So far The Wildhearts have broken a ten year silence for new material to give us the rather excellent Renaissance Men and still to come The Stray Cats are back to mark their 40th anniversary, now we can add to that list another band breaking a decade long silence, Neue Deutsche Härte pioneers Rammstein.
The album may be apparently untitled but it wastes no time in showing that the band last heard on Liebe ist für alle da are back with a bang as opener Deutschland gives everything you’d want from the German sextet.
It mixes electronic and industrial metal sounds to create something you can dance to while poking the sensibilities as it explores the troubled history of their home country and their relationship with it.
This was only amplified by the video that goes along with it that instantly courted controversy in the way only Rammstein can (though anyone surprised by this really should have done their research, after all the lead track off their last album had a video that could only be shown behind the paywall of a porn site).
From there the album goes on to showcase both the best of what made Rammstein world wide stadium metal titans and a new streak, in fact there’s a feeling a points that they are really harking back to their roots with more of Christian “Flake” Lorenz’s synths and keys getting a showing giving it a feel somewhat like Herzeleid or Sehnsucht as much as their more recent releases.
Along with this they seem to have taken some notes from more modern metal acts with a few moments making me think of Ghost in their mix of theatricality, choral sounds and heavy metal – not to mention the ballet dancing stormtroopers in the video to second ‘single’ Radio.
In fact Radio is another custom built singalong stadium filler again poking into the history of their home nation, and particularly the Cold War era east where several members of the band grew up.
Ausländer provides that potential crossover with non-German speaking audiences with bits of English and French providing more linguistically familiar touchstones (though as a non-German speaker I find the other language a strength for the band and always have) before Sex sounds like classic Marilyn Manson but far more impactful than the ‘God Of Fuck’ has been for the better part of two decades.
As it goes on we get what’s now become a standard slower track which shows a different side of Till Lindemann’s vocal style as he almost croons through Diamant before the stadium filling Weit Weg again brings the classic Rammstein combo of big synths, loud guitars (of Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers) and intense, direct rhythms (of bass player Oliver Riedel and drummer Christoph “Doom” Schneider).
Tattoo then is a straightforward headbanger before Halloman adds a further haunting feel to end things on an enigmatic but satisfying note.
In the middle of all this though is a track that is, in its way, a highlight; the dark heart of the album, Puppe.
Meaning doll in German it follows in the footsteps of Mein Teil and others in taking a very dark subject and translating it into a song but, before I even knew what the song was literally saying, I found it at best unnerving.
As it builds, Lindemann’s vocal develop into the most intense and emotional performance I can recall from him as the usual control breaks into fear and rage creating a piece of music that is genuinely scary, maybe more so that anything else I’ve heard (and is speak as a veteran of everything from classic Black Sabbath to a range of death and black metal).
This makes Puppe the nightmarish centrepiece of an album that sees Rammstein return, certainly not the same band they were a decade ago, but one just as strong, arguably stronger, than ever.
While my one niggle with the record could be that the production has moments that could be ‘thicker’ when it’s cranked up good and loud this seems to be cured and it all grows and settles in even more on repeated listens with a few songs clearly standing out as future live favourites and Radio in particular being a powerful earworm.
This untitled record then may not be Rammstein’s absolute best but it has more than a few hints of brilliance and harks back to their past glories while bringing in enough new elements to a show a band not just resting on their laurels but, much like The Wildhearts, it sounds like Rammstein are back at full strength and I couldn’t be happier about it.