Something isn’t quite right here.
A Rammstein record a mere three years after the last one and preceded by no rumbling stories of friction between bandmates or nebulous warnings of permanent disbandment? The last time the Neue Deutsche Härte/industrial act had such a swift turnaround was when Reise Reise was followed by fun leftovers album Rosenrot a year later, so could this quick release (by their standards anyway) mean Rammstein are actually happy or could it be hinting at something more ominous?
With frontman Till Lindemann and guitarist Richard Kruspe keeping their own creative juices flowing with external musical interests, the Rammstein ship certainly appears a much steadier place these days but you do have to wonder if the future has been weighing on their minds of late. Especially as the title of latest album Zeit (Universal Music Group) translates to “Time” and the title track, a brilliantly downbeat rumination on life and death, contains lines such as: “After us, there will be before” and “when our time has come, then it’s time to go”. Is this is the end of the line for the Rammers? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell. But for now just sit back, open Google Translate and sing along with heroically misplaced confidence.
Lifting off with eighties-style synths backed by a simple but forceful riff, opener ‘Armee Der Tristen’ features a suitably melancholic chorus (the title translates to “Army of the Dreary”), Till speaking each verse with reliably heavyweight authority. ‘Schwarz’ is slow and measured with ethereal vocals, orchestral backing and lugubrious piano keys all building towards a dramatic climax. ‘Giftig’ (poisonous) is a more dynamic affair, brighter and more uptempo but no less commanding, Till producing another memorable performance while Christian “Flake” Lorenz steals the show with another classy keyboard hook and briefly leaning into The Prodigy territory.
The theme of time returns on playful second single ‘Zick Zack’, the accompanying video showing a badly ageing rock band turning to prosthetics and obscene levels of make-up and plastic surgery in order to stay relevant to their equally elderly audience, the song containing the wonderful lyric, “Belly fat into the organic waste bin/Now the penis sees the sun again”. Yeah, that’s Rammstein.
One of the record’s undisputed highlights, ‘OK’ keeps the momentum going, a fast paced cut which opens with a choir of nuns, continues with another ridiculously catchy keyboard hook and ends with a grinding riff reminiscent of Black Sabbath‘s ‘Children of the Grave’. Translated to “my tears”, ‘Meine Tränen’ is a slow and measured cut which briefly halts the record’s forward thrust, something which ‘Angst’ immediately rectifies, a fiercely robust foot-stomper with echoes of ‘Keine Lust’.
No Rammstein album would be complete without at least one song about sex rearing its big purple head and this time the job falls to ‘Dicke Titten’ (Big Boobs) which bizarrely combines traditional German oompah with a surly, thuggish riff yet somehow manages to sound like the most natural thing the world. Another song of stark contrasts, ‘Lügen’ veers between delicate understatement and crunching rhythms, Lindemann heavily autotuned here but making a valid and expressive use of the much frowned-upon studio tool. Compelling closer ‘Adieu’ once again reinforces the seemingly omnipresent theme of looming closure, the record ending as Till sings, “Adieu, goodbye, auf Wiedersehen” with disquieting finality.
Although carrying quite a serious tone for much of its running time, there’s still plenty of room for fist-pumping bursts of adrenaline and Till’s wickedly flirtatious vocal delivery. Emboldened as ever by the powerhouse rhythm section of bassist Oliver Riedel and drummer Christoph Schneider, the guitar duo of Kruspe and Paul Landers keep things familiarly minimalist although a welcome looseness can be noticeable in their playing.
From more serious and introspective themes, to songs about plastic surgery and boobs, Rammstein’s eighth studio album never strays too far from their tried and tested formula but is still more than capable of throwing the occasional curve ball. Cohesive, memorable and impressively consistent, Zeit‘s highest points don’t quite reach the almost completely unattainable snowy peaks of Herzeleid, Mutter or Reise Reise, but the quality is constant throughout and this is a mountain of such formidable calibre that many others never even make it to base camp.
Launch the fireworks, prepare the flamethrowers and load the giant penis cannons. Rammstein are back.
9 / 10
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