On 17th May 2019, Neue Deutsche Harte band, Rammstein, released their latest album. It holds no title (typically simply referred to eponymously as ‘Rammstein’, sometimes capitalized), bears no intricate cover conventional of a metal album, and yet there’s something so full about it.
Boasting a single, unlit match on a stark white background, it’s already a record full of mystery. Supposedly this eerie cover depicts the band’s love of fire and simplicity. And certainly, that could be true. But Richard Kruspe, lead guitarist of the band, stated in early 2017 that the band’s next album could be their last. Well, at least the match is unlit, so maybe that means we have another installment in the Rammstein brand to come.
Promoted with the release of the album’s first single, ‘Deutschland’, back in March, and its second, ‘Radio’, the month after, we were already onto a good thing. Rammstein was back! With the first studio album in ten years, the pressure was immense. Yet, already the band’s bespoke genre of alternative and groove metal, tinctured with electro-industrial and pop elements, was cemented.
The album’s first track, ‘Deutschland’, reminded us just how fond Rammstein are of controversy. Remember, this is the band that did an entire song about the German cannibal case, and regularly involve the use of gruesome theatrics, flame-throwing wings and depictions of graphic sex onstage. The song, at about five minutes in length, is a testament to Rammstein’s talent. Opening with an 80s-esque synth riff, it thunders into this chant complete with lyrics about how we must learn from the past to move forward. The song is, without a doubt, an open-minded and liberal view of the world, yet its music video (featuring several iterations of Germany in the lead role as ‘the enemy’, and women giving birth to dogs or something) made many media outlets to think the opposite. Either way, the lyrics are fairly repetitive (and in German, remember), but the entire song shatters into you with the force of, well, Till Lindemann’s, vocals. (that is, to say, very forceful indeed)
Following this we have ‘Radio’, labelled by some as one of the most ‘radio-friendly’ tracks the band have done. It certainly has the ring of mainstream about it… but you certainly wouldn’t find it playing in your local branch of Sainsburys. In the same lyrical vein of Queen’s seminal, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, Rammstein’s ‘Radio’ focuses on the joys of radio, and how it’s been a tool of freedom throughout civil unrest and, well, the Second World War, obviously. It’s Rammstein. They like war and violence and that kind of stuff.
The song itself is great, with an infectious riff and bizarre music video to match (it features women straddling radios and using them in a sexual way. I don’t know either). I could easily see this becoming a staple live.
‘Zeig Dich’ is the fastest track on the album, complete with Sisters of Mercy-esque choral vocals throughout (in Latin, no less). On the subject of God, religion and his absence – or something like that – it could quite easily be seen as a fairly mediocre track. It has the feeling of not quite getting where it wants to go, but by God, it still induces headbanging.
‘Auslander’ is one of the catchiest tracks on the record. The opening synth and drumwork is just beautiful. Here, Lindemann fully embraces his multilingual abilities (reciting French, English, Russian and Italian) as the ‘Foreigner’ (Or ‘Outlander’), going from girl to girl, impressing them with his knowledge of their tongue and then… well that part is obvious. It’s a very un-Rammstein-sounding track in many ways, and yet it also drips their lascivious ferocity. This is one to look out for, most definitely.
The album’s next two tracks are some of the best. ‘Sex’ is pure Rammstein, its bassline as perfectly hedonistic as the title. The riffs are incredibly contagious, and unlike some of Lindemann’s solo work (Ahem, looking at you ‘Ladyboy’ and ‘Praise Abort’), doesn’t feel too wrong to sing along to (though please don’t shout ‘Sex!’ on your walk to work: we take no responsibility for what this incurs). ‘Puppe’ is certainly the record’s most disturbed. Opening with a two-minute piano-accompanied piece, it violently erupts into Lindemann’s most inane vocals yet. The track is from the point of view of someone in a hospital, not in a stable state of mind. His ‘sister’, supposedly, is in the room next to him. Though it’s uncertain whether she conducts the experiments or is the same. ‘I am not doing well! I tear off the doll’s head! Yes, I tear off the doll’s head!’ about sums this one up. It’s sure to polarise listeners and will be interesting to see performed live – but it sure is metal.
‘Was Ich Liebe’ is a mellower track, its verses laden with tempered guitar, mounting into an explosive chorus. It’s one of the weaker tracks on the record, but it still comes out great. ‘Diamant’ is quite possibly the most shrug-inducing, and many fans will agree. It is, after all, a far slower piece (it almost feels unsuited to the rest of the album), but echoes the darker, sadder tone of its counterparts. It’s interesting, to be sure.
‘Rammstein’s penultimate tracks, ‘Weit Weg’ and ‘Tattoo’ are just great headbangers. There’s not much more to say other than they’re awesome additions to the band’s lengthy catalogue. Watch out for these – if you’re hungry for classic Rammstein, you’ll find it here.
‘Hallomann’ is the final song on the album. Featuring perhaps the creepiest lyrics on the record (I’ll leave you to Google these and see what you think), it’s an eerie piece to say the least. A fitting end to a fascinating collection, ‘Hallomann’ is bittersweet, and it works.
All in all, Rammstein’s latest work could be seen, by some, to leave a lot to be desired. It certainly features a lot of the fast-paced, groovy riffs attributed to the band, but introduces more interesting and varied elements, too. Overall, I love it. I think it’s another testament to how all these different genres can fuse and live as one, but on the other hand I understand why some fans are in two minds. Give it a listen, even if it’s not your thing. You just might be surprised.