Rammstein: The right album at the right time – review

After almost three years, Rammstein are back with the album “Zeit”. Without much fanfare in advance. The album eschews provocations and is much more rested than its predecessors – and that’s what makes it so great.

After three years, Rammstein release a new album. And it almost missed you. No big fuss in advance, no scandal. Before the last album, the band had the nooses put around their necks in the video for the single “Deutschland” as suspected concentration camp prisoners, and the German media in particular then preferred the Duden entry for the word “Eklat” with a Rammstein logo wanted to provide, this time it was surprisingly quiet in advance.

Even the first single, “Zeit”, of the same name as the album, was irritating. A ballad that took up the theme of transience – if it weren’t for Rammstein, it would be an indication that the album was a flop. It is the song that optimally sums up the record in all its heaviness. It’s a quiet, loud album with one word above everything else: loneliness.

The corona pandemic, contact restrictions, two years of standstill – none of this seems to have left the band untouched. And so it has become exactly the right album at the right “time”. Because in addition to the melancholy dripping from every pore, it sounds like departure, like a new beginning in the end.

Rammstein album “Zeit”: gloomy, lonely, melancholic

Already in the opening lines of the first song “Armee der Tristen” it becomes clear where the album is going:

“Are you sad like me? / Tears are running down your face / Come and join us / Let’s be sad together.

Rammstein have always been known for melancholic lyrics, but it’s also unusual for the heavy metal band from Berlin to be so obvious right at the beginning of an album. The text is read by Till Lindemann as we know it: deep, martial, the R rolls like an assault rifle. The musical accompaniment to Lindemann’s lyrics is and remains typical of Rammstein: drummer Christoph Schneider drives the band along with straightforward beats, and the word “guitar wall” was probably invented for the riffs.

No provocation – just reality

It is striking that the band dedicates itself to particularly complicated topics on the album, but largely manages without provocation. “Toxic” can be understood as a metaphorical cry for help in a toxic relationship, describing the partner as a poisonous animal:

“I have to fear every night / nothing holds me captive like you / the danger is within reach, beautiful but unpredictable / you will put your arms around me / everything stiff, I cannot move / you are poisonous!”

The song “My Tears” even goes one step further. It describes the relationship between a grown child and its abusive mother. The text combines the thematic complexes of a toxic relationship of dependency between mother and son with that of an outdated concept of masculinity:

“I still live with Mama / and will probably stay there forever /
The house has been missing a man for a long time / I’ll help out as best I can /
Mother doesn’t give me much love / But she still hits my face /
And from time to time I cried / she just smiled and said: A man only cries when his mother dies.”

You’ll look in vain for songs that make the gazettes overflow with indignation on this album. And they aren’t necessary either. While the 2009 album “Liebe ist für alle da” (Love is for everyone) sang almost enthusiastically about the atrocities of the kidnapper and rapist Josef Fritzl, it is enough to set up a mirror on “Zeit”. A caricature to make social grievances understandable is not necessary.

So Rammstein also dares to tread the thin ice of radicalization. The song “Angst” is a screaming warning against racism and fascism, which arise from diffuse fears. The band plays with the resentments of right-wingers and their prejudices against immigrants:

“He creeps up in the dark / If you’re not good, he’ll grab you /
Trust no stranger then / So much nightmare! So much madness! /
And so we believe to this day / the pack is heavily armed /
The back is wet, the hands are clammy / Everyone is afraid of the black man /

For a long time it was puzzled where the band should be located politically. With the song “Deutschland”, which sets a clear edge against exaggerated national pride and the live shows in which Rammstein stages the crossing of a rubber dinghy across the Mediterranean to greet it with “Welcome” signs, it should have become clear to the last where the Berliners stand. “Fear” is another clear statement in this regard.

It doesn’t work without humor

Even if the album as a whole is very dark and melancholic, it can’t do without the Rammstein humor. This could already be felt with the previously released single “Zick Zack”, in which society’s obsession with beauty and the slander of old age are satirized. In the video, the band members disguised themselves as old men with Botox hair, who looked very similar to fashion designer Harald Glööckler, among others.

Rammstein has been known for such mockery for years. The trash songs “Big Tits” and “OK”, which in this case stands for “Without a Condom”, also clearly mock the patriarchal and sexist ways of thinking of men who claim to be able to claim ownership of a woman. The fact that the first song comes across as a folk music slap on the thigh can probably be understood as a greeting to the south: two canceled Oktoberfests probably had one or the other advantage – at least for the female sex.

The farewell thing

As much as the fans will be happy about the new album, the thought that “Zeit” could be the last Rammstein album quickly comes up. After all, the band has been touring the country for almost 28 years and their age hasn’t passed them by either.

In addition, the last song on the album, “Adieu”, leaves room for interpretation. Here, too, the band once again sings about transience – including their own:

“Don’t worry, we are with you / One last time, so we sing: /
Adieu, Good Bye, Goodbye / You have to go the last way alone. /
One last song, one last kiss / No miracle will happen /
Adieu, Good Bye, Goodbye / The time with you was nice. /

It remains to be seen whether this was actually Rammstein’s final chord. First of all, the band has an extended stadium tour coming up next summer. “Time” will tell how things will go from there.

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