The German industrial metal titans make a triumphant return with Zeit, their 8th studio album.
If COVID-19 gave anything positive to music fans, it was the release of new material after tours were canceled and bands spent their time in quarantine. Rammstein, known for their lengthy time between releases, was no exception to this. The large world tour in support of their untitled 7th album, released in early 2019, was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic late that year. Soon after, the band headed back to the studio to begin writing and producing this album – Zeit.
Overall, the album truly feels like a combination of many stages of their earlier works, but also features interesting new experiments in their sound. The theme of zeit (“time” in English) draws many parallels to the situation in which it was created. Though the world stopped for the COVID-19 pandemic, time did not. Zeit sees Rammstein, whose members are well into their 50s, mature and refine their sound after 28 years, without sacrificing the fun and sometimes crass moments that we’ve come to expect.
Though it’s difficult to follow up “Deutschland,” the opening track of Untitled and one of the most powerful tracks in all of Rammstein’s discography, “Armee der Tristen” (“Army of the Dreary”) makes for a concussive opening track, with chugging riffs and an energetic keyboard part. Keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz really shines on this album, as most songs have a heavy electronic presence.
The title track, Zeit, caught many off guard, as almost no one had expected a slower song as the first single. Despite the polarizing reception, Zeit may be one of the most thematically powerful tracks on the album, especially accompanied by the visuals of the music video. The album continues the slower pace with “Schwarz” (“Black”), a melancholy track about loneliness and the night, before bringing it back to the typical Rammstein heaviness with “Giftig” (“Toxic”), which feels like 1995’s “Laichzeit” on steroids.
The second single, “Zick Zack” (“Zig Zag”), sees Rammstein embracing the theme of time once again, with a rousing track about plastic surgery, in essence, fighting back against time. The accompanying music video features a fictionalized and botoxed Rammstein performing for a small crowd as singer Till Lindemann’s plastic surgery begins to go wrong. The next track, OK, which stands for Ohne Kondom (“Without Condom”) is pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to be about. The incorporation of a choir and fast-paced guitar and keyboard riffs elevates this song to more than simply a song about sex.
“Meine Tränen” (“My Tears”) slows things down once again, with a haunting track that could fit very well as a companion piece to the title track of their 2001 album, Mutter (“Mother”). The third single, “Angst” (“Fear”), is incredibly heavy, featuring loud chanting as well as a breakdown, with raw vocals similar to that of Untitled’s “Puppe.” The lyrics, “angst vorm schwarzen mann” (“fear of the black man”), are based off of a German children’s game, as well as a fictional character similar to the boogeyman. However, the music video has very specific connotations that this is a critique of the xenophobia and racism that has been passed down through generations.
In line with the Rammstein duality, the next track is “Dicke Titten” (“Fat Tits”), a very heavy anthem of aging and loneliness, with only one requirement for love: big boobs. It incorporates some fun, traditional German music sounds, and while the lyrics and subject matter aren’t the most exciting, it provides a bit of lightheartedness and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
“Lügen” (“Lies”) sees Rammstein at their most experimental, featuring a poetic verse, almost spoken word, moving into a crunchy chorus with soaring vocals. One interesting choice is the inclusion of autotune. It’s something that Rammstein really hasn’t done before, but it creates an interesting effect for such an atmospheric track.
The album finally comes to a close with “Adieu” (“Farewell”). What I expected to be a slower finale song, similar to most of their past albums, is actually a triumphant and powerful farewell. The lyrics touch on time once again, the inevitable death of all things, and saying goodbye after a long time. As Rammstein says “Adieu, goodbye, auf wiedersehen,” many wonder if this could be their final album. With their world tour on the horizon, they certainly aren’t going anywhere soon, but if this is their last album then they’ve created the perfect swan song to end an incredibly fulfilling musical career.
Zeit has it all: heavy riffs, melodic swells, politics, and classic Rammstein humor. It’s the achievement of so many years of experimentation and perfection of their sound, and if it’s truly the end of Rammstein in a near future, all we can say is: