Rammstein - Rammstein

Rammstein cover
Hmm… am I qualified to even do this, I wonder…?! I guess Rammstein is a world known and renowned band, one of the pioneering bands of the Neue Deutsche Härte subgenre of rock. Their industrial militant style might owe a great deal to forerunners of the style like Laibach and especially Oomph!, but whereas Laibach is a band that has a more selective appeal (to quote Spinal Tap) after being embraced by a famous Hollywood director, the Germans just exploded. Even their relatively lazy release schedule with only 7 albums in 25 years hasn’t stopped them from claiming worldwide dominion as their massive and impressive (truly explosive) shows and their various controversies seem to keep em in the public’s eye and collective conscience.
The band delivers an eponymous album, a quarter of a century in their career. This is usually the sign of a band either considering it to be the epitome of their sound or magnum opus, or a desperate act to try and get its fans back to the fold, when things are going less than ideal. It’s unlikely to be the latter in these guys case… so is this the “definite” Ramm, album? Let us find out.
Somewhat controversial, somewhat political and critical the opening song “Deutchland” (Germany) does not only reference the band’s biggest hit in it’s very first line, but also seems to dwell on the band’s nationality for some bizarre reason. The fact that it doesn’t exactly praise the current state of affairs is hard to read, as a nationalist could easily see it’s as patriotic song that doesn’t feel afraid to accept that no one is infallible, while someone who’d seek a more radical reading, could also use some of the lines to that effect. It’s funky keyboard riff is fairly nice, but this is probably as by the numbers as the band has ever sounded. It does work as a lead of single rather well, but I do find it a little underwhelming, as it doesn’t break new ground and it relies too heavily in repetition and using all the bands trademark “sounds” and tricks.
“Radio” is the other single from the album and there’s surely some Rob Zombie sampled in there, as well as something else that I’m sure I’ve heard before… an electronic melody used as a hook. It’s basically a tale of how “radio” acted like a bit of a link to the world “outside”, during the era before the fall of the “Wall” and the unification of the East and West of Germany. It’s ironic how the tables have turned and how that social divide, now seems to have been turned around. The internet these days being the tool that seems to be difficult if not impossible to gag, not for lack of trying (ie abolition of net neutrality, spying on citizens etc.)…
“Zeig Dich” (Show Yourself?) is critical of religion and is probably one of the better non “hit” songs of the album. It’s gothic, heavy tone and clean guitar riff, as well as the more varied / sung parts make it stand out in a good way.
“Ausländer” (Foreigner) tries to establish the fact that with a world that seems to be increasingly interrelated, nationality is secondary as one should feel at ease with all else… the codemixing of a variety of languages into a somewhat consistent chorus is for lack of a better word, interesting and the one saving grace of the song from being boring.
However things are not all fun and games. “Sex” (do you really need an explanation?) is nowhere near as fun as it should be and sounds too uniform and uneventful, despite all the shouting and electronics the band throws in towards the end.
“Puppe” (Puppet) is a bizarre, foreboding and sad number based on a poem the singer wrote some time ago about a person who’s sister works as a prostitute, The young individual appears to suffer psychological consequences, tearing the head off a doll that has been given to (him/her) as a means to pass time. It’s a pretty demented tune, with a disturbing performance especially during the chorus.
“Was Ich Liebe” (What I Love) is a melodic and rather reserved, but heavy-hearted number, about all nice things in life being followed by decline and being susceptible to failure. Like another Jonah the hero laments how everything in his life goes to shit, even if for a time it seems to flourish. Pretty pessimistic tune, but easy on the ears, I guess.
“Diamant” (Diamond) is a really weird thing, the closest thing one could consider to Rammstein doing a ballad (well song without distortion is a more apt description). It’s a song about unrequited love, but we’re not being told the reason, why it doesn’t come to be, just left with the very feeling to love/lust turned on its head and changing into hate.
“Weit Weg” (Far Away)… is another melodic song, about a peeping tom? That wants to feel the thrill, but is unable to feel “close” (well my German sucks – so deal with it!)…
“Tattoo” (what it says) is a song glorifying the practice and trying to give it a deeper meaning than the superficial artwork it is. Well for some, it wasn’t even a choice… being one of the more melodic songs, it’s the other song along with “Zeig Dich” that I found appealing.
“Hallomann” (???) is another disturbing song, which feels rather creepy. Almost predator-like.
Some theories have surfaced on the interwebs that there might be a common thread from the third song onwards that deals with “abuse” and how that might be turned around or twisted into something far more sinister… it might or might not be so…
Basically, it’s the most mature Rammstein has sounded in years, with the closest thing I can think of being “Rosenrot”. It doesn’t take chances, so a couple of songs are what you’d expect from the band, but then it allows the band to experiment within the microcosm the inhibit and the constraints of their “simple” style, which they use that frugality, most effectively should come as no surprise, but then again, there’s little that could surprise you with Rammstein. They’re not entirely cookie cutter, but they are mechanized and limited in their articulation, due to their own choices. I suppose better the Rammstein you know, than what you don’t know, as it sure can hurt you.