Larry breaks down each album by the German industrial goliaths to decide which one sits on top.
Lying in popularity somewhere beneath the top layer of metal bands (Priest, Maiden, Metallica etc.) yet still being almost a household name for the majority of alternative music lovers, Rammstein go about their duties calmly and with businessman-like control, scarcely giving much information for the media to latch onto. Despite obtaining a shit ton of awards and achieving critical global acclaim, headlining festivals worldwide, the line up has remained unchanged since their formation which must be some sort of record among the metal genre. Sure, the Teutonic sextet have done some unforgettable shows in recent years and released DVDs, compilations and box sets, but it’s quite eye-opening to think that their last true full-length studio album, Liebe Ist Für Alle Da, was released a whopping nine years ago! So, with TMO as my soapbox, consider this my method of slapping Till and co. in the face until they wake up and give us fans what we want! Although, I confess I find their strong, silent nature a little intimidating so this is more of a gentle nudge. It’s time to shred the discography of these industrial German giants and find out which album comes out on top.
#6: Rosenrot (2005)
The bleak beauty of the artwork is the first indication that this album represents a big dip in energy for Rammstein. Production is huge, artwork is gorgeous, riffs are heavy (BOY are they heavy!), and even their trademark dark humour is present on the wacky “Te Quiero Puta!” (the band’s only Spanish number). However, 2005’s Rosenrot perhaps came too hot on the heels of the bombastic Reise Reise and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out many of these tracks were afterthoughts from that very release. Rammstein are masters at slow, brooding and sublime ballads, but between “Wo Bist Du”, “Stirb Nicht Vor Mir”, “Feuer Und Wasser” and the unbearably sparse “Ein Lied”, there’s just not enough punch on offer here. Even some of the better tracks come across as sluggish and melancholy, such as the title-track and “Hilf Mir”. To stop it being a total trainwreck, we have the driving madness of hit single “Benzin”, the menacing “Zerstören”, and the dramatically controversial “Mann Gegen Mann”. Rammstein’s worst is still not half bad.
Best track: “Spring”. A breathtaking outpour of tragic emotion and a riff so heavy it could melt a rhino.
#5: Reise Reise (2004)
After Rosenrot, the rankings here all get very close indeed. It was a difficult choice to put Reise Reise so low down, but after the global phenomenon that was Mutter, the teutonic titans’ 2004 exploit was a definite step down. This is mainly in terms of consistency, as RR displays a few dips in vibrancy rather than the hit-after-hit approach. That being said, the orange record includes some live staples and furthers the band’s deviation away from pure industrial metal by enhancing the symphonics introduced on Mutter. The opening title-track boasts a colossal sound drenched in oceanic reverb and is lavished with swathes of strings which are almost tear-jerkingly beautiful at 2:57 (you’re welcome). This exercise in orchestral enormity can be felt through the choirs on the chug-tastic “Morgenstern”. Speaking of tear-jerking, the combination of “Ohne Dich” and “Amour” as an ending is very moving indeed; the former boasting the band’s best music video, the latter being surprisingly heavy for a love song. Add to this the brutal breakdown to the anthemic pisstake “Amerika” and the disgusting riff-fest of “Mein Teil”, and the number 5 spot isn’t feeling too low anymore…
Best track: “Keine Lust” – Earth-shattering riffs and amazing keyboard sounds to pierce them.
#4: Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (2009)
Four years after the slightly disappointing Rosenrot, the sextet pulled off what could be considered a ‘return to form’ in the shape of 2009’s Liebe Ist Für Alle Da. More heavy-hitting industrial anthems, more riffs, more energy, more humour and more quirk. Not to mention, that pseudo-orchestral sound from Flake’s keyboard had returned. The heralding intro of “Rammlied” was the perfect announcement of a triumphant return – creating a thick atmosphere and subsequently pummelling us with a mighty riff. The riff count, in general, is both plentiful and satisfying on this record; “Waidmanns Heil”, “Mehr”, “Ich Tu Dir Weh”, “B********” and the title-track all containing memorable chugging riffs that will absolutely force you to headbang. But then there are the highlights which transcend having simply a ‘good riff’; the creepy lyrics and menacing viciousness of “Wiener Blut”, the all-out hilarity and pop sensibilities of “Pussy” (the music video of which is a must-see), and the beautifully serene “Frühling In Paris” are all well-written numbers which flow and earn repeated listens. Not a perfect album, but L.I.F.A.D was an indication of the awesome potential Rammstein had to shoot with. Unfortunately….this was to be the last studio album we’d hear from them.
