Xmal Deutschland – Incubus Succubus

14th December 2023 · 1980s, 1982, Music, Postpunk

When I first heard Xmal Deutschland in the early 1980s I thought I was listening to something new by Siouxsie And The Banshees. I’m sure I was not alone.

Anja Huwe’s stentorian vocals are a dead ringer for Ms Sioux, her stage moves are not dissimilar, and the band’s rigidly teutonic rhythms could easily be the Banshees, with added synths.

Sounding like howling witches burning at the stake, this is their best-known number, Incubus Succubus, from 1982. With its ghoulish shrieks, urgent rhythm and buzzsaw guitar, it reminds me of a gothic cover of California Uber Alles by The Dead Kennedys.

Formed in Hamburg in 1980, Caro May, Rita Simon, Manuela Rickers, Fiona Sangster and Anja Huwe started the band despite any previous musical experience, styling themselves as “Gothics.”
Huwe only became the lead singer because vocalist Simon failed to show up at the studio on the day they recorded their debut single, Schwarze Welt. She agreed on one condition: that she could return to her bass guitar duties and they would never make her perform onstage.

“Two months later, they made me without ever telling me upfront,” she would recall. “I had no choice.”

That debut single was released on Hamburg’s local punk label ZickZack in 1981 and introduced the band as an unsettling swarm of intensity, with Huwe’s uniquely venomous German vocals too striking to be discarded after just one song.

With their peacocked hair and thick kohl-lined eyes, Xmal Deutschland saw themselves as removed from the rest of the Neue Deutsche Welle (New German Wave) movement, forming an alternative clique alongside colleagues and friends DAF and Einstürzende Neubauten.

In late 1982 the band performed in London as support for the Cocteau Twins and earned a deal with their label, 4AD, but after four albums Huwe abandoned music to pursue her visual art career and the band split up at the end of the 1980s.

Over the next 30 years Huwe turned down countless requests to return until the pandemic arrived, encouraging her to go back into the studio. The result is her first solo album, Codes, coming out soon, while the early singles of Xmal Deutschland are coming out on a new compilation.