RAMMSTEIN - ZEIT
Reviewer Score: 8 out of 10
Cattle may do what Gods may not
The time has come and, despite all the difficulties (up to the difficulties with paper for booklets), the “unscheduled” album “Zeit” still came out. The fact that the album was “not planned” was once mentioned by Flake in one of his interviews. But, knowing Flake, one may suppose that he could be the only member of the band who was ignorant of the plans for releasing the new album... As you know, the band recorded “Zeit” back in the second half of 2020 and the guys probably planned to release it in 2021, but the prolonged pandemic restrictions and the postponement of tours made their adjustments. Yes, we didn’t have to wait for this album for 10 years, like the “Match” (note: the figurative title for a self-named album released by Rammstein in 2019 that has the image of a match on its cover), but this does not mean that it was less desirable. On the contrary, it was curious what direction the band would follow now as each Rammstein album utilizes a new sound, a new mood, new approaches and solutions. I have repeatedly said that for me Rammstein is much more than just a music band – it is a cultural phenomenon, a completely unique creative team and an important part of my personal life, my worldview and perception. This is why, I simply cannot approach their creative work with a certain universal measure. This is a special group that requires a special approach from me. You should realize that everything written by me is only my private opinion with which you can agree or not, dispute or neglect, complement or remain silent. Within those 5 days that have passed since my first listening to “Zeit”, I went through all the stages - from denial to acceptance, and it is this emotional experience that I would like to recreate in this article while expressing some thoughts regarding the technical side of the new Rammstein album along the way.
No, I must have missed something. Maybe it’s a matter of sound quality and I need to listen to it carefully in high-resolution on good equipment. As you know, the devil is in the details. Let’s assume “Was ich liebe” from the previous album didn’t win me over right away either, but after listening to the meticulousness of its arrangement, letting through all the small details of the song, I started to consider it absolutely amazing. So maybe “Zeit” (note: the word “zeit” in German stands for “time”) also needs “time” (sorry for the pun)? Rammstein can’t sound so bad, with guitars pushed back somewhere in the mix, with too prominent vocals that are out of sync within vocal harmonies, with arrangements worthy of almost any more or less professional NDH band, but not Rammstein. Yes, of course not, this is some kind of bullshit… However, in addition to all that, there is an acute shortage of consistent guitar riffs, that is, exactly what the band has been famous for many years. And that’s a problem that sound quality doesn’t seem to be able to solve. But, I repeat, you probably need to listen to the record one more time in conditions close to ideal, and everything will fall into place...
So, how is that? There are three decent guitar riffs on the album, two of which bear a clear resemblance to other riffs by Rammstein themselves. Of course, I’m talking about the song called “OK”, in which “Links 234”, familiar from my childhood, is guessed. Moreover, Richard, apparently, gets so high from this riff that he used it on the first Emigrate album in the song called “Wake Up”, and now the circle has, obviously, closed, and sweet chords returned to Rammstein. And “Dicke Titten”, a kind of a sister-song to “Ausländer”, in which the band is not above using a slightly modified riff from the very first Rammstein song of the same name. In this regard, only “Angst” sounds honestly, in which the guitar theme “in the style of Rammstein” does not quote anything specific. Oh, yes, the problem of mix quality consistency that I noted back on the “Match”, also haunts “Zeit”, and the quality of sound equipment used and “ideal” listening conditions did not improve the picture a lot. Putting it mildly, the guitars on the album don't shine anyway and the sound a-la “cloud in your pants” makes the situation even worse. Actually, it is not entirely clear to me: did they forget to bring cocaine to Richard, or what happened? One of the weakest points on the album are the guitars. This is not a leading instrument, but just a faceless background rear-fill, without which many songs, as it seems to me, would sound at least as good. No wonder I liked the remix of “Zick Zack” from the band’s single more than the original track. Yes, after listening to the singles, I was certainly ready for not the most original album of the band, but I was still not ready for such a careless attitude to the process of its creation, from composing to mixing and mastering. And what bright mind came up with the idea of using tons of auto-tune on Till’s voice so that the vocals in Rammstein would hurt my ears... vocals, Carl?! Pardon me, but this is just like a kick in the nuts. Moreover, there is