Endlessly replayable, tough but not taxing, for all its heft and might there’s a surprising amount of levity and relief to be found
Very few bands can maintain any level of consistency across a 30-year career – and fewer still can maintain the kind of quality that Rammstein have come to be known for. Zeit (‘Time’), was recorded in late 2020 and early 2021 at La Fabrique Studios in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, and is their eighth studio album since their debut back in 1995. All Rammstein records have something unique about them, and this one has something major in its favour: accessibility. This is by far the most accessible Rammstein album, and it’s all the better for it.
Of course, accessible is a relative term. Most of the songs here feature Rammstein’s dark blend of sexualised and gross-out humour, not least Dicke Titten (it sounds worse in German than it is in English, but it essentially means “big boobs”) and OK (Ohne Kondom), which I’m fairly sure you can work out is about unprotected sex.
Both of those songs, happily, are highlights of the set, with the band (Richard Kruspe, Paul Landers, Till Lindemann, Christian Lorenz, Oliver Riedel, Christoph Schneider), all finding new ways to demonstrate their prowess and their ability to find new ways to make their trademark sound fresh and engaging. The former is a hilariously silly ode to the titular Titten – and the narrative largely follows the same path Iggy And The Stooges’ 2013 classics DD’s and the latter is a relentless, motorik industrial juggernaut. The disco-fied Zick Zack (an onomatopoeic representation of the sound of scissors) is another instant classic, with some of Lindemann’s most barbed lyrics (even if the topic itself seems a few years out of date). The title track offers something not often heard on Rammstein releases – space between the monolithic riffs. There’s a lot of room, a lot of air in the track, which only adds to its epic nature – and what a video!
Another highlight, Angst, is streamlined and (say it quietly) quite mild as far as Rammstein songs go, at least musically. The lyrics are a different story. They offer a cynical, satirical look at a German children’s game called ‘The Black Man’, where children try to avoid being captured by the Black Man. Till Lindemann – arch provocateur – never misses an opportunity to probe and prod at the soft underbelly of human relationships. Here, dealing with race relations, he’s in his element.
As the album closes with the mournful Adieu (doesn’t need translating, that one), we’re waved away with more crunchy riffage and haunting atmospherics. It’s the band taking a few final minutes to showcase what they do best – coal-black humour backed by suffocating sonics.
This isn’t their strongest album – that’s a dead heat between Sehnsucht and Mutter – but it’s at least as good as the three albums preceding it, and that means it’s a very good album indeed. At this point, when many of their contemporaries, peers and rivals are artistically spent or not active at all, an album of this quality in this genre is a wonderful thing. This is also – you’ll see – an endlessly replayable album. For all its heft and might, there’s a surprising amount of levity and relief provided throughout the album, which suggests some thought went into the sequencing, and some considerations went into the production and mixing. It’s tough but not taxing, and doesn’t need to ask to be played again, it demands it. Gut gemacht Jungs, weiter so!