Horrorific for some, delightsome for others, the truth is that Rammstein doesn’t leave anyone indifferent. They’re a game of opposites that leads to a mixture of concepts: on one hand, we have an avan-garde German genre like industrial music which reminds of the modern era and the raise of technology, somehow dehumanized and, on the other, there’s a primitive background in their music: all those screams of fear, the use of fire, hard lyrics and language, a performance where the members of the band are semi-nude and carried away by the strong rythm. They’re also capable to loop between the most non-expressive music ever that plainly sound like chainsaws to the tops of a storm of feelings. So, we like it or not, Rammstein is here to remind all of us that, despites all we have advanced, our modern technology and hygieneic society, human heart will always be human heart, capable of the darker of ideas, of hatred, sometimes taken over by old animal insticts that remain, the same time they sing to the isolation, loneliness, confussion and weariness which characterized modern men.
The album I’m gonna talk about today is Reise, Reise, realeased in 2004, right after Mutter. If Mutter put a before and an after on the band history (they left a harder sound only composed by distorted guitars and synthesizer for a more orchestral approach), Reise, Reise is the continuation and refinement of that new style and, personally, it’s my favorite. I think it contains more diversity of topics and some of the songs reached a level of expression hard to catch up. So, let’s analyze the songs one by one:
–Reise, reise (Fish and man sink to the depths where the black soul dwells, there is no light on the horizon): the song that gives a name to the album. Drums break the calm of the sea while a seagull sounds in the distance. After that, guitars burst powerfully along with violins, which later get silenced to give way to a wicked riff. Vocals are so low and fearsome, pronouncing that ‘Ahoy’ in such a disturbing way until the chorus is reached. There you can easily imagine an imposing boat fighting the waves, the seamans trying to get some fish in the middle of a big storm. The song arrives at its hight point with a classical interlude and then goes softly to the ending, where accordion leave us with a salty taste on the mouth. A great beginning for a great album.
–Mein teil (Because you are what you eat and you know what it is): after the darkness of Reise, Reise, here comes a burst of energy. This song starts with a powerful, heavy riff and then slows down until there’s only almost silence, almost rythm. Vocals sound distorted and afar, while some electronic sounds remain in the background. Little by little, volume turns up until suddenly we’re in the middle of screams in German which alternates with distorted guitars that leads to the chorus. There’s not much variation in this one. Only emphasize the creaking and acute sounds in the background which makes the whole a little more sinister. What are the lyrcis about? Cannibalism, based on a real case in Germany, some years ago.
–Dalai Lama (Onwards, onwards into destruction we must live until we die. Humans don’t belong in the sky): partially based on a Goethe’s poem, this song starts calmly with a single guitar while Lindemann starts reciting. Then, all of a sudden the cruel sound of extremly distorted guitar comes in, with a really stron rythm, and vocals turns more and more loud, until all gets calm again when a chorus of sinister and hypnotic voices asks the child in the lyrics to join them along with a disquieting piano melody. The song keeps repeating its structure over and over. Also, to make things a bit more creepy, in the lyrics, the father ends up suffocating his own child because of the strenght he holds him with.
–Keine lust (Don’t feel like risking it, don’t feel like going from the snow, don’t feel like freezing): as years go by and we get older, we start to feel like if we’ve seen everything, nothing more is left for us to try, and we end up being fed up of everything. But in our postmodern era, this is not just an individual feeling, but one who can apply to people of all ages and social status. In this song, the weariness feelings of the character have turned so strong he even lost all interest in the most basic thing that raises people’s interest: sex. But also digs further into self-deprecation tendencies. Regarding music, it’s a fast rythm one, starting with some synthesizer notes broke by drums. Guitars join after that and Lindemann starts reciting lyrics in a rythmic and catchy way, leaving silence between each phrase. During all the verse, drums predominate, with some appearence of guitar as backing. It’s during the chorus when guitars finally take over and lyrics are sung fluidly. This structure repeats until the end of the second chorus, where the speed slows down, synthetizer takes the stage and vocals turn higher, what makes the desperate feelings of these fed up characters stand out for a moment before hiding behind weariness again.
–Los (Is it hopeless, senseless, helpless? They are godless): this was the song I like the less of the whole album, but lately it grow on me. Los means less, and the lyrics are kind of a wordplay with words ending with that suffix, talking about the critics that the kind of music the band make have attracted, or what someone not used to the genre would think during the first time that listens to it. Also, it’s a good song for the ones who wants to master palm mute technic in acoustic guitar, because the song is lead by that, just backed by an elegant guitar riff and a mouth-organ melody.
–Amerika (Santa Claus is coming to Africa and Mickey Mouse is standing in front of Paris): this song contains a good dose of the house brand sharp humor. It stars with a distant voice singing the chorus, a kind of happy, sing-along melody ‘We’re living in America, America, it’s wonderful’ until drums, clear voices and guitars break in strongly. When all calms down, the verses are backed by drums and scraping guitar, while Lindemann seems to critize globalism and how the American culture is invading the world as if it was superior to the rest, ending with the autochthonous ones in every country, and also controlling global politics to some extent. Moreover, he warns us: ‘And whoever doesn’t want to dance, at the end doesn’t know yet that they must‘. In this song, I specially love the synthesizer bridge, really powerful, and also the guitar turn-on-and-off’s, and the sing along chorus. The clip it’s so well-made, and really funny, with plenty of acid references and jokes.
–Moskau (She sleeps with me but only for money. It’s still the most beautiful city in the world): and perhaps because the members of the band were born in East Germany and grew up during a time where the world was divided into two conflicting powers, they included a song about Moscow right after America, in the same line of criticism. The lyrics compare the city of Moscow with an elegant and kind of old woman who prostitutes herself and that, despites of that, is loved by the man singing, who still finds her beautiful, so it also features female vocals along the song. This could be some sort of metaphor about the falling of the URSS and comunism, how the country has had to abandon its values, open up and transform its economy into one more capitalist in order to attract more money. The song returns again to the fast rythms and the verse are lead by two guitars, each playing a different riff, and in the chorus the vocals follow a structure of question-answer with male and female voices. During the bridge, guitars turns off leaving space for a drum kind of solo that is followed up by the ending chorus again.
–Morgenstern (It warms my breast and shakes where life beats to see with the heart, she is simply beautiful): from this point, we could say that the album turns more ‘tender’, of course all the tender Rammstein can be… I wonder for a long time what is the actual meaning of the song we’re talking about now. On the surface, it seems to be about a girl so ugly she has to hide in order not to scare people, and she and some person who loves her, maybe her beloved or her father, pray to the stars to make her beautiful. But I don’t get why some fifty year-old men would sing about teenage feelings and topics, specially if their music is not aim to fifteen-year-old girls. Maybe it’s a critic about how we, humans, reject all that’s different from our ideals, or the huge hypocrisy we all fall in regarding this topic. On the other hand, I’m not sure I like much the music for this one. They try to mix so much different sounds that ends up being a bit awkward. They incorporate a classical choir with a rythm that reminds me of some dance songs which doesn’t fit quite well, although the desperate melody of the chorus goes great with the part when the guitar turns harder while Lindemann hisses that ‘But you, you’re ugly’, full of hatred and disgust.
–Stein um Stein (I’m going to build you a house. Every stone will be a tear, and you’ll never move out again): after the fast and powerful songs we’ve been hearing through the whole album, it’s time to slow down things for a while. This song starts with a such a slow and melancholic melody, built by guitar and synthesizer, while the lyrics are sung sweetly. One could thing that the singer must be talking about something heartbreaking, or at least pitiful, like a lost love, loneliness, the nonsense of existence. But not, this is a hatred song, and he’s actually talking about walling someone, maybe someone you love but who leaves you with any other option (I’m joking, but could be, who knows?), so that the chorus breaks with a breathtaking force, pushing as away from the dreaminess the verses can lead us to. I would have prefer that the whole song would had been calm, the unexpected of the chorus bothers me, and that’s why I’ve never put much attention on it every time I listen to the album.
–Ohne dich (Without you, I count the hours without you. With you, the seconds stand still, they aren’t worth it): here is the little diamond in this album, the song everyone knows the lyrics to and sing along in concerts. There’s no rage, no anger, no hate, no wicked riffs and hard guitars, just the desperation of the abscence, the weigth of the nothingness of a war lost beforehand, the cold of a future that will never exist, the anguish of not-being. The music fits this mood by an orchestral introduction and solos, backed by an acoustic guitar line, and the power of electric ones only shows up while chorus is sounding, expressing the inevitable of the situation the singer is going through. What else could I say? A round song from the beginning to the end.
–Amour (It drops softly like snow, first it gets hot, then cold in the end it hurts): I posted the lyrics to this one here some time ago and it’s my favorite song out of the album, an out of all the songs I’ve ever heard. Who hasn’t been carried away by the destructive side of love? Who hasn’t been tortured by that dark feeling? So, like in Stein um Stein, the song starts with a calm melody, even during the chorus, while Lindemann recites with his low voice. When the second verse it’s over, the music comes into life with electric guitars which lead to a painful and desperate solo, while the singer sharpens his voice. The song ends with a really heavy and dark coda, which puts a great end to a perfect album.