An English-Language Review
1) Rammlied [Ramm-song]
2) Ich tu’ dir Weh [I hurt you]
3) Waidmanns Heil [Hunter’s greeting]
4) Haifisch [Shark]
5) B******** (Bückstabü)
6) Frühling in Paris [Spring in Paris]
7) Wiener Blut [Viennese Blood]
9) Liebe ist für alle da [Love is there for everyone]
10) Mehr [More]
11) Roter Sand [Red Sand]
+ Special Edition:
12) Führe mich [Lead Me]
13) Donaukinder [Children of the Danube]
14) Halt [Stop]
15) Roter Sand (orchestral version)
Rammstein is an East German sextet renowned for their aggressive German-language rock. Till Lindemann provides ferocious, sometimes operatic basso-profundo vocals, Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers back him vocally and play snarling, driving guitars, Oliver Riedel plays the full-bodied bass, Christoph Schneider provides smooth, splashy drumwork, and Christian Lorenz weaves synth lines through everything to produce a unique and addicting sound. It is exactly this mix that makes Rammstein so brilliant – over their fifteen year career they have ranged from pure rock to industrial (electronic and sample-driven rock for the uninitiated), to “dance metal”, power ballads and everything in between. To the masses, they are the “Du Hast” guys, and even though they have a particular gift for really aggressive numbers, they also have had a great selection of really beautiful, touching ballads over the years.
While they produce wonderfully interesting musical compositions, part of the allure of Rammstein comes from their lyrics. Though I began listening to them before I knew enough German to understand (just over six years ago), the more I learned and the more easily I could understand them, the more astounding their music became. Thing is, they turned out to be a great help to my study of German! To most non-German speakers, they are a fun and super-energetic change of pace, but they don’t fully “grasp” them. Some people even dismiss them as neo-nazis (!!) or satanic(!!!) [I’ve heard both from people I know], which to me, as a fan, is a ridiculous claim (hell, they even have song where they say that their hearts are on the left!!!). The German lyrics are lovely to me, but to others they can be alienating (or more positively, simply drift into the music and become a part of the composition). It is a risk to keep lyrics in such a language, but I have found that the subjects (often controversial or dark) of Rammstein’s music are often handled much better in German – they sound much more poetic, rhythmic, and tend to rhyme better than when the band experiments with English or other languages. Rammstein has previously used English, Russian, Spanish, and this time around, a bit of French in their music, however. Most times when they dabble, the music turns out ok, but as evidenced by very awkward English translations of some of their earlier material, they really do better when keeping it in German.
This album’s title “Love is there for everyone” shows that Rammstein is once again doing variations on the theme of love, something they have always done, though in a much wider variety than most bands. In truth, Rammstein has had numerous beautiful songs about traditional forms of passion and familial love, though they have touched on loss and sorrow, longing/obsession, incest, pedophilia, necrophilia, rape, bdsm, intersexuality, bestiality, homosexuality, cannibalism, and many other peculiarities of the human heart. Don’t let this scare you away, as they are often very meaningful explorations of humanity and not simply gross for the sake of being gross. Till Lindemann, the lead singer, has been quoted, “Love is like a flower, even the most beautiful kind dies” and this is often at the core of their music. There are connections in their music to literature as well – Rammstein songs hail back to Goethe’s “Heidenröslein” and “Erlkönig” and Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” among others.
Sometimes, however, these guys do write music to shock. They have been cited for years with a love of controversy, but what does controversy do? It makes you think, makes you examine concepts a little closer, brings previously hidden things to your attention, and Rammstein cannot simply be dismissed as either 100% shock-rocking jokers or 100% serious. They fall somewhere between the two extremes. The tendency for controversy comes more into play in their live performances, but that is another story altogether.
Rammstein, on their website, claimed this album would be a return to form of their first two or three albums, meaning returning to the harder, grinding work seen in Herzeleid (Heartache, 1994) and Sehnsucht (Desire, 1997), as opposed to the increasingly epic, operatic strains of Mutter (Mother, 2001) and the successor companion albums Reise, Reise (Journey, Journey) and Rosenrot (Rose-Red) in 2004 and 2005. Mutter seems to be a widely loved album despite the big change from the feel of Sehnsucht, yet one comes across many fans criticizing the natural continuation of this sound in Reise and Rosen. What gets me is that Reise and Rosen both had their share of really hard songs and people still called them “soft”. I can say that this album definitely delivers on the promise of “hard”, yet it clings to the operatic feel almost throughout, whether in Lindemann’s tunes, or certain elements of the instrumentation. Some people have called this album “weak” or “poor” but in my opinion it is just as beautiful and strong as every previous installation. This is, of course, my opinion, based on the fact that I have loved EVERY release of Rammstein equally. There isn’t one album I listen to less than the others, rather some songs in their discography I tend to ignore.
