When news broke that Rammstein were set to release a new record in May, it's fair to say the metal world lost its collective shit. Even though it'd been nearly ten years since we'd heard new material from the Deutsche industrial-metal pioneers, fans flocked in their droves to watch the premiere of the band's controversial Holocaust-referencing video for lead single 'Deutschland.' Even when the dust settled and the controversy died down, the hype for Rammstein's heavily anticipated eighth record lingered like a wet cough. With Rammstein out into the world and the band embarking on their biggest arena tour to date, we recruited Cameron Eyre, frontman of Australian cyber-metal outfit SETMEONFIRE, to give us a track-by-track rundown of the band's latest effort. Dive on in!
1. ‘Deutschland (Germany)’
I’ll admit that I was feeling a little uncertain as to what to expect from a new Rammstein album after ten years. Within the opening moments of ‘Deutschland’ I was relieved to hear that not a damn thing has changed. Perhaps I was even a little embarrassed to suspect that this would be anything but the Rammstein we know. Flake’s unmistakable synths followed by bellowing guitars - you can instantly picture this intro being played in arenas, no doubt accompanied by some elaborate pyrotechnics. Till’s signature vocal delivery over a driving drum beat tells of the band’s love/hate relationship with their motherland and its troubled history. It seems apt that the first track of this album sees the band revisiting their heritage, almost in a “this is who we are, for better or worse” fashion. Welcome back.
Right out the gate ‘Radio’ opens with a classic Rammstein riff that could have been lifted directly from their early work (Herzeleid or Sehnsucht). Quirky synth lines and a lively disco beat courtesy of drummer Christoph dance around what may be catchiest chorus on this album. Another thing I was concerned about going into this record was the absence of longtime producer Jacob Hellner who worked with the band on all of their prior releases. Part of Rammstein’s appeal is their immense production, with Hellner capitalising on the band’s simplicity to create gargantuan mixes. However, it seems the mix so far is on par with Rammstein’s back catalogue.
3. ‘Zeig Dich (Show Yourself)’
‘Zeig Dich’ opens with a theatrical choral chants and builds into it's opening riff, delivered with a sense of urgency. This track manages to convey a real feeling of tension as the lyrics appear to take aim at the Church and its transgressions in what is probably the darkest song on this record. This banger will no doubt make it into the live setlist!
4. ‘Ausländer (Foreigner)’
One of the more playful songs on offer, ‘Ausländer’ is a poppy little number - at least as far as Rammstein is concerned. A bouncing rhythm and large synth hooks carry this fun, tongue in cheek track forward as Till tells of his penchant for bedding women as he travels around the world. The chorus features childlike vocals similar to those on ‘Spieluhr’ from the Mutter album.
Another upbeat track, the sassy (and subtly titled) ‘Sex’ opens with an organ-like synth and one of the groovier riffs on the album. However the playful southern rock vibe doesn’t save this track from being one of the weaker offerings on this album.
6. ‘Puppe (Doll)’
With ‘Puppe’ comes the highlight of the album and what I imagine will become a staple of their live set. A lovely clean guitar progression leads this track as it slowly builds to a fantastic vocal passage which sees Till delivering his most endearing and genuine performance thus far. ‘Puppe’ comes just in the nick of time and offers a reprieve from the full throttle nature of the previous tracks. If the literal translation of the lyrics are anything to go by, ‘Puppe’ tells a pretty disturbing tale of child sex trafficking which only serves to make Till’s vocal delivery even more impactful.
7. ‘Was Ich Liebe (What I Love)’
It is standard practice for Rammstein to slow down for the latter portions of their records allowing for some more dynamic material, and this album follows suit. An 80’s sounding drum intro underpins clean guitars and vocals in this laid back number, building to large anthemic chorus. Sadly this track is largely forgettable, especially following on from such a highlight in the form of ‘Puppe.’
8. ‘Diamant (Diamond)’
‘Diamant’ centres around acoustic guitar and vocals and is much akin to previous works such as ‘Roter Sand’ or ‘Ein Lied.’ Till offers an emotive vocal performance backup up by strings and tastefully placed synth work. This subdued piece doesn’t overstay it’s welcome - it is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at two and a half minutes. This serves as a pleasant palate cleanser as the intensity picks up for the remainder of the album.
9. ‘Weit Weg (Far Away)’
A synth hook leads us into ‘Weit Weg,’ a mid-paced track in which Till tells the tale of a peeping tom as he “stands there at the edge of the window with a sun in his hand.” Much like ‘Was Ich Liebe,’ this track is a little underwhelming in it’s delivery.
The early era guitar work returns yet again with ‘Tattoo’ as a classic Rammstein riff kicks things off, while Till is no doubt crouched down somewhere beating his fist on his thigh (if you know, you know). A dynamic and lively vocal performance carries this track forward with a much needed injection of life after what was arguably the weakest moment of the album. This song is as Rammstein as it gets and I’m hoping this one makes it to the live setlist.
11. ‘Hallomann (Announcer)’
Album closer “Hallomann” serves as a moody bookend with some more confronting lyrical content (“Hello little girl, how are you doing? I'm fine, don't talk to me just get in”). Till writes from the perspective of an abductor who preys upon a young girl before eventually drowning her. Beckoning vocals along with some melancholic synth and guitar work carry us the track which reaches it’s climax with an unsettling keyboard solo courtesy of Flake. A fitting way to see this album out.
A fine return to form for the band and a great, consistent record overall. I’m not sure if this will make it to the top of people’s list of favourite Rammstein albums, however it fits in nicely with the discography and provides some more ammo for live shows. I wouldn’t personally use this record to introduce someone to the band, but it will service the existing fan-base perfectly!
Rammstein is available now via Universal Music Australia.