RAMMSTEIN - Rammstein
May 21, 2019, a year ago
Rumoured to be their last album, Germany's most popular international export after BMW and Mercedes have returned with a record that will polarize their fanbase, which is nothing new. At first it comes across as being tame compared to their previous album, Liebe Ist Für Alle Da, released a decade ago, but a return visit to said outing reveals this is not in fact the case. The new album is a comparable mix of expected industrial-esque anthems and songs where things seem to be going off the rails. The latter bunch are guaranteed to be condemned by some fans and embraced by others, while the former have that Paint By Numbers approach Rammstein manipulates so well to the benefit of an incredibly successful career. And, almost a tradition at this point, the album just kinda falls off at the end without fanfare. This is easily Rammstein's most diverse record to date.
They kick off with "Deutschland", a song about Germany that made the snowflakes of the world lose their little minds when the first video trailer surfaced displaying Holocaust imagery; brilliant attention-getting marketing on the band's part considering neither the song nor the video are anywhere near being pro-Nazi. Musically, the song covers impressive new territory... would love to hear more of these intricate riffs and arrangements. "Zeig Dich", "Radio" and "Tattoo" are reminiscent of Rammstein's first two albums with the guitar riffs bleeding raw in the spirit of classics like "Du Hast", "Links 234" and "Asche Zu Asche". The rolling blues of "Sex" is a metal update of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" played dangerously close to the original up until the chorus, made an instant Rammstein classic thanks to frontman Till Lindemann (my pick for a new live favourite). "Weit Weg" is on the slower side bordering on 4/4 goth rock, but equally enjoyable for one of the deeper cuts that will likely never see stage life.
On the other side of the coin, "Diamant" is a full-on ballad featuring vocals, finger-picked acoustic guitar and a string section. Lindemann can sing, no question, but his voice in this environment is like a bull in a china shop (which was probably the point). "Ausländer" was assembled as a heavy dance track right down to the auto-tuned bridge vocals; once again, the Rammstein "no fucks given" sense of humour shines through. And it will become a hit if released, mark my words.
Anyone who understands German and has paid serious attention to Rammstein's lyrics knows Lindemann can be infantile in his writing on a Dr. Seuss "Green Eggs And Ham" level, as well as sexually warped, beautifully poetic, painfully serious, and horribly twisted. On this album he pays tribute to his homeland (the good and bad of it), taunts the church ("Zeig Dich"), and sings about sex, the tongue-in-cheek joys of being a foreigner ("Ausländer"), love ("Diamant"), the beauty of radio ("Radio"), and child abduction ("Hallomann"). The one hope going into this album was that Lindemann would unleash the dark and creepy side of his musical personality, and I got my wish and then some with the song "Puppe" (translated: "Doll"). Musically dark and disturbing, it's a riveting piece of audio performance art, with Lindemann pulling out all the stops getting into psychotic character come the chorus... as one does when screaming about ripping a doll's head off. Totally unexpected, yet brilliant. And I am absolutely convinced that Rammstein would never have been this successful with someone else behind the microphone.
As mentioned, the album suffers from a dull fade rather than going out with a bang. Not that "Tattoo" and "Hallomann" are bad, just that the record is loaded with a diverse selection of tracks and these two songs are things we've heard from Rammstein before, but better executed. In the end this will be another hit album for the band, and if this is indeed the end they're putting things to rest on a high note.