such an emotional strain in “Lügen” that is almost completely smoothed out by these idiotic modulations. Okay, you may say that in a song about “lies” it can be conceptually justified. Thus, they are trying to tell us that these emotions are just as false as everything that was previously said by the lyrical character. But firstly, this is a search for the meanings where there are none, and secondly, how can one explain the same effect in “Giftig”? Involtini seems to be stuck somewhere deep in the dance scene of the early 00s, when autotune was a “trendy” feature. Olsen, of course, screwed up: he couldn’t find the right sound for the second album in a row, and, it seems, by pure chance, he finds it for one or another track. But Rammstein somehow simplified most of the arrangements too much. It seems that Rammstein were just trying to make an album “in the style of Rammstein”. A pinch of humor here, a few serious things there, but here there should be a riff... I don’t know how exactly it should sound, but it should sound like “Rammstein”! The only thing is that Rammstein sounded like Rammstein because it came out organically; they weren’t trying to be a Rammstein band – they just were this band. And here you can exactly hear the attempts to be what they want to be seen. Moreover, the attempts are not very successful as the guitars surely fail. It's just not the level of Rammstein. For example, in the latest albums by Oomph! or Eisbrecher guitar parts are much more interesting. I’m not talking about the fact that both Lindemann albums easily outdo “Zeit”. In general, at this stage, I wanted to tear off the hands of the producer, arrange a picket demanding the return of Jacob Hellner, and also find a new drug dealer for Richard because the fuse had gone away somewhere.
Okay, let’s assume that the new Rammstein album sounds not as good as one would want it to, but it also has something to good in it. If we don’t take into account the guitars, then we will have Till’s great voice that you can listen to even with autotune with a grating heart; there are interesting keyboard parts of Flake and beautiful melodies, among which I especially want to mention “Schwarz”, written on the basis of Till’s self-titled poem. By the way, as the “Match”, “Zeit” includes several poems from Till’s collections of poetry. Apart from “Schwarz”, Lindemann fans are familiar with the poems that laid the lyrical foundation for “Armee der Tristen” and “Zick Zack”. Moreover, which is especially pleasant, when I once translated Till’s collections, I noticed that some of the poems could make excellent songs, and now, they actually became songs. I can say that the closest to my expectations on the basis of the lyrics was just “Schwarz”, one of my favorite songs from the album. The only moment that raised questions for me was the beginning of the chorus: “Immer wenn ich einsam bin//zieht es mich zum dunkel hin,” - Till sings, and in “Hilf mir” one can recall the following lines: “Immer wenn ich einsam bin//zieht es mich zum Feuer hin". But, on the other hand, if you can borrow your own riffs, then why can’t you do the same with lyrics? Song lyrics of the album is also a separate topic for a conversation because Lindemann's lyrics are almost always figurative, deep and ambiguous, but not this time, more precisely, not always now.
On the one hand, we have the trademark, adult, emotionally sharp and concise lyrics of “Zeit” (the absolute highlight of the album, despite the guitars that sound similar to the remix of “Haifisch” from Involtini; the song deserves to take a place in the golden song pool of the band), warm lyrics of “Lügen” with the lines about coffee and cookies and visits to grandma, slightly maniac lines about the “black man” in “Angst”. And on the other hand, we have rather banal lyrics of “Giftig”, comparing love with poison penetrating under the skin. Another track on a similar topic (“Amour”) describes the idea much more vividly, figuratively, interestingly and emotionally. “Adieu” is just a manifest of banality, in both musical and lyrical aspect. The song is only for waving a lighter/phone at a concert and wiping away a stingy tear of realizing that earlier you could wave your phone while listening to “Ohne dich”. Yes, and “Dicke Titten” reminded me the song “Big Tits” by Pushnoy (note: a Russian musician, songwriter making music parodies and writing joke songs). And in general, the songs “OK” and “Dicke Titten” sound more like the attempt of Knorkator trying to sound like Rammstein. But there is a very “Mutter-like” ballad called “Meine Tränen”. Tellingly, this song is also about the relationship with a mother. And, of course, it is worth mentioning the interesting electronic sound of “Armee der Tristen”, with guitars playing on a weak beat and a marching rhythmic pattern. Conceptually, this is especially funny. I mean the guitars playing on a weak beat in “Armee der Tristen”. In general, the keyboards on the album, although they evoke nostalgia for tube synthesizers, make the most of the material along with Till's vocals, despite all the “efforts” of the producer.
