I don’t think anyone ever expected Rammstein to just drop another album, especially so soon after their last: 2019’s untitled record – which itself came out a decade after their sixth studio effort. The Covid pandemic stopped what was to be four years of intense touring. But that time alone in lockdown enabled all six members the time and solitude they needed to write.
At long last, Zeit (‘Time’ in English), a collection of eleven industrial metal tracks, though featuring some of the most synth on a Rammstein album yet. Zeit opens with ‘Armee Der Tristen’, packing a creeping drum sound throughout that gets you pumped for the next forty minutes. It’s a track on goading the weak into joining your cause, to rise up against something and tow the party line. Relevant, huh? Dystopic, decaying synth is the perfect start to the album.
The title track itself is one of Rammstein’s most poetic moments yet. Sweeping flourishes of piano and strings, coupled with frontman Till Lindemann proving once more that he can master musical theatre as well as any heavy metal. There’s such tragedy in his voice, and helps this track prove a landmark in an already skyscraping career. As we ponder longer and longer on the infinite darkness which approaches, time withering and waning, ‘Zeit’ billows into a mess of wondrous noise.
‘Schwarz’ is another beautiful moment on the record, with its closing minute producing just ineffable sorrow in a fusion of piano and guitar. It’s a song on depression, finding sanctuary in the dark, comfort in the shadows. ‘Giftig’, meanwhile, is an all-out headbanger; an ode to those partners that just aren’t good for you. Lindemann gets to let himself loose here, shedding that classical prowess and howling down the mic.
One of the singles from Zeit, ‘Zick Zack’ is perhaps its pinnacle. This sparing use of synth throughout the chorus births one of the most simplistic, catchiest moments of Rammstein’s music thus far. It’s full of tongue-in-botoxed-cheek humour, and a classic track from the Germans, owing more than a little to 2019’s ‘Ausländer’.
From the name and the opening operatic of ‘OK’, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s another tribute to the cerebral and existential. It’s actually about not wearing a condom. But, to be fair, it fires like sheer artillery, reminiscent of last album’s ‘Zeig Dich’. At this point, there should be no doubts as to Rammstein’s enduring, heavy sound – German efficiency, and all that.
Lyrically, ‘Meine Tränen’ trudges along the same thematical lines of Lindemann’s side project release, ‘Steh Auf’. It’s a dark, dark song, put to a real funeral dirge that drags itself through the dirt. ‘Angst’, meanwhile, has one Hell of a music video, offering up one of the group’s grittiest riffs so far.
What’s a Rammstein album without at least one raunchy tune? ‘Dicke Titten’ means ‘Big Tits’ and it’s about, well, that. The zenith of filth on this record, it’s tough not to laugh along, though you’ll still find yourself convulsing wildly to every chord as you do. It’s a great tincture of the band’s more operatic highs and their lowdown and dirtiest.
There’s a really clever employment of autotune on ‘Lügen’, one of the angriest tracks on Zeit. ‘Adieu’ then brings us to the big finish. Just as ‘Zeit’ grappled with the infinity coming ever closer, bringing balance to the joy of precious memories, ‘Adieu’ simply focuses on death. But, as Rammstein roar, they’ll sing with us one last time. A moody climax, perhaps, but how else would you finish an album about something as big and philosophical as time itself?
Zeit is an album obsessed with temporary joy, melancholic memories and death coming for us all, no doubt influenced by the aging of the band – as well as the wake of a global pandemic, war and widespread civil unrest. It’s Rammstein’s darkest album, playing out like an open wound we all gaze into perversely; one man’s neuroses and blackest thoughts laid bare, vulnerabilities peeled back like flesh to the world.
But by no means does that often dark and pensive tone lower the quality of the music itself. Indeed, it gives every track a real sense of maturity, and hones the band unshakeable formula even further, honing it into precise, glistening rock. Every part of Zeit is just infectious, and while it may call into question the path life has laid out before you, it provides an epic accompaniment to that voyage ahead.