The songs, individually, each have something interesting to offer:
1) Rammlied – a slow intro segues into a choral verse, “He who waits with composure/ will be rewarded when the time comes/ now the waiting is at an end/ lend your ears to a legend.” A lyrical return for them, with a throwback to their first single: they chant the band name throughout the song, as if to remind you they are singing about themselves. Upon my first listen, the song made me squeal! What a great way to open the album!
This song seems to be a sort of shout-out to the fans, “if there are no stars in the sky/ if you are sad and alone/ we are back/ tune in!”. The guitar is like classic Rammstein, a really forceful riff seems to drive the song here, backed by a slow, sweet string line that expands into brass and gets bigger and bigger as the song goes on. Some uncomfortable stretching of the singer’s vocal range is apparent here when Mr. Lindemann starts to snarl toward the end, but thankfully that only makes one appearance during the song. For the most part, all vocals and instruments sound wonderful.
2) Ich tu’ dir Weh - the song opens with some fluttering, otherworldly synth, and immediately there is a hammer of guitar and drums – a very typical form for Rammstein and then OHWOW you are beaten over the head with an amazing headbang-inducing riff, which then softens down to acoustic for the verse. The rhythm is a bit atypical here, a bit bouncy for Rammstein, and yet again we hear strings/horns in the background. The verse is almost spoken, while the chorus is sung very beautifully. It’s surprising to hear one of the most melodic songs from Rammstein so far be 1) so absolutely and totally hard, and 2) about bondage and/or abuse!
The lyrics are most certainly about this topic: “You live only for me/ I push orders into your face/ you have completely and utterly yielded to me/ you love me because I don’t love you// you bleed for my soul’s well-being/ such a small cut and you are horny/ …..”. The chorus: “I hurt you/ I’m not sorry/ It does you good/ hear how you cry out?” All in all, this song couldn’t be more perfect, strong, catchy instrumentation, beautiful vocals, and very thought-provoking lyrics towards the end which caught me by surprise. Now I am unsure if this is about a relationship with another person, or if it is about self-hatred!
3) Waidmanns Heil – This is another song with a really strong riff, and interesting use of horns again. Tune is great, especially in the chorus, it sounds a bit eastern-influenced. Because I just got my hands on this cd, I’m still trying with difficulty to translate this song, but it seems to have a hunting theme.
4) Haifisch – a song about loneliness: “And the shark has tears too/ they run down his face/ but the shark lives in the water/ so you don’t see his them”. Maybe hinting at the loneliness and sadness in the heart of someone who is cruel or harmful to others? Has a jazzy synth opening, and is yet another catchy one. Also another favorite lyric: “We stick together/ six hearts burning/ the fire keeps you warm”.
5) B******** - this song properly has no name, as the title consists of a made up word with no correct spelling (in my tracklist above I gave it a probably spelling as that is how it is pronounced). This is definitely the hardest song on the album and would a real facemelter if it weren’t for the silly made up word that Mr. Lindemann growls during the chorus. I’m trying to crack this one in terms of meaning, and it seems like its about a conflict between two personalities in the same body, “Voices whisper behind the face” , “Two souls in my lap/ only one can survive/ the first time it doesn’t hurt/ there isn’t a second time.” Either way, a really cool song!
6) Frühling in Paris – A slow ballad with acoustic which picks up in pace and energy, gaining electric guitar as it goes. Uses a line or two of French in the chorus. The tune is beautiful, and there is some really sugar sweet synth here. This is definitely a love song, and will probably end up as beloved as the bittersweet “Ohne dich” from Reise, Reise. This is one I could listen to repeatedly and not get tired of it one bit, just such a sweet love song. I don’t have a full translation yet, so I may be wrong.
7) Wiener Blut – This one begins with a pretty keyboard sample of a waltz and some strings that flow in gently, then an electronic synth. “Come with me to my castle/ fun waits there in the deep/ quiet, quiet we must be… yes a paradise lays under our house/ the door goes shut/ the light goes out”…. This portion is almost whispered, then forceful guitar comes in and the chorus is screamed, “Welcome to the darkness”! This structure of soft, whispered verses and beastly loud choruses follows, a cool way to show duality in the personality of the captor. This song, by the way, is about the Austrian man who imprisoned and impregnated his own daughter MULTIPLE TIMES. “And if you are lonely sometimes/ I’ll plant a sister in you…… under our house a lovenest”….. if that isn’t horrifying, I don’t know what is! This song seems to be a spiritual successor to the song “Mein Teil” which was about the Rotenburg cannibal. Funny, because when I read in the news about the Viennese man who did that to his daughter I was wondering if Rammstein would end up immortalizing it in song. I was right! A great song, and very haunting, made my skin crawl. Thumbs up for bringing the horror of human nature to light, Rammstein. Thumbs down to the parents who abuse their children like this!
8) Pussy – Oh goodness, this song… The first single from this album, and is half in English. About as explicit and up front as you can get, especially if you see the music video (it’s pornography). The song is, however, a joke, using a lot of stereotypical German in the verses. The melody and instrumentation are fairly poppy for a Rammstein song, and most certainly catchy. I find the song to be hilarious (oh my gosh Till’s English pronunciation!), but almost wish I could have an instrumental version too. Don’t immediately turn your nose up at this song, please give it a chance even though it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album. It’s meant to be funny, and I advise hearing the song first before seeing the video (and only seeing the video if you are of legal age!). It may be a little bad, though if you manage to get it stuck in your head and go around hearing, “You’ve got a pussaaaaay/ I have a dick-ah” in your head all day long!
9) Liebe ist für alle da – title track, and pretty good, though some other songs on this album tend to overshadow it. Pretty straight rock from Rammstein, but that doesn’t mean boring. There are some little surprises in there – some choral vocals and synth here and there. Strong guitar and a catchy chorus tune, oh, and a really great little guitar solo around the 2:30 mark. This song seems to be about a person who can’t get love, and dreams of forcing himself on the object of his affections, “I close my eyes/ then I see her/ I trap her/ within my fantasy/ I close my eyes/ she doesn’t fight/ love is there for everyone/ not for me”. Sad and dark at the same time.
10) Mehr – a song about greed. Starts out sounding like it will be upbeat, then goes dark and sharp in the chorus of “more, more” chanted over and over. This one is pretty straightforward, no hidden meanings here, just a straight up criticism of consumerist culture and people’s unwillingness to give to others. Tune goes from pleasant to dark, back to pleasant towards the end.
11) Roter Sand – begins with off-key whistling and gentle, foreboding guitar. The pace remains slow in this one, with gentle vocals. It seems to suit the subject material – two men duel with pistols over the love of one woman, this is from the perspective of the loser of the duel, very sad and melodic. This one uses a lot of orchestra and choral vocals to great effect. One of the BEST Rammstein ballads yet, and most certainly a great close to the album proper. DO NOT skip this one, no matter how much you feel like it!
12) Führe mich – THE BEST B-SIDE to this album, so good it should have been part of the main album. Classic Rammstein in every aspect, and the tune of the chorus is AMAZING! Grinding guitar and a floating line of strings! I just need to know why this one wasn’t the first single of the album, it’s that good! I don’t have anything as far as lyrics goes, there was no listing in the booklet about lyrics of the bonus tracks.
13) Donaukinder – slow but it builds and is stunningly beautiful, along the order of … well actually I can’t compare it to anything. Perhaps some of the more epic stuff from Mutter!
14) Halt – Yet another track that should have made the album proper, but I guess Rammstein wanted to keep with the 11 tracks thing. No lyrics for this one yet. Like Fuehre mich and Ich tu’ dir Weh, pretty much Rammstein perfection!
15) Roter Sand (Orchestral) and Liese – both versions of Roter Sand, the first with more orchestra and less guitar, the second with different lyrics, probably the demo version. Good, but I didn’t feel these were needed. Maybe they will grow
Overall, this album has great work both instrumentally and vocally. Lindemann is very expressive with his work, he always has been, but he’s gotten better and better with this over the years. Kruspe’s guitar is tight as the early days here, and the addition of some really lovely orchestral and choral lines breaks up the harsh guitar. Lyrics are lovely, if dark and frightening at times, and worth looking up if you don’t know them or would like to. Of course, you can enjoy Rammstein for the music alone, but I recommend seeking lyrics, it will change the way you see and hear this band!
I am not going to give this a number rating, since my blinding love for everything Rammstein probably prevents me from giving an unbiased answer (I would give all of their albums 10/10), but this is definitely an album I waited years for, and I can honestly say it was worth the wait. I hope I have convinced you to pick this album up and pay attention to this interesting, fun band. If you like rock or industrial AT ALL and are open to foreign language music, you will like Rammstein!
Please note: I am posting this everywhere I commonly go, to promote the album! :D