Written by: AP on 15/06/2019 18:31:33

Some bands require no introduction, among them the industrial metal titans Rammstein, whose penchant for shock and awe has gathered an enormous fanbase of rockers, metalheads and even people who tend not to stray too far from the mainstream charts when it comes to their listening habits. A decade has nonetheless passed since the Berlin-based sextet last made a ruckus with their 2009 offering “Liebe ist für alle da”, and while that record did not turn to be the masterpiece many had hoped for, the long wait for this newest album (officially untitled, but widely regarded as self-titled) nonetheless left room for monolithic expectations to be built. Rammstein has never shied away form stoking controversy, and when the first few singles premiered this past Spring together with their big-production video accompaniments, it became obvious that the band was prepared to take it to the next level once again.

The album opens with “Deutschland”, which delves into Germany’s struggle to embrace and take pride in itself as a result of its bloodstained history amidst ominously chiming synths and harshly struck chords. “[Ich] will dich lieben und verdammen”, muses vocalist Till Lindemann in the chorus, in reference to the tug-of-war between patriotism and shame Germans are forced into from birth, which makes the impact of his and his five cohorts’ defiantly reciting the original (and today unsung) opening line to the German national anthem (“Deutschland, Deutschland über allen!”) just before even greater. But it is not the lyricism that has aroused the ire of the easily offended — it is the 10-minute music video, which at one point depicts the band in concentration camp uniforms and culminates in a clip of guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe, dressed as a Nazi, executed by bullet at point blank range. Without the visual accompaniment, it is difficult to understand how “Deutschland” could have caused such a fracas, especially as by Rammstein’s usual standard the track is musically quite inoffensive. What makes it good is precisely the thought-provoking subject matter and the myriad references to some of the group’s most revered classics hidden within the lyrics. If you listen closely, the likes of “Du hast”, “Feuer frei” and “Mein Herz brennt” are all paid tribute to in clever ways, and as such the first impression one gets from the album is that Rammstein might indeed be able to deliver the masterpiece their fans have been anticipating for so many years.

Alas, even though the album does find Rammstein baring their teeth multiple times, in general the rest of the material is unlikely to sit well people who had expected the six-piece to rescind their aspiration to be a mainstream band and return to the sexual, militaristic, and theatrical bombast of their glory days. The second single “Radio” is undeniably infectious, and its chorus — sung by Lindemann in an almost indifferent yet oddly captivating manner — is certain to resonate with live audiences thirsting for a mass singalong. But the song is too safe and its format too predictable to leave a lasting mark on me, and this is a problem which manifests itself again and again over the course of the album in songs like the utterly forgettable ballads “Was ich liebe”, “Weit Weg” and “Hallomann”. Marilyn Manson has proven that a slower and more introspective style also has a role to play in the industrial metal genre, but all three of the aforementioned songs are stunted by flat dynamics and a lack of elegance. They are grouped into the second half of the album which, in my opinion, is entirely skippable — excepting the mechanistic “Tattoo”, which harks back to the hard-hitting style of Rammstein’s lauded 2001 album “Mutter”.

The first half of the album is much more encouraging, however. “Zeig dich” at track three is a real head turner, its striking Gregorian chanting and octave chords by Kruspe delivering on the promise of drama and grandeur one has grown to expect from this band. As Lindemann spews his vitriol at the religious establishment and all its abuses, those gang shouts of “Zeig dich!” (in English: “Show yourself!”) and mocking retorts of “Kein Gott zeigt sich!” (“No God shows himself!”) are sure to get your blood boiling and your fist pumping when this track is aired live, and the headbangers among us are given plenty of opportunities to train our necks as well. On the surface of it, the following “Ausländer” is a more measured affair, leaning heavily on a disco-style beat and a resounding chorus complete with a children’s choir. But if you dive deeper into the lyrics, you will discover an incisive critique of nationalism and anti-foreigner sentiment spliced into what is essentially a Casanova story with sleazy, sexual undertones: “Ciao, ragazza, take a chance on me. Ich bin Ausländer!” Still, while both of these songs are extremely good, it is without a doubt “Puppe” that deserves the highest regard here, its juxtaposition of calm resignation to a life of hard labour and spiralling into madness in the chorus producing one of the most chilling musical moments of the year thus far. Never has Lindemann sounded so utterly deranged as when he drivels “Dann reiß’ ich der Puppe den Kopf ab / Ja, ich beiß’ der Puppe den Hals ab / Es geht mir nicht gut” in the chorus beneath instrumentation by Kruspe, rhythm guitarist Paul Landers, bassist Oliver Riedel, drummer Christoph Schneider & Christian Lorenz that feels like the weight of the world is about to collapse on him. It is a phenomenal piece of music, its message of a puppet used and abused by the growth machine until there is nothing left fitting perfectly the band’s long tradition of socio-political commentary through their music.

So where does all of this leave us? There is no question that this seventh and latest studio album by Rammstein adds a handful of excellent songs to the German band’s legacy, but at the same time, as one is labouring through one anonymous cut after another in the record’s second half, it delivers a knockout blow to one’s initial excitement — one from which the album never really recovers. Perhaps the best way to describe this untitled / self-titled effort then, is to regard it as a mixed, front-loaded experience held afloat by a few standout moments that are however not strong enough on their own to enable the album to properly take off.


Download: Deutschland, Zeig dich, Ausländer, Puppe
For the fans of: Marilyn Manson, Megaherz, Rob Zombie
Listen: Facebook

Release date 17.05.2019

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