Rammstein have expertly whet our appetite with visually challenging clips to two tracks from the new album, and today it has been set free to roam wild. Up front, I don’t speak German, so what follows are my reflections on the music, not the lyrics. That will be done by people smarter than I.
It’s been 10 years since the release of Rammstein’s last album “Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da”. As customary, the album has 11 tracks and it is 46 minutes in duration.
Deutschland’ (‘Germany’) opens with a catchy synth riff and then the guitars wade in, sleeves rolled up, fixing to create a ruckus. The use of the words ‘du hast’ in the lyrics is brilliant, forging a deeper bond with the track early. The lush baritone of Till (vocalist) and the shadowy vocal echoes of Richard (lead guitar) work very well together. It’s more complex and layered than the usual Rammstein fare and it conveys a sense of urgency. There’s clever background piano and female vocals to add drama. It finishes with simple, stripped back piano.
‘Radio’ – is a killer follow on from the previous track. It features a retro synth that then rocks into a Rammstein rhythm. Till’s vocals suggest mischief. It’s a catchy track, even though, as usual, we have no idea what we’re singing…
‘Zeig Dich’ (‘Show Yourself’) opens with a choir, joined by guitar riffs. Till is again somewhat restrained and I am wondering when he will assert himself. Halfway into the track, things roughen up with the guitars and vocals becoming more urgent. The elements of this track are a Rammstein manifesto – a sense of drama, clever guitar work and excellent drumming. Tempo is used to great effect in this track, as it strips back, builds back up and at the end the choir re-emerges, adding a sense of the gothic.
‘Auslander’ (‘Foreigners’) has a synth opening and the guitars had me nodding. This track is synth and keyboard heavy. It has a different feel, with vocals and melody being lighter – I sense irony.
‘Sex’ features a swanky heavy guitar groove and Till positively swaggers. It is not unlike the track ‘Cowboy’ from his “Lindemann” side project. It’s a track that draws you in and I was humming the riff. The riff remains for the duration, though the guitar effects change, giving a sense of diversity to the music. It includes a synth solo, followed by the guitars wading in close behind.
‘Puppe’ (‘Doll’) opens with simple guitar work which is low on effect, but high on impact. Till is telling a story and it feels like a ballad. Two minutes in and Till gets nasty! The guitars follow his assertiveness and things get grainy, to convey madness and obsession. I feel bad for the doll… At the end things get stripped down and deliberately dischordant. Things clearly fall apart, down into madness. Clever.
‘Was ich Liebe’ (‘What I Love’) is grand and operatic, with a riff that occasionally bites you. It starts with slow drums and basic, muted guitar, with Till sounding robotic. The track slowly becomes more melodic. As the track unfolds, it sounds like Till’s standing away from the microphone, pleading into the room. The guitars then drive in and with the background synths, it indeed sounds like love is being questioned.
‘Diamant’ (‘Diamond’) opens with acoustic guitar and bass, with choirs used again, as well as an orchestra. Till sings simply and it’s a timely step back and slow down. The track is short, which adds to its impact.
‘Weit Weg’ (‘Far Away’) After the slow, stripped down nature of the last track, the synthetic opening to this one gentles you into a new direction. It feels as if a tale is being told about a journey, or a longing for something unattainable. It’s harmonic and Till weaves his way through layers of sound.
‘Tattoo’ Driving guitars with trademark punches open this track and it settles into familiarity – guitar, pause for Till to growl – repeat – inject keyboard – repeat – unfold into Rammstein at their best.
‘Hallomann’ (‘Hello There’) Things slows down a bit of the final track. It starts with a bass riff and is again joined by the mad piano that pops up in the most unlikely places on this album. The sound is full, but not frantic. Till’s vocals are unhurried. It’s woven with instrumental interludes, lots of layers and clever production. As the last chord rings out, it fades away like a fond farewell.
This is fitting, as the band have been quoted as saying that this is their last album.
The guitarist of one of my favourite bands described Rammstein as “a legacy band”. I took this to mean that they have the runs on the board and because of this, people perceive their music through a different filter. After so many years in the industry and since their last album, Rammstein could rest on their laurels and just release anything and people would accept it. The aforementioned person turned out to be wise indeed – I had a clear idea of what I wanted the album to be and it got in the way.
I chose to listen to it three times. My first listen had me a bit lost, as the album wasn’t what I was expecting. On my second run through, when I got over my preconceptions, I embraced and better understood the music and got lost in it. The third run through confirmed the quality of this work.
Flake (keyboards) once described Rammstein’s music as “blunt, repetitive and boring”. This is what we have come to expect – a bluntness that smacks you in the face, repetition that you pump your devil horn fists to and a ‘boring’ template that gets you pogo dancing.
So, would you recognise this as Rammstein? Absolutely. It is still ‘blunt, repetitive and boring”. In parts. It is also lyrical, musical, emotional and engaging. It’s an evolution.
This album feels deliberately and cogently crafted. It’s been a long time coming and the time has been well spent. Rammstein is not a band of democracy – all 6 have to agree on every decision. This shows on the album – there’s a diversity of sound that resonates with the tastes and abilities of the members. There’s elements of Till’s work in “Lindemann” and Richard’s work in “Emigrate”.
It sounds and feels like they have spent much time and effort on giving life to this music. If it to be their last album, it will serve as an excellent anchor to their work.
Review by Greg Noble