Ignition - A review of Rammstein's Rammstein
Nine and a half years after previous studio record Liebe ist fur alle da, German industrial metal sextet Rammstein is back with an untitled new record that surprises with a very simplistic cover artwork that shows that the song material is more important than fancy aesthetics and that the band is ready to ignite a firework of creativity, energy and melody. The record had been introduced long before its release with first single and opener ''Deutschland'' dealing with the complicated love and hate relationship most Germans have towards their own country which came along with a epic nine-minute long music video portraying pivotal moments in the country's history. That song was followed by another single called ''Radio'' dealing with censorship in the former German Democratic Republic that was promoted with an experimental black-and-white music video. When the entire record saw the light of day about a week ago, it sold an incredible two hundred sixty thousand copies in Germany alone, making it the best-performing album in the first week from a band in the twenty-first century. Needless to say that the album topped the German album charts and all eleven tracks entered the top fifty of the singles charts as well. A third official single with another ambitious music video for ''Auslander'' is going to be released today. According to lead guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe, at least two more music videos for two more tracks have already been shot.
What ultimately matters though is the question whether this record was worth waiting for and if it can be seen as the band's career highlight to date. I would answer the first part very positively but the second part negatively. This new record offers everything fans have been craving for and a few new experiments but it doesn't include as many hits as industrial metal milestone Mutter, the diversified Reise, Reise and the at times quite provocative immediate predecessor Liebe ist fur alle da.
Let's discuss the overall sound first. The production is crisp and energetic. The keyboards are more domineering than ever before which makes this record the band's most melodic one to date. Several tracks in the second half of the album are unusually quiet and smooth. The band however also includes some stomping industrial metal tunes with mechanic drums, tight riffs and expressive lead vocals that are still filled with pitch black sarcasm and theatrical exaggeration.
The record's first half might actually be the strongest of any Rammstein album. The opening ''Deutschland'' is atmospheric, catchy, cinematic, danceable, epic, haunting, melodic, profound, sinister and thunderous all at once and brings the essence of the unique band sound to the point. Needless to say that the thought-provoking lyrics are among the best the band has ever written. If I had to choose one single song to introduce someone to the band, this would definitely be my first choice.
Things continue on a stunning high note with ''Radio'' that has a larger-than-life chorus you won't ever get out of your mind once you have heard it for the very first time. The simplistically reduced but highly efficient electronic elements remind of pioneer bands like Kraftwerk while the heavy guitar riffs honour veterans like Ministry. The balance between melodic elements and heavy soundscapes has never sounded so perfectly balanced. This is a track for gentlemen to bang their heads to and for their ladies to dance to.
The dramatic ''Zeig dich'' surprises with sacral choirs, gloomy keyboard sounds and energetic vocals. Even though the band has already written a song dealing with the dark sides of the Catholic Church in form of the overlooked ''Hallelujah'', this track here is much more atmospheric, epic and intense and among my favourite tunes on the new album.
''Auslander'' has some lyrical similarities to ''Pussy'' but while the latter portrays a dumb German sex tourist who can't get laid in his home country, this track portrays a more cultivated traveler who collects sexual encounters with female foreigners like trophies. The track has an upbeat and danceable electronic vibe but the vivid chorus is heavy enough to convince and entertaining enough when Till Lindemann flirts in Spanish, Russian, Italian, French and English.
The record's most experimental tune comes in form of ''Puppe'' that tells the sad tale of a child who watches its older sister who works as a prostitute getting murdered. The track lures you in with soft melodies and appropriate childish lyrics until the track explodes with frantic anger in form of hysterical vocals, brutal riffs and thunderous rhythm section. This outburst is so hauntingly efficient because the track's overture is so innocent. Rammstein turns a fake beautiful world into a shocking nightmare by leaving a lasting impression and offering some food for thought.
Despite an incredible start, Rammstein loses steam throughout its second half. The first real disappointment comes around with the stereotypical ''Sex'' that offers exchangeable musicianship and superficial lyrics. ''Diamant'' is a sleep-inducing ballad that is best described as a filler. Instrumentally unspectacular album closer ''Hallomann'' feels unfinished as it tells the story of a man who convinces a young girl to go to the beach with him but never reveals what happens to the antagonist and protagonist.
The record's second half isn't utterly bad as it features a few solid tunes with the emotional power ballad ''Was ich liebe'' and the longing ''Weit weg'' with its extraordinary otherworldly keyboard sounds but it just can't compete with the flawless first four tunes and the strong sixth track. What starts as Rammstein's strongest record ever ends with one of the band's most uninspired finishes.
In the end, the quality of the outstanding songs is so remarkably excellent that any fan should still purchase this overall very good comeback album. Rammstein should have released this album earlier without a doubt but it's great to have Germany's most important band of the past two and a half decades back. The new live shows look promising and focus heavily on the new material which means that you should try to attend a concert if you can. Let's hope the band sticks around and that the next album won't take another nine and a half years. There are rumours that the band recorded more than eleven songs and one might get some new material sooner than anticipated like it was half a decade ago when the dynamic Reise, Reise was quickly followed by the more introspective Rosenrot. As for now, give this album a few spins and let the creative twists on the band's unique trademark sounds grow upon you.
Final rating: 85%« Bringing eternal sleep to plagued souls - A review of Ewigheim's IrrlichterAccuracy meets grit and collides with playfulness - A review of Cloven Hoof's Who Mourns for the Morning Star? »