That Total Age gets all the glory in Nitzer Ebb’s highly influential discography, but for me Belief is their true gem. Sure, That Total Age put them on the map as England’s premier EBM act and it easily spawned dozens of copycat acts. What sets Belief apart for me is the subdued agression. Every track seems to be dangerous…waiting on the opportunity to jump out of the shadows. That Total Age hits you square in the chest. Belief hits you from behind when you least expect it.
This is the first in a long line of Nitzer Ebb albums that now legendary producer Flood would helm in the studio. He’d just gotten his big break engineering U2’s Joshua Tree and his name was soon to be synonymous with platinum selling records. Flood took the blunt force of That Total Age and refined it into a streamlined EBM classic with Belief. He reigned in Douglas McCarthy so that when the aggression does come out it means so much more. The synths are devilishly layered to perfection over some of the best EBM baselines ever written. At this point you may be asking yourself why the album isn’t in the conversation of all time greats. I’ve got a few theories about that.
The first issue is that the late 80’s were a breeding ground for some of the biggest EBM, synthpop, and industrial albums ever. 1988 saw Front 242 release Front By Front, one of the hallmarks of the genre. In 1988 Ministry released The Land of Rape and Honey and as if that wasn’t a big enough album they followed it up in 1989 with The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Skinny Puppy had two big albums of their own with VIVIsectVI in 1988 and then Rabies in 1989. As if that wasn’t enough competition, two more Flood produced albums were about to explode onto the charts. Nine Inch Nails released their debut, Pretty Hate Machine in 1989 and thrust EBM and industrial into the commercial realm like it had never imagined before. Depeche Mode’s Violator was hot on its heels (seriously, how did Flood have time to produce so many brilliant albums). There are many more that I could mention but I think you get the idea. Belief was a great album that was unfortunately released at the same time some of the greatest albums of all time hit the airwaves.
Nitzer Ebb’s legacy has been secured and their place of legend in the halls of EBM is set. It does bother me that they aren’t more of a household name, but it is what it is at this point. All I can do is shout out the quality that’s there and hope that someone, anyone, will pick it up and give it a chance.