3. Zeig Dich
7. Was Ich Liebe
9. Weit Weg
It’s been a decade since Rammstein last released an album. In that time their popularity has only mushroomed, thanks to their continuing live extravaganzas and the aura of mystery that surrounds them; they rarely give interviews, they don’t have personal social media accounts, and they calculate their every move. Single Deutschland saw them return to music in spectacular fashion, with its controversial and high-concept video that swept through years of German history, including the Nazi regime. It was the band exploring their identity, and if it happened to stir the pot, then so what?
Their seventh, self-titled album carries on in this manner; it is peak, unashamed, undiluted Rammstein, commenting on human nature while pumping out noise that can level stadiums. Despite enlisting longtime collaborator Olsen Involtini instead of usual producer Jacob Hellner, it feels more ‘them’ than ever. Flake’s electronics are turned up, Till Lindemann employs his full range, and their themes run close to the bone. Zeig Dich begins with a Latin choir, hitting a crescendo as punky guitars push through and disquieting electronics quiver underneath, in what appears to be a damning criticism of hypocrisy in the church.
But Rammstein haven’t lost their appreciation for the kitsch. Ausländer (Foreigners) is like a musical counterpart to Pussy: campy Europop that sounds like it would have been played at a foam party in the 90s. The simply titled Sex comes swaggering on like Marilyn Manson’s cover of Personal Jesus – perhaps not surprising considering he was going through his Golden Age Of Grotesque period, inspired by the Weimar Republic. The best/creepiest bit is Till’s evil laugh in the middle. Both are full of glossy bravado, but just as Pussy’s thought to be about sex tourism, there’s surely more at play in the lyrics here.
The quirky sextet have also ramped up their sinister side. On closer Hallomann, Till comes across like a spine-chilling Pied Piper or Slender Man. Following in the footsteps of Wiener Blut is startling centrepiece Puppe (Doll). Till carefully intones his words over gentle keys and picking, before breaking into vocals that are so aggressively desperate, it’s like his stage-painted face is inches from yours, spraying spit on your skin and burning your soul with the whites of his eyes. In that twisted fairytale way they do so well (see: Spieluhr, Sonne), the words speak of biting off a doll’s head. It’s brilliant.
In the slower songs, the lyrics come to the fore. For non-German speakers, the nuance of Till’s poetry is lost, but it’s testament to the band that you can feel the weight of his words. Diamant is all strings, ghostly backing vocals and a vibe like Frühling In Paris, acting as a showcase for the deep timbre of his distinctive voice. Weit Weg has retro electronic meat on its bones, but is similarly measured and grows on you with time.
After 25 years together, Rammstein have established a strong personality that’s pushed to the max on this record, even in their cover image. It not only evokes their notorious pyrotechnical shows, but the disruptive potential of an unlit match. If struck, its flame can create, destroy, or simply cause chaos. There’s no album title printed here, but with such a mischievous and imperious visual metaphor, who needs it? In 2019, Rammstein are operating on another level.