One Track Mind: Caspar Brotzmann, "Massaker" (1994)

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Sometimes, people listen to music with too much of their brain. I’m just suggesting you give your skull some attention.


As someone who’s guilty of taking more than a few strolls down the cerebral sidewalk of music, even I’d have to admit you have to keep your cranium happy once in a while. So what does a hopeless art-jazz addict reach for when it’s head banging time?

Me, I enjoy the refreshingly unconventional heavy metal noises of Caspar Brötzmann.

OK, admittedly, that’s cheating a bit. Caspar, after all, is the son of that German whack jazz overlord Peter Brotzmann and shares his Dad’s affinity for the extremely uncommercial experimentation. Caspar does use a heavily amplified guitar instead of a sax for his weapon of choice but his music can also be, well, contemplative.

That’s not an adjective used to sell a notion that “this is some damned good head banging music.” But it’s the dark, brooding kind of contemplation, the kind where you know Caspar is holding back hell but won’t much longer. He’s merely giving you time to brace for it.

The song which also bears the name of his three piece band is one of those moments of his where Hades is unleashed, held back to allow you a breather and unleashed again. It opens with a jolting barrage of clanging noises produced by Caspar’s feedback synced with Danny Arnold Lommen’s tom-toms.

Caspar wrenches more satanic effects out of his guitar unaccompanied for the next three or so minutes until the clanging returns to herald in the full band. The bass/bass drum rumble sounds like Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” with a mutated time signature, while Brötzmann wails away untethered to time or melody.

The centerpiece of this fourteen minute roller coaster ride in and out of Lucifer’s den comes in the middle, where the sludge shuffle abruptly ends. The near silence is broken with machine gun skins beating as Caspar mutters in a heavy teutonic drawl “massaker…break down”, over and over again until the mutter rises to a scream. And his axe follows along emanating some eerie, amped up chimes with increasing intensity, culminating in all out release.

The Kashmir march resumes, with more of Brötzmann’s feedback frenzy and occasionally, you can hear his yelps above the ruckus.

Oh, and regarding that feedback frenzy. Caspar is able to coax some frightening sounds out of his guitar when the mood strikes him. His playing style is an acquired taste and in some circles he’s even considered a virtuoso. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but he does get bonus points for intensity and creativity.

Extreme heavy metal isn’t something I can listen to very much because I can’t discern much purpose from it. But songs like “Massaker” suggest convincingly that even some of the most brutal forms of music can be shaped into something that challenges the listener to listen a little closer. It’s the same idea that Poppa Peter had nearly forty years earlier.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at [email protected] .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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