the middle like they do so frequently in Wumpscut tracks, which makes the entire song feel like you’re teetering on the edge of something about to happen.
7. Wreath of Barbs (2001)
Wreath of Barbs may be Wumpscut’s last good album, and its title track stands out among Wumpscut’s pitch-black catalog for the electrified vocal effects, though Rudy goes full-throttle near the end. The chorus takes a cue from his forebears, Skinny Puppy. It’s single words punctuated by a pause, and it’s catchy as hell: “Grinding. Binding. Taking. Away.”
6. Die in Winter (1995)
“Die in Winter” is another great track from Wumpscut’s magnum opus, Bunkertor 7 (the album most represented on this list). This song defies structure: It’s mostly an intro that builds and picks up pace until the lyrics finally drop around the four-minute mark: “The time has come to close your eyes.”
5. Is It You? (1997)
Bunkertor 7 is my favorite Wumpscut album for the sheer number of killer songs (basically all of them), but Embryodead from 1997 is a close second. There are nearly as many great tracks from this release, but “Is It You” stands out for slowing down the pace and delivering a dark-pop chorus that finds Rudy crooning, “Is it youuuuuuu?”
4. Capital Punishment (1995)
“Capital Punishment” kicks off with a weird shuffling noise and doesn’t become a full-fledged song until the beat drops around the three-minute mark. Rudy ratchets up the tempo and lets a brutal yelp fly. It’s a goddam masterpiece. I’ve always thought some of the lyrics (“Father, we’re so close to death”) make it a spiritual ancestor to another Wumpscut song, “Mother.”
3. Mother (1997)
Speaking of “Mother.” At eight-plus minutes, “Mother,” from the 1995 collection of various compilation material, The Mesner Tracks, is one of Wumpscut’s long songs. But it’s mostly instrumental, all thumping layers of electronic noise that sound incredibly heavy on a good set of speakers. When the lyrics finally arrive, they’re simple longings for comfort: “Mother, can you hear me?”
2. Hang Him Higher (2000)
In 2000, Wumpscut released a double album called BlutKind that collected a bunch of early songs, demos, and some unreleased material. It also included two new songs, and one of those turned out to be one of Wumpscut’s best ever. “Hang Him Higher” features everything that makes Wumpscut great: elegant programming comprised of a high-pitched piano melody, a bangin’ 4-4 beat, and a blastfire chorus: “We came we came we came. We came to hang him higher.”
1. Soylent Green (1993)
The song that launched a thousand imitators. “Soylent Green,” from Wumpscut’s first proper album, Music for a Slaughtering Tribe, is a masterclass in dark, pummeling aggression. It feels like a punch to the gut. Rudy snarls the vocals, media samples blast across the verses, and the way the beat stops and starts in fits throughout the back half makes for frenetic dancing. After all this time, it remains Wumpscut’s finest moment.