I've been a fan of Rammstein ever since I first saw the video for Sonne a couple of decades ago, but I wasn't particularly enthused by their most recent album in 2019. They took a ten year break after its predecessor and it felt like an unsure return to action for me, with songs that tried new things and a surprising structure that left me wondering where they were planning to go in the future. In reality, of course, they went where we all went, which was lockdown during COVID, and that might explain why they've knocked out another one only three years later.
It's a better album to my thinking, on every front. There are still departures from the typical NDH sound but they're both more successful and more appropriate in the order they're presented. It's perhaps notable that they mostly constitute the beginning of the album, with Armee des Tristen a new wave song done NDH and Zeit and Schwarz mirror images of each other. Zeit is subdued, even when the heavy chords show up halfway or when it seriously swells late on, while Schwarz is just as slow but is immediately emphatic and remains so even when it slows down for a softer section.
It's Giftig where we get the Rammstein we know and love most. Nobody does crunch like this band and it's right there on Giftig and OK and onwards. Nobody does the prowl the way they do on Zick Zack either, that's at once ominous and playful. And they do these things almost instinctively, as if it's as natural to them as breathing. Whenever it comes time for them to turn up the power, it's an as one response, as if being this tight doesn't even take any effort. Then again, they still have the same line-up they had when they formed in 1994 and that's a rarity indeed nowadays. They have to know each other backwards.
In fact, the guitars are so effortless that they're almost not worthy of mention. We have to take it for granted that Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers are going to do their thing on guitar seamlessly and the rhythm section of Oliver Riedel and Christoph Schneider, on bass and drums respectively, is right there with them. As usual, we tend to focus on Till Lindemann's ever-confident vocals and a variety of musical decoration from Christian Lorenz. Take Giftig for example. Kruspe may be lead on paper and Landers rhythm, but they're really twin rhythm with Lorenz providing the melodies on his keyboards.
And Lorenz does a lot here. The more often the guitars take a back step, the more he comes to the forefront. He provides the majority of the intros and most of the melodies on top of the ambience that might be needed too. I find this fascinating because Lindemann is the iconic face of the band, especially given their penchant for memorable videos, and the guitar crunch is what springs most speedily to mind when people talk about Rammstein. Yet Lorenz is kept so busy on this album that it's arguably his above everyone else's.
Talking of videos, I've seen a couple of them this time out, for Zick Zack, with its almost fetishistic look at plastic surgery, and Dicke Titten, which isn't entirely as rude as it might seem from its title but only just. Yes, it's about Lindemann wanting women with big breasts, whatever other qualities they may or may not have. Only Rammstein can get away with that nowadays, beyond parodies like Steel Panther, where it's almost compulsory. I'm finding nowadays that the videos distract me too much from the music. I like Zick Zack on this album far more than in the video, for instance, even if it's the same song.
As always, it's the crunchier songs that work best for me here. I do like the title track, surprisingly so given where it goes, but it's Giftig and OK and, to a lesser degree, Angst that I'd call out as the standouts. I'd add Lugen to that, because it's another driving song that nails its groove, but it has a weird descent into the world of autotune during its second half that turns me away. Of the more unusual songs, I'd call out Dicke Titten, with its prominent use of a Bavarian oompah band while it kicks off. With these strong songs and the fact that the lesser material isn't at all filler, I'd have to give this a 7/10. It's far from Rammstein's best but it's a solid step up from its predecessor.
Oh, and the cover photo was taken by Bryan Adams. Yes, that one.