ALBUM REVIEW: Untitled (RAMMSTEIN)
ALBUM: -untitled- // ARTIST: Rammstein
The year was 2009; Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States, Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift onstage and German rockers Rammstein released their critically acclaimed (and temporarily censored) sixth studio album 'Liebe ist für alle da'. Fast-forward ten years and a hell of a lot has changed in the world of presidents and popstars, but for close to a decade we have been deprived of any new Rammstein material - a fact about to be rectified by the impending untitled seventh album due out this Friday from the German lords of industrial dance metal.
For a band who sparked the coining of an entirely new genre (Neue Deutsche Härte, a tasty little brew of industrial, electronic and metal), Rammstein have decidedly courted creativity and controversy since their inception in the mid 1990s. But amid the contentious live antics and the moral outrage that has followed their career, Rammstein has remained a stalwart entity, garnering largely positive critical acclaim, selling more than 20 million records, and maintaining their unchanged six-man lineup since day one.
It goes without saying that fans worldwide have watched and waited with bated breath for their beloved German rogues to unveil new material, and 2019 delivered in spades, with the conceptually ambivalent anthem 'Deutschland' and total unce-fest 'Radio' leaping out earlier in the year. But can a band so dominantly linked to such niche and specific genres and eras still maintain their impact and relevancy in the current landscape of political correctness and cultural apathy? If the impending untitled seventh full-length out this Friday is anything to go by, the answer is a dark and complex affirmative as the Rammstein gents find their most sincere and stoic selves yet across the space of 11 tracks.
The album fittingly opens with lead single 'Deutschland', a hulking beast adorned with the typical Rammstein trademarks - towering industrial synths, grinding riffs and frontman Till Lindemann's commanding, gravelled vocals bringing the expected sonic elements to the table. But beneath the marched beats and churning electronics lurks an unexpected aspect to the Rammstein proceedings: a piercing candour that firmly binds the remaining album together.
'Radio' follows with yet another revisit into the archetypal Rammsten tendencies, pumping up the dance-tastic beats, bubbling basslines and Lindemann's emphatic vocals, while detailing some stark content matter circling around the dark realities of East Germany post-World War II. 'Zeig Dich' unfurls next with ethereal choral refrains and emphatic rhythmics, before the industrial dance party kicks up to 11 with 'Ausländer'; a colossal groove-fest that balances some toe-tapping and hand clapping with melancholic tones and sprightly vocals.
Nearing the mid-point of the album, Rammstein bolsters up crunching riffs and strutting swings with 'Sex' which, at times, almost masquerades as Muse's 'Psycho' with its razored, sleazy riffs. The following track 'Puppe' offers a stark contrast to prior proceedings, with simplified instrumentals and a dominant focus on Lindemann as he engulfs the universe with hoarse and heaving vocals, crawling through your speakers, wrapping around your brain and outpouring so much emotion that it threatens to swallow you whole.
Out of the emotional wreckage gone by comes 'Was Ich Liebe', an ambling, gloomy anthem that softly evolves into the simplistically sublime 'Diamant'. It's ultimately here that we see beyond the Rammstein veil - no theatrics, no fury and not even a snare drum in sight. 'Diamant' may mark a divergence for the diehard 'Stein fans, but there's a haunting beauty to the mellowed acoustics that proves there's more to this sextet than excess and exhibitionism, while showcasing the power of restraint when placed in the right hands.
'Weit Weg' bolts back with blazing synths and thundering beats before penultimate track 'Tattoo' pumps up the hard rock proceedings with chomping guitars and a return to Lindemann's menacing tendencies as he growls around trilling consonants and really flexes his dramatic baritone. Signalling a temporarily more upbeat outing, 'Tattoo' inevitably gives way to the album's final track 'Hallomann' that avoids any typical Rammstein cliches, and ends on an unexpectedly low-key and haunting, dissonant note.
The questions of many leading up to the release of Rammstein's seventh album were frequently whether a decade of expectation would cloud the ultimate impact, both from positive and negative perspectives - would fans love it no matter what? Would ten years lessen the growth wielded in the final product? But regardless of your personal affiliation to Rammstein as a nostalgic mainstay or new-found novelty, the undeniable truth about their upcoming release is that this is a band truly unafraid in every sense of the word - a band who have mastered deceptive simplicity coupled with masterful sonic enchantment that dazzles you with its shiny exterior, and challenges with its dark and vulnerable underbelly. Overall, this untitled release is one that grows on you with each listen and will certainly exceed expectations if you come bearing an open mind.
RAMMSTEIN'S SEVENTH ALBUM OFFICIALLY RELEASES THIS FRIDAY 17TH MAY, AND WILL BE FOLLOWED BY A NEARLY SOLD OUT EUROPEAN STADIUM TOUR KICKING OFF IN MAY. FOR ALBUM PRE-ORDERS, HEAD HERE. AND FOR ALL OTHER RAMMSTEIN INFO, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER