Rammstein does not do things by halves. In fact, their modus operandi both musically and in live performance has set benchmarks for bombastic uses of everything from confrontational props and costumes to spectacular pyrotechnics unleashed in blistering heat. Naturally, with ten years since their last album release Liebe ist für alle da, the latest and seventh studio album, Untitled, has already courted some controversy with the typically provocative yet historically based video accompanying the first single ‘Deutschland’.
The album as a whole has the overall feel of the recently released single with hammering rhythm figures, signature proximity effect vocals in German dialect and floating electronica based melodies. However, the complexity within and the dynamic production on this release also gives rise to more subversive aspects with mood shifts in certain songs alongside the masterful use of building sonic layers to reprise song segments to increase the intensity of delivery.
The opening track of course has the wonderful lyrical approach we’ve come to expect from Rammstein but it is reinforced with a deft use of a keyboard figure throughout the song whilst the pummelling guitar and drum figures weave their way through Oliver Riedel’s rumbling underpinning bass line. A breakdown section brings the song back to a powering chorus, with the backing vocals embellishing the unrelenting delivery of front man Till Lindemann.
Seguing into the next track ‘Radio’ with various noises, keyboard wizard Christian Lorenz soon shines with swirling parts that give the song a bouncing feel against the crushing yet solid drumming of Christoph Schneider whose drum kit sounds on the entire release are flawless. Spatial dynamics, judicious use of cymbals and even some breathy vocals from Lindemann add to the excellent song structure which has an excellent bridge to the chorus backed by the galloping guitar rhythms of lead guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe and rhythm guitarist Paul H. Landers.
The third track ‘Zeig dich’ offers up some superbly heavy material. Whilst a repetitive guitar rhythm is a Rammstein staple, the craft is in the clarity and precision of their attack. This track and some in the later part of the album are perfect examples of how tight the Rammstein sound is with the rhythm section synchronised to the cutting guitar chords. Similarly, Lindemann’s partially barked vocals are up close with clear pronunciation even when singing an octave higher for the chorus and with an additional choir of sorts. The stabbing guitar chords approach continues with ‘Ausländer’ but the track also benefits from variations in sounds including feedback snippets, sampled vocal sounds and doubled chorus singing with additional backing vocals plus there are parts where the singing is borderline spoken but in a higher timbre, building into the chorus.
Almost predicably, ‘Sex’ is not the soundtrack to a candlelit romantic occasion. Opening with a haunting sounding keyboard figure some hi-hat and a fretless bass guitar groove, the verse soon includes a section of minimal instrumentation with Lindemann’s no doubt unsubtle lyrics being accompanied by just drums and a slinky, descending walking bass line of sorts before the chorus brings in the full band. One shudders to think what sort of film clip would result from the music therein but given the crowd vocals and the end and the keyboard figure, it is probable that body doubles and a filtered viewing option may apply. The cymbal fade out at the end is an impressive sound though and is indicative of the quality of engineering on this release.
Of course, Rammstein harness being disturbing as an artistic statement so well and the second half of the album achieves that to some extent. The light yet somewhat atonal guitar introduction to ‘Puppe’ with sustained bass notes and dialogue soon shifts into a full sonic wall of tri-tone exploring rhythm figures to then reprise some atmospherics. In the heavier parts, the vocals have a borderline breaking post-screaming feel but eventually the song repeats the introductory part adding some spookily trilled piano notes.
The interplay between the guitar playing of Kruspe and Landers is more evident in subsequent tracks with both ‘Was ich liebe’ and ‘Weit weg’ having sensational muted guitar rhythms, some embellishments and unique soloing. Of the two tracks, the first one is very dynamic a descending rhythm part segues into the chorus and then a middle eight section with slide and arpeggiated clean guitars brilliantly juxtaposed with heavy, gated distorted guitars.
By contrast, ‘Weit weg’ is probably the album highlight. Heavy rhythm guitars and drumming parts are interspersed with interesting synthesizer sounds including something reminiscent of a Moog, providing a touch of progressive metal to proceedings and also drive building up to the chorus after a comparatively quieter breakdown part. The guitar solo is largely an explosion of experimental drone like guitar sounds from Kruspe that involves volumes swells and bouncing around various mismatched notes that amazingly work as an expressive guitar passage.
Succinctly bookended between the two aforementioned tracks is a short and sweet ballad of sorts in the track ‘Diamant’. Up close vocals and muted acoustic guitars work nicely with a bass and keyboard layer bubbling underneath the melody line.
The tenth song on the album, ‘Tattoo’ initially appears to be as subtle as a brick musically speaking. A pedalling guitar riff against loud drums sets things off with heavy repetition before production dynamics again swiftly change the song alternating during the verses between sparse vocals and snare drum to fully distorted guitars and a pounding rhythm section. Even with a melodic chorus, the iteration of passages is built up with more layers on each pass through until a more open bridge provides some reprieve from the onslaught before the inevitable crescendo.
Rammstein adopt a similar approach for the final track titled ‘Hallomann’ but there are more open moments within as instrumentation variations give the track breathing space. Having said that, some howling guitar lines from Kruspe that contain audible fret rubbing brings out an aggressive streak before keyboards, vocals and a shimmering hi-hat usher in a final push to the concluding chorus.
At less than fifty minutes playing time, Untitled is a well-constructed and craftily executed sonic excursion that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The production on the album is astonishing. Also, the song arrangements together with the placement of instruments in the sonic spectrum reinforce the power of the band’s unfaltering delivery. This album sets a standard sonically and will surely be sourced for numerous live tracks on the impending sold out tours. Rammstein are back and they have moved up another notch in both their creativity and performance skills.
- Zeig dich
- Was ich liebe
- Weit weg