In our pre-show photoshoot, tucked away in a dressing room behind the stage, Max Gruber, the man behind the Drangsal moniker, wore a white vest, aptly highlighting the tattoos adorning his arm, with black tracksuit bottoms and trainers. The man who emerges from the same dressing room four hours later cuts much more suave a figure, standing silhouetted against the fluctuating lights in a dark, open-shirted suit as the smell of mist tinges the air and the sense of anticipation grows.
This sense of anticipation is abruptly curtailed prior to the beginning of the show when Gruber is forced to announce ‘We have to start later’, after some technical faults with the laptop onstage seem to have temporarily defeated the keyboardist. It’s only a brief lull in proceedings however, and within ten more minutes the whole band are back on stage as if nothing had gone wrong – even if Gruber’s plan only to say hello after the first song had been foiled by the setback.
And quite a first song it is, too. After a brief, wry, second introduction from Gruber, the band launch into Der Ingrimm with aplomb, instantly igniting the simmering excitement in the crowd that had previously been bubbling under the surface. Heads bob and shoulders sway as Drangsal tear through the slightly-shy-of -an-hour set punctuated both by established German favourites and English hits-to-be. Gruber remarks part way through that ‘this is where it gets weird’, and reveals that they’re currently planning to get back into the studio to record their second album – a follow-up to 2016’s Harieschaim, which hasn’t yet seen its UK release. As a result, at least one track towards the latter stages of the set is “double new”, and it only adds to the feeling of import that already shrouds the affair taking place in Islington’s Lexington.
When Gruber speaks it feels like the words are being pressed outwards from within by some unseen force, such is the showmanship and verve with which he interacts with the crowd, and the feeling is similar in his lyrics. Whoops and sporadic shrieks contribute to a jerky energy that denotes a real, honest, uncontrollable passion for his craft, and it comes through in everything Gruber and the band do. As the set progresses, English tunes Do The Dominance and Allan Align impress, with chugging basslines and skittering drums reminiscent of New Order or Joy Division, while German numbers like Will Ich Nur Dich and Schutter prove that charisma and finesse are recognisable in any language.
The band flew back to Germany late last night, meaning that, for now at least, the only opportunity for Brits to get their hands on a physical copy of last year’s Harieschaim without the need for downloads or shipping costs, has gone. However, with the promise of a new album in Germany forthcoming sometime in the not-too-distant future, and the hint that their debut effort will hit the UK shelves later this week (24th March), Drangsal have left us a lot to keep ourselves occupied with until their return to British soil. Although, let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for that anyway.
Words by Ben Kitto