We live in difficult, interesting, unpredictable times. There have always been wars and pandemics in the history of mankind, but Rammstein has never released a weak album. Throughout the entire history of mankind, I want to emphasize this. And, despite the fact that “Zeit” is a collection of good songs in general, not without interesting solutions, this is a frankly weak release for Rammstein. I got the feeling that the album caused depression not only for me, but also for the band members during the process of writing it. I’ve got an idea that the state of Richard, shown in the video for the song “Zick Zack” is not an artistic allegory, but the actual state of things. Richard was too lazy to write riffs, Till was too lazy to write lyrics, and Olsen was lazy to mix the record. These are the associations this record evokes. By the way, I am not inclined to speculate that this is the last album of the band because there have been no official statements on this topic, but, in my opinion, this is completely illogical. Therefore, I rely on the fact that at least one more release awaits us in the future. And here I have some serious concerns. There are serious structural problems on “Zeit” that I don’t think the band will be able to solve. They may remember how to write hits without forcing themselves to try “sounding like Rammstein”, but the conservative Rammstein, perhaps, will not replace the production team. I fully admit that the team feels more freedom with Olsen than with Jacob, but this affects the quality of the material, unfortunately, not for the better.
No matter how hard you scold the production staff, no matter how hard you complain about the weak guitar parts, it’s worth recognizing that the album is what it is, and I have listened to it more than a dozen times for sure, and will listen to it the same number of times again. It is clear that if everything was catastrophically bad, I would hardly have tortured my hearing. “Zeit” is a good album. It is poorly recorded and mixed, mediocrely arranged in some parts and not up to the band’s standards, but it’s a good album. Let it not become the next “album of the decade”, but it is still the album of my favorite band and there are many pleasant moments on it, and as long as Till’s voice touches every string of my soul, I will listen to him even a cappella - even with autotune, no question about it. Besides, as I said, Rammstein is more than just music, and in this regard, it is worth paying attention to a very decent video footage that this album brought to us. The reverse footage in “Zeit”, which was directed by the band’s new director Robert Gwisdek, proved to be a decent work, filled with vivid imagery and beautifully directed.
I called this article “Cattle may do what Gods may not.” I think those who was reading it carefully understood why I picked up this name. But in order not to cause false rumors, I will explain. If this was an album of any other band, even of the one I love and respect, I would have much less complaints about the record, but I cannot close my eyes to the fact that this is a Rammstein album. The creative strength of Rammstein is that they are always organic in what they do. Not trying to be like themselves, they are unmistakably recognizable – whether it’s “Du hast” or “Stirb nicht vor mir”, “Feuer Frei” or “Ein Lied”, Rammstein have always remained authentic and recognizable. But here, without Till’s voice and Flake's synths, it is sometimes hard to recognize the great six. That’s why I say that the album is weak for the band. Although, as an object in a vacuum it is certainly a good album, the level of which is still not easy to achieve. Unfortunately or fortunately, I cannot rate the album in a vacuum and will give it 8 out of 10. For Rammstein this is, of course, a very low rating from me because before that my ratings of Rammstein albums ranged from 9.5/10 to 10/10. However, I do not rule out that “Zeit” will still be the album of the year for me. Moreover, I am almost completely sure of this, but now I will be waiting for Lindemann’s solo album with even greater interest.
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- ReleasedApril 29, 2022
- GenresNDH / Industrial Metal
- LabelUniversal Music / Rammstein