It’s almost unbelievable to think that ten full years have passed since Rammstein released their last full-length studio album. During that decade, Brexit has divided the UK in a way not seen since the English Civil War, (with Donald Trump doing pretty much the same in the US), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has released no less than TWENTY blockbuster movies, Swedish Satanists Ghost have risen to become one of the biggest hard rock acts in the world, and Liverpool still haven’t won the Premier League.
With so much time having passed, and with the band almost calling it quits with two key members becoming successful artists in their own right, you could be forgiven for asking if Rammstein are even relevant any more. Well, judging by the reactions to the band’s first two singles in eight years, it appears that would be a very silly question indeed. Yes, coming as a surprise to absolutely no-one, the band’s eponymously titled new album, Rammstein (Universal/Spinefarm, Caroline Records) is a colossal fucking juggernaut.
Released alongside a typically controversial video, opening cut and first single ‘Deutschland’ is perfect Rammstein. ’80s synths and an irresistible chorus sit atop understated, downbeat verses, with lyrics which dichotomize – not for the first time – the band’s feelings towards the fatherland.
Recalling the transformative effect of music while living under the Soviet rule in East Germany, the autobiographical ‘Radio’ explains how just a couple of hours a night, secretly listening to the radio became a form of escape. “Meine ohren werden augen” intones frontman Till Lindemann during the chorus, translating roughly to “my ears become eyes”. Accompanied by another typically near the knuckle video, ‘Radio’ hits all the right notes, especially when Christian “Flake” Lorenz takes the keyboard riff to ‘Du Hast’ and twists it into something a little darker.
With lyrics regarding the child abuse scandals prevalent in the Catholic church, the fast and aggressive ‘Zeig Dich’ begins like a scene from The Omen and features a riff which harks back to the band’s Sehnsucht (Motor/Slash) album. ‘Ausländer’ finds Till in a playful mood as the track recaptures the spirit of ‘Moskau’ from 2004’s Reise Reise (Universal). As entirely expected, ‘Sex’ is pure sleaze from its ‘Personal Jesus’ style riff down to its bodily fluid-stained underwear, and if it becomes part of their legendarily incendiary live show, is sure to feature some form of oversized exploding genitalia.
‘Puppe’ starts as a dark, melancholic acoustic number until Till goes off the deep end, barking his lyrics like some sort of mad German version of David Gunn from King 810 as the song unfolds like a twisted psychological thriller. Featuring lyrics such as “I’m not happy when I’m happy”, and “I don’t like it when I like something”, ‘Was Ich Liebe’ is hugely impressive although it does paint a rather unhappy picture of love, death and depression.
Haunting ballad ‘Diamant’ may only be relatively short, but thanks to the use of strings and subtle background noise, will stay with you well after the album has ended. Opening with a prog-rock intro belonging to the 1970s ‘Weit Weg’ is languidly paced and may require a little patience, while ‘Tattoo’ is another classic sounding Rammers track which wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on their debut.
Closing with a song you’ll probably want to avoid mentioning as one of your favourites, ‘Hallomann’ is as uncomfortable as it gets. Beginning with a sinister, pulsing bassline courtesy of Oliver Riedel, the skin-crawling lyrics appear to be about a young girl being kidnapped at the beach by a paedophile. So, typical Rammstein then.
Sumptuously produced and sequenced perfectly, Rammstein offers no huge left turns or unwanted surprises. The pop music sensibilities come a little more to the fore on occasion, but those are tempered by some of the band’s darkest melodies to date. Keyboardist Flake, and guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers get to make some interesting, strange noises, while Till still manages to veer from heartfelt and romantic to sounding like the last person on earth with whom you’d want to be left alone. Sometimes in the space of only a line.
Drummer Christophe Schneider drives the record along relentlessly during the heavier moments, but backs off and lets things breathe during its quieter periods. As usual, every song is sung exclusively in German, although a few English words do manage to escape along the way (as well as French). But not too many, so remember to bookmark Google Translate before you press play.
Another solid gold triumph for the band who simply don’t understand the concept of writing a bad album, Rammstein is sure to become a fan favourite in no time at all. Let’s not leave it ten years until the next one though, eh chaps?
9 / 10