Time stops for no one, not even the two-time Grammy Award-nominated Rammstein. Returning with their second collection of new material in three years, the Industrial Metal titans are set to deliver the aptly-titled Zeit on Friday, April 29, 2022, thanks to Universal Music.
At this point, we all know the story of the purveyors of Neue Deutsche Härte, a sextet who managed to conquer lands far beyond their native Germany and reap all of the accompanying rewards. It all started with their debut full-length, Herzeleid, which arrived in 1995, just a year after their formation. And it’s no real shock that Rammstein would go on to tour the globe behind five additional records—including their international breakthrough, 