Had their 2019 untitled record been their last, I think fans would have been fine writing that line under Rammstein and celebrating the victory lap of one of the biggest international acts of all time. The matchstick-emblazoned seventh disc from the forefathers of Neue Deutsche Härte was a powerful statement, one that needed to be made after the band’s studio work lay dormant for a decade, owing to endless touring and myriad side projects. With the anthemic “Deutschland,” the unsettling “Hallomann” and “Puppe,” and the quintessential-sounding “Ausländer,” the untitled disc was a comeback record to end all.
So when the wait between records is cut to just shy of three years, color me and many others thrilled, as Zeit arrived this spring with a story to tell. Rather than weave the yarns as they’ve done inside of a song, such as “Rosenrot” or “Heirate mich,” this LP uses its title as a central theme. In several ways, the eleven tracks cover a lifespan, dealing with reflection, youth gone wild, and looking back on a life well spent. As the band comes up on nearly thirty years together, the lineup unchanged and the mission even less so, Till Lindemann and Co. aren’t above a song that would make any of those on the antiquated “Filthy Fifteen” blush, but even when things go fully X-rated, there’s a storyline purpose being served.
Having been around for as long as they have been, the band has made their own universe of sorts within their lyrics, and as such have no trouble referencing themselves or their past tracks. For one, “Schwarz,” adapted from one of singer Till Lindemann’s own poetry, features a line taken nearly word for word from the Rosenrot track “Hilf mir”:
“Denn immer, wenn ich einsam bin, zieht es mich zum Dunkel hin”
(Then whenever I’m alone, I am pulled in by the darkness)
In “Hilf mir”
“Immer wenn ich einsam bin, zieht es mich zum Feuer hin”
(Whenever I am alone, I’m pulled towards the fire)
In either case, the persona in the song is consumed by that which draws them in; that is, in “Hilf mir,” the fire literally consumes the persona, eliciting cries of the title, while in “Schwarz,” the persona finds a sort of uneasy comfort in the darkness.
We also see a couple of songs that feel like spiritual successors, if not direct ones, to previous hits. The sex-positive “OK” (standing for “ohne Kondom”) feels like part two to the controversial “Pussy,” while the far more straight-laced “Meine Tränen” feels like it picked up where the 2001 power ballad “Mutter” left off.
Musically speaking, the record leans a bit more into the theatrical and grand than previous offerings, and given Rammstein’s extensive catalog, that’s an achievement. For one, the horn section on the adipose anthem “Dicke Titten” adds a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor that put the band on the radar all those years ago, while it and its predecessor “Angst” employ a drop B tuning, something that I don’t believe the band has ever really messed with.
But if the song is called “Dicke Titten,” or “Big Tits” in English, shouldn’t it have been in D?
… moving on.
Of course, there is no shortage of snarling earworms of riffs, particularly in “Zick Zack,” the aforementioned “Angst,” and the explosive “Giftig.” Guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers are riff lords for sure, and they live up to their collective reputation in spades here. There are a few surprises on the record, including a hilariously over-Autotuned Till on the penultimate song “Lügen,” which makes some sense, since the persona in the song is a pathological liar, and the argument for “Autotune isn’t an instrument” is still floating out there. A bit late to the draw for a band that was once ahead of its time, but point made and noted.
It should be pointed out that this album came about due to the lack of ability to tour during the pandemic. Think about this: this record, which is a good Rammstein record, thereby making it a great record by any other metric, was a “fuck it, let’s make an album” album. That the band can knock out a mostly killer disc like this for the hell of it is a testament to the lasting power of Rammstein. Even as most of the band members pass half a century in age each, if they’re putting out this level of material, then by all means, boys, throw shit at the wall and see what sticks.
… why do I read that back and fear that I’ve inspired a future music video?
Zeit is available now via Universal Music.