After a decade of touring, teasing, and pyrotechnics, the leaders of the Neue Deutsche Härte ("New German Hardness") movement have returned triumphantly. Between side and solo projects, guest appearances on other musician’s albums (peep my review of Aesthetic Perfection’s latest, which featured guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe on “Gods and Gold”), the ten years since Liebe ist für alle da has been anything but silent. Rammstein’s newest album was already highly anticipated before it was even formally announced, before any music was released from it. Fans of the German six-piece will rejoice at the fact that, even a quarter century into their run, Rammstein still very much have it.
The disc kicks off with a synth riff that loops through the opening song “Deutschland,” a bittersweet love letter to the band’s Heimat (home country). Before any vocals kick in, the intro for the track just sounds epic and grand. It’s the sound of a true hero’s return, a statement of “it’s good to be back.” Lyrically, the overarching theme is that the country of Germany has a complicated history that one could have two minds about. Two lines from the chorus really highlight this point:
German: “Will dich lieben und verdammen…”
English: “Want to love you and want to curse you…”
German: “So jung und doch so alt…”
English: “So young, and yet so old…”
The second track, “Radio,” is a tribute to the power of the airwaves. The dance-y drum beat, the Euro-style synths, and Till Lindemann’s signature baritone voice compliment the driving guitars in the chorus. This is a fun, dance hall sort of track that even non-metalheads could conceivable get into. It’s tame by Rammstein standards, sure, but it’s a fun track either way.
“Zeig Dich” (Show Yourself) has religious themes powered by some great guitar riffing. Not every song has to be guitar-driven in metal, but when Rammstein puts their six strings forward, metal magic is bound to be made. It’s heavy, chuggy, and it’s more indicative of their work in the 2000s, from albums like Reise, Reise and Rosenrot.
“Ausländer” (Foreigner) is for the old-school Rammstein fans, musically speaking. Their last couple of albums have featured lyrics in languages other than German or English, and here we have Russian, French, and Italian used in the chorus. Lyrically, the song is about an out-of-towner who’s not here for a long time, but he’s here for a good time:
German: “Ich bin kein Mann für eine Nacht / Ich bleibe höchstens ein, zwei Stunden”
English: “I’m not a one night kind of guy / I’ll stay for an hour, two at most”
Despite the womanizing tone of the words of “Ausländer”, the sex of the record is simply titled “Sex.” Its four-on-the-floor groove brings the groove to a more standard rock than the Europop flavors of the previous track. The song feels similar to “Pussy” from their last album, although this one is a little classier about its subject matter. I mean, this song likely won’t get banned in their native Germany like “Pussy” did.
“Puppe” (Doll) is easily the most harrowing and terrifying track of the band’s catalogue. The delivery of Till Lindemann’s vocals seals the deal for me, as when the singer hits the line about ripping the doll’s head off, he’s less singing or talking and more bellowing, and it is unnerving, to say the least. All jokes about German sounding like a scary or intimidating language aside (I have a BA in German, I’ve heard a few of them), “Puppe” is a treat to listen to, and a definite “oh really?” response to anyone who thinks, by hearing some of the early tracks from this disc, that Rammstein lost their edge.
“Was Ich Liebe” (What I Love) is an interesting follow-up to “Puppe,” as this song refers to destroying what one loves. It’s a self-deprecating and depressing track, almost a remorseful one, if we operate under the pretense that it’s a follow-up to the previous song.
“Diamant” (Diamond) is an acoustic ballad, and that’s a phrase I didn’t expect to write for a Rammstein record. At just over two and a half minutes, it clocks in as the shortest track on the album, and it’s bound to be a divisive one among the fanbase. My verdict? It’s a good comedown from the tension created by the last two tracks. It’s out of left field when you take it against much of Rammstein’s past work, but this shows that it’s never too late to be doing new things.
“Weit Weg” (Far Away) has a sort of unrequited love reading to the lyrics, in which the persona seems to be admiring from afar. Some fans have suggested that the persona is a stalker rather than an honest admirer, and I couldn’t put that past the band, especially with this line from the first verse:
German: “Niemand kann das Bild beschreiben Gegen seine Fensterscheibe Hat er das Gesicht gepresst Und hofft, dass sie das Licht anlässt”
English: No one can describe the picture Against his windowpane He pressed his face against it And hoped that she would leave the light on"
“Tattoo” is another one that sounds like classic Rammstein, a la “Asche zu Asche.” It’s a salute to body art everywhere, with a light sprinkling of sadomasochism thrown in, because have you forgotten who we’re dealing with here?
German: “Wenn das Schmerz das Fleisch umarmt…”
English: “When the pain embraces the flesh…”
“Hallomann” (Announcer) is another creepy track, because why not send the fans home with the heebie-jeebies, right, Till? Turns out, this is a reworked version of a poem from the singer, entitled “Sing für mich” (Sing for Me). The bass dances along with an ominous piano riff, as a story about an apparent kidnapping plays out with Till’s sinister talk-singing. This song rivals “Puppe” for the weirdest, most WTF-inducing track on this disc, but it can’t be denied that this is a great closer for the disc, wrapping up a 46 minute return for the German metal gods.
While a couple of risks are taken, Rammstein stays true to their musical formula for the most part. This allows new fans to get in on the ground floor with this record, before potentially exploring the band’s previous work. Old fans will be pleased by this new offering, and will surely be aching to hear more from the sextet. If this isn’t the last round, as was alluded to in the build-up to this album, hopefully it won’t be another ten years between records this time. Although… the term German Chinese Democracy is a funny one, when you think about it.