Best track: “Waidmanns Heil” – A battering riff that drives the whole number. Such momentum, such energy. Awesome brass sounds too!
#3: Herzeleid (1995)
Rammstein’s debut was probably quite a shock to the system at the time. Sure, industrial metal had already been well established, but none with such gravitas or quirkiness. Once again, an abundance of hooky, powerful riffs make up this record. Kicking off with the three-note wonder that is “Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flamen Sehen”, the mechanical hammering simply doesn’t let up, even through the slower numbers like the groove-laden “Das Alte Leid” and the band’s sludgy title song. The only moment of respite is the gorgeously bleak “Seemann”, which is still a live favourite to this day. Herzeleid showcased a group of young men (a group of young, shirtless men apparently!) hungry to take on the world, but with a surprising musical maturity. Both “Du Riecht So Gut” and “Asche Zu Asche” have become concert staples due to their electronic bounciness, but the more obscure tracks such as the rapid “Der Meister” and the absolute banger “Laichzeit” are where the gems of this album lie. Addictive, vibrant and chunky – Herzeleid is about as good a debut as a band could ask for.
Best track: “Wollt Ihr Das Bett In Flamen Sehen”. What. A. Fucking. Riff. Around which the whole track is based. The “SEX” section is also an absolute hammer.
#2: Sehnsucht (1997)
Far from being simply ‘that one with “Du Hast” on it’, 1997’s Sehnsucht – the German’s sophomore effort – is an absolute cracker. Sure, it’s laden with more industrial clangs and electronic backbeats, but the riff count is higher and more creative, and Till’s voice reaches lows that would make Tinkerbell grow testicles. That haunting ethnic sample that kicks off proceedings is surely buried in any Rammstein fan’s brain, as is the awesomely frantic riff that follows it. The groove switch has been cranked up to 11 on this record, which such stomping tunes like “Engel” (which has made a comeback in the live setlist with a phenomenal stage prop), “Tier” (one of the greatest ‘Stein riffs in my opinion), and “Kuss Mich” (with it’s ultra-weird sound effect!). Flake makes amazing use of eclectic keyboard samples which give the album its identity and a characteristic shimmer. Buried within are underrated hard-hitters which deserve far more air time, such as the brutal “Eifersucht”, the groovy “Alter Mann” and the stomping “Bestrafe Mich” which includes Flake’s greatest keyboard moment ever (2:03!). Surely only one Rammstein album can outreach this near-flawless industrial metal disc…
Best track: “Spiel Mit Mir” – Super creepy, infectious crawler of a song with a distinct flavour.
#1: Mutter (2001)
Forgive my potential ignorance, but I cannot think of another album in the metal genre which has birthed so many hits. The first six tracks of Rammstein’s third album all have official music videos! Considering the sextet’s penchant for theatrics, all of them are naturally brilliant – and the music is even moreso. Mutter possesses an enormous production quality resulting in a colossal sound; enhanced by Flake’s decision to use a more orchestral timbre on the keys. Opening cut “Mein Herz Brennt” showcases the album’s grandiose nature right from the off. The dramatic swell up to the explosive riff with its addictive string melody displays the majesty this record is capable of perfectly. Rammstein already have a penchant for ballads, but both the tragic title-track and serenely melancholy “Nebel” are among the band’s best. On the other end of the spectrum, this LP contains some of the most poundingly heavy riffage industrial metal has to offer. “Rein Raus”? “Feuer Frei!”?…Fucking “Sonne?” The riff so big it actually has physical mass? Yeah, you know it. As always, the jewels in the crown are those which don’t get as much notoriety as they deserve. “Spieluhr” has a gorgeous celestial melody that contrasts with its stomping main riff; “Adios” contains one of Kruspe’s coolest guitar moments ever (2:08 – you’re welcome!); and “Zwitter” is an unstoppable monster of a tune. Unrivalled to this day, Mutter is the reason the Teutonic titans are so massive and globally renowned.
Best track: “Zwitter” – As if the main riff isn’t metal enough, they repeat it at the end, half-time, and it’s gloriously headbangable.