German alt/nu-metal rockers Emil Bulls have been around for twenty years, yet this is now the first that I’m ever hearing of them. In order to commemorate the band’s twenty year anniversary, this “Greatest Hits” compilation was made in a very peculiar way. At first, not having known anything about the band prior, I was going to say that such a disc was a horrible marketing attempt for a brand new recording. But XX is simply not that. Instead of giving you a “Greatest Hits” collection of sorts, the band decided to record many of their songs in a much sappier, lighthearted tone as you’ll witness here. It actually sounds kind of goth, to be honest; definitely a mile’s difference from the kind of material you’ll hear during the much upbeat “Hellfire versions” as they are titled. This, is in essence the band’s actual “Greatest Hits” disc, which fans will have to purchase as a special limited edition digipack, of which I am not fond of. If you’re going to release a “Greatest Hits” album, then it should come with these lighter “Candlelight versions” to begin with, rather than making people spend extra money for what is the actual product.
Of the many tracks offered here, I’ll mention that there is very little difference between the lighthearted (some might say darkhearted) version of “Dear Sadness” and the slightly more upbeat original. The same could be said for “Dancing On The Moon” of which the differences are nearly vacant. However, the differences between the fiercely brackish Hellfire version of “Way Of The Warrior” and the Candlelight version of the track are so much like night and day that it’s amazing how it works. It’s almost like Emil Bulls have transformed into a completely different band, not unlike something to the tune of Coldplay or U2. The same might be said of “Hearteater” which takes an almost Mudvayne meets Soilwork approach and turns it into a nearly romantic ballad. Look, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard it for myself. Then we have a thrasher with a clean chorus in the form of “The Most Evil Spell” that completely changes shape. I actually had to listen to see if “you fucking coward” was in the piece, which it was. There’s actually quite a few F-bombs in this poppy number, making me think of something from Gotye, Finger Eleven or Maroon 5 with a little more bite. I think it’s “Worlds Apart” though, that had the greatest effect on me. Though the Candlelight version is quite expectable for such a composition, I really like the balls-out Soilwork influenced Hellfire version of the track. I wish I’d heard that one years ago.
As you can see, XX is definitely something different, but it actually works and I have to say that I’m quite fond of it. From what I’ve heard on both discs, I can see that Emil Bulls are indeed an act to be reckoned with and it’s very surprising that these guys never made it to the US. I can see fans of acts like Breaking Benjamin, Chevelle, Soilwork, Five Finger Death Punch, Motograter and Linkin Park really getting into the material presented here. Just think, twenty years have passed and I had no idea who these guys were and just how damn catchy their tunes are. Sorry folks, but we don’t have all the great rock bands here in the states. Give this one a listen to see what you’re missing.
(2 Discs, 29 Tracks)