Released by: Rammstein, Caroline 1, Spinefarm, Mercury
Release Date: Out now!
Genre: Industrial Metal
Till Lindemann – lead vocals, music, lyrics
Richard Z. Kruspe – lead guitar, music, lyrics, backing vocals (track 1)
Oliver Riedel – bass guitar, music, lyrics
Paul Landers – rhythm guitar, music, lyrics
Christian Lorenz – keyboards, music, lyrics
Christoph Schneider – drums, music, lyrics
The Academic Choir and the Symphony Orchestra of the National Television and Radio Company of Belarus, Minsk – strings, choir (tracks 3 and 6)
Meral Al-Mer – backing vocals (tracks 1 and 10)
Carla Bruhn – backing vocals (track 11)
3.”Zeig dich” (“Show Yourself”)
7.”Was ich liebe” (“What I Love”)
9.”Weit weg” (“Far Away”)
It has been a full decade since we last had an album from Rammstein, and now they have returned with the eponymous Rammstein.Full of industrial-metal angst, the new album often explores sinister and divisive themes, juxtaposed against the absurd. Like many native English speakers, I first discovered Rammstein through the mainstream media when ‘Du Hast’ and later ‘Sonne’ entered into regular radio and video play. Over the years I have truly gone down the rabbit hole as my appreciation for the band widened as I gained an understanding of the lyrics, as well as the clever way many of the songs are crafted to not have such obvious meanings as many think on first glance, or in this case, listen. Till has an incredible talent for playing on German phrasing, diction, and grammar to twist and turn words to realise the dark and vivid imagery from his mind’s eye and translate it into the prose that forms the lyrics for many of Rammstein’s most notable songs. Within these song constructs there is a lot going on that the average listener would not pick up on if they aren’t German or familiar with their culture, history, and all the connotations that come with it. With their latest offering, it is no different.
Opening with ‘Deutschland’ Till gives life to Germany as both a person as well as a country, as he takes us though what can best be described as a “break-up letter” to Germany, and the emotions “she” invokes within him. There is a special type of guilt at work throughout the song, contrasted against a feeling of how a German person would like to be perceived by the world, rather than the reality, which often stands in stark contrast. The synths that open the track are quickly met with an explosive combination of drums, bass, and guitar coming together like a musical representation of all the emotions he is feeling. As the track expands, it segues between the pulse of the song, and the languid interludes framed by Till’s lyrics. Declaring, “You (You have), Have cried a lot (Cried), Divided in spirit (Divided), Unified in heart (Unified)”, he sets the tone for the song which is a clear indictment on the current state of Germany, and his disappointment with its society. This can be heard plainly in the chorus, “Germany, My heart in flames, want to love and damn you. Germany, Your breath so cold, so young and yet so old. Germany, I (You have), I never want to leave you (You cry), One can love you (You love), And wants to hate you (You hate).” With references to appearing cold and emotionless on the outside, but torn with passion on the inside, Till decries the expectation placed upon German society to display a strong sense of belonging and duty while simultaneously being unable to show any form of emotional reaction. The powerful words of ‘Deutschland’ reach their crescendo as Till directs his laser scalpel at the heart of the growing nationalist movements in the country as the chorus changes in the second half of the song. A play on words on the forbidden national anthem, “Germany, Germany Above everyone” (Deutschland ueber alles), reflects the idea that the country is somehow more important than the individual. As the song comes to a close, Till drives it all home with, “Germany, Your love, is a curse and a blessing. Germany, My love, I cannot give you.”
The up-tempo and catchy ‘Radio’ has an electro-pop vibe woven through the industrial metal riffs and Till’s sonorous vocals. The second single to be released from the album, after the controversial ‘Deutschland’, ‘Radio’ is a seemingly more benign offering, with its catchy chorus announcing, “Radio, My Radio, I let myself be sucked into the ether, My ears become eyes. Radio, My Radio, Like that I hear what I don’t see. Silent, secret, longing.” The latter can either be interpreted as a sense of the longing to be somewhere else (“Fernweh”) or a “distant pain”, as described by the latter half of the song, “Every night I secretly climbed, onto the back of music, pressing my ears onto the wings, quietly singing into the hands. Every night, and again, I simply fly away with the music, just floating through all the rooms. No borders, no fences.” ‘Zeig Dich’ opens with a choir chanting in Latin as a heavy, punk-laden guitar riff comes in, which is later joined by the drums as the frenetic pace of the song opens up, underpinned by the disquieting synths. A commendation against the hypocrisy of the church, with a chorus that screams, “Absolution of all sins, Spread and procreate, In the name of the Lord, Show yourself, Show yourself,” the song explores many of the controversies surrounding Christianity in recent years. Adding, “Don’t hide, Show yourself, We are losing the light,” Till is calling this hypocrisy out from the shadows to acknowledge the wrongs committed in the name of faith and religion.
