Rammstein - Untitled - (7.5/10)
Published on July 14, 2019
Label:Universal Music Group
Jetzt geht es mir gut, ja!
I confess to being a total fanboy for this band. Rammstein have captivated me for almost as long as I can remember, and I am at the point where I know every word to every song on every album. This only made the ten (!!!) years between albums more torturous. I am of the opinion that the flame-toting sextet have never released a genuinely bad album. Sure, 2005’s Rosenrot was a bit lacklustre, but it still reeked of that inimitable Rammstein quality which cannot be matched or mimicked. After the riff-tastic Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, and a few singles here and there, could the Berliners hope to carry on their pyromaniacal legacy? The controversy sparked by the singles, especially “Deutschland”, seemed to all be pointing in the right direction. There was a vague hint of disappointment (from more than just me), but mainly optimism that the whole LP would bring the goods. I mean, look at that album art. There’s definitely some kind of statement being made.
First impressions of the main single “Deutschland” left me with a suspicion that this may become style over substance. The video was indeed incredible, and it sends out a strong social message, but was the grandiosity of the imagery matched by the Germans’ normally bombastic brand of industrial metal? Frankly, yes. The production quality is massive, the melodies are tense, Till’s commanding baritone is reliably solid (especially for a man in his late fifties), Flake’s keyboards are ever-present and Christoph’s drums hammer with precision. But what of Kruspe and Landers? They are reduced to churning out sustained, first-beat-of-the-bar power chords. Where are the riffs?! Approximately 70% of the reason I love Rammstein is for their massive riffs.
This becomes an overriding issue for me throughout this record. Having a catchy, chug-tastic main riff has been an integral part of Rammstein’s compositional method from the very start. “Du Reicht So Gut?” “Keine Lust?” “Zwitter?” Literally every track on Sehnsucht? All those simplistic, yet effective and pounding, riffs around which entire songs revolved have become the main reason I return to the band’s catalogue again and again. I feel a lack of riffs is what turned people away from Rosenrot, and I worry that this 2019 release may suffer the same fate over time. It is, however, not completely devoid. Thankfully, there’s the sleazy swing of “Sex”, the thuggish “Tattoo”, and the heavily Kraftwerk-inspired “Radio”. Even the chorus of “Zeig Dich” contains a riff that seems to capture that classic Rammstein sound. They’re all more than adequate, but the structure of the songs doesn’t allow them to repeat enough or with enough impact.
However, the lack of riffage allowed me to focus on less specific aspects of the LP. Namely, the atmosphere. Untitled is a far more introspective affair when compared to the brashness of the extrovertial Liebe Ist…, and the latter half of the album makes it very clear. I was initially disappointed with tracks 7, 9 and 11 (“Was Ich Liebe”, “Weit Weg” and “Hallomann”) as they not only drag the tempo, but fail to reach any kind of climax. The Germans have been using “Was Ich Liebe” as an opener on their most recent tour which just baffles me; it’s easily my least favourite song on the record. And “Hallomann” was a bad choice of finale: it teases a menacing riff but never delivers and comes whimpering to a close. Thankfully, after a while these tracks really grew on me – especially “Weit Weg” with its grand chorus and wicked bluesy keyboard riff. These are interspersed with the more energetic “Tattoo” and the truly beautiful “Diamant”. As far as ‘Stein’s ballads go, “Diamant” is one of the absolute best. Sparse, brief but gorgeous.
All of these tracks bring something a little different to the evolution of Rammstein’s sound: “Zeig Dich”, with its latin choir, and “Ausländer” which at times sounds like what would happen if Abba went metal. But nothing perks the eyebrows and turns heads like track 6: “Puppe”. Despite having some of the most disturbing lyrics in the sextet’s catalogue (and that’s some stiff competition!), it reeks of malice and eeriness throughout its hushed verses before unleashing a maniacal dirge in the chorus. Till has literally never sounded so batshit insane. This is easily my favourite track on the album, and I’m glad it was positioned right in the middle – as if to declare it as the centrepiece.
We may never know how long until more new music from the industrial metal legends – or even if there will be any! But at least Untitled is decent enough to keep fans satiated for the forseeable future. It’s definitely a grower, but there are enough moments of intrigue to hook the already-fans. Newcomers to the band might want to start elsewhere, and I myself will look forward to a far more ‘metal’ output in the future.