With a sound reminiscent of 90s Eurotrash, ‘Auslaender’ has elements of club music from popular destinations like Ibiza and Palma throughout, and like ‘Pussy’, it is telling an absurd tale of yet another German tourist. However in ‘Auslaender’, this particular tourist is pretending to speak in various foreign languages with the sole aim of having as much sex on holiday as possible, with the lyrics alternating between German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and English. In the first part of the song, he tries to come across as being an eloquent and worldly gentleman, with the lyric, “I travel a lot, I like to travel. Far and near, and near and far, I am at home everywhere. My language international, I like to please everyone. Yes, my vocabulary is not bad, a sharp sword in the battle of words, with the other gender.” However by the second half, it is clear that he is anything but, as he declares in broken and very basic German, “You come with, I do you good.” As if expanding on the underlying theme of ‘Auslaender’, ‘Sex’ is underscored by an undulating riff and drum beat reminiscent of Depeche Mode’s ‘Personal Jesus’. With a title like ‘Sex’ you might think that this song was self-explanatory, however this dark and disturbing track explores a need for sex that goes beyond love and desire and reduces it to its most base and primal urges. With a cutting chorus that paints an unsettling picture, the lyric explains, “Sex. Come to me. Mine is yours and that inside of you. Sex. Come with me. Because better repugnantly than not at all, again. We live only once. We love life.” This is later expanded to include, “We love love. We love sex. Hahahahahaha, yes. We live only once. We love life. We love love. We love wild sex. Sex. Sex. Sex.” Till’s dark laughter in the breakdown of the chorus simply adds a further creepiness to the song. While both songs are full of self-congratulatory swagger, the anger expressed in ‘Sex’ stands rather bluntly against the more ludicrous ‘Auslaender’ despite sharing many of the same themes at their core.
With a sound that would not be out of place on an early NIN album, ‘Was Ich liebe’ or ‘What I love’ should not be mistaken as a love song, as Till declares, “I don’t love, that I love something. I don’t like when I like something. I am not happy about being happy. I already know that I am going to regret it. That I am happy may not be. Who loves me, will perish. What I love, that will spoil. What I love, that has to die. Has to die.” Ballad-like ‘Diamant’ continues this theme, “Like a jewel, so clear and pure. Your fine light has my whole being. Wanted to facet you within my heart, but what cannot love, has to hate. And that sparkle, your eyes are going to suck out my soul. You are beautiful, like a diamond. Pretty to look at, like a diamond. But please let me go. What power, what a shine. Beautiful, like a diamond. But just a stone.” ‘Weit weg’ has a MUSE-like vibe to the sound, structure and phrasing. As Till sets the stage, we learn of a man who longs for the neighbour he only knows through his window, and the fantasies he constructs through the chance glances he catches of her – “Nobody can describe the picture. Against his window glass, he has pressed his face, and hopes, that she is going to leave the light on. Without dress, he has never seen her. The mistress of his fantasy.” In what is one of the standout tracks on the album, ‘Tattoo’ is a proper old-school heavy metal song with thrashing drum beats and cutting, gritty riffs. Ironically, if anything on the album could stand as a love song, it would be this. However as this is Rammstein, it’s not a love song in the traditional sense. In ‘Tattoo’ Till declares his love for his tattoos as he sings, “When the blood kisses the ink, when the pain hugs the flesh, I love my skin, pictures that are so familiar.” ‘Tattoo’ is probably the most upbeat and one of the more personal tracks on the album. Like ‘Deutschland’ and ‘Radio’ Till is giving you a rare glimpse into himself, and the passions that drive him. I’m sure this is a track that will get plenty of airplay when it’s released.
The discordant tone of ‘Puppe’ draws you down into its macabre blackness as Till’s growling vocal tells the tale of a boy locked in a room as his sister works as a prostitute next-door. Given a doll for comfort, Till speaks as the boy, screaming in anger and pain, “When sister is at work, the light in the window read. I am watching through the keyhole, and one beat her dead. And now I’m ripping the doll’s head off. Yes, I am ripping the doll’s head off. And then I’m biting the doll’s neck off. Now I am feeling good.” The use of low frequency noise, and the rhythm of the track only add to the uneasy feeling the song generates as it grows in intensity, before trailing away with the tinkle of a few piano keys. The sinister vibe created throughout this track is matched only by ‘Halloman’. The final track on the album, it opens slowly with an isolated, discordant guitar before it is joined by synths and Till’s haunting lyric about a kidnapper’s inner thoughts. As the drums come in and the song crawls on, it winds its way around your psyche, as the lyrics cry, “Sing for me, come sing. Pearl on the ring. Dance for me and then the helloman comes to you.”
Across the entire album, Rammstein have delivered. Rammstein is a provocative album that crosses genres and speaks to the maturity of the band and Till as a songwriter. Brimming with bombastic riffs, militaristic drum beats, and epic synths that provide the stage for Till’s booming vocals, Rammstein was produced by Tom Dalgety and Olsen Involtini with the band itself. Rammstein decided to break with tradition and not use long-time producers and mixers of the band, Jacob Hellner and Stefan Glaumann, and the result is a revitalised Rammstein with their familiar sound brought into the 21st century, while still playing homage to their earlier sound and influences. Throughout the eleven tracks there is a cohesion between the songs that may not always have been expressed lyrically, but was certainly there musically. Rammstein represents peak Rammstein, with every track a realisation of twenty-five years of very calculated and hard work transferred into a single album. While many of the nuances of Till’s lyrical prowess may be lost on non-German speakers, the ferocity of the songs and the rich and weighty timbre of his baritone vocals will easily drive home the feeling he is trying to convey through these songs. We may have had to wait for 10 years to get this album, but as they say, “all good things to those who wait.” Fans are going to love Rammstein and I don’t think it is presumptuous to predict that the band will recruit a whole new generation of listeners with this release. It is brash, unrepentant, and heavy, with gritty, sleaze-ridden lyrics and filthy grooves that will draw you in and have you instantly hooked. This is Rammstein at their absolute best.
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Written by: Erik De’Viking
My Global Mind – UK Editor
Erik De’Viking is a London based freelance music journalist. His musical interests include music in all its forms, and he is constantly on the lookout for new bands and genres to discover and later preach about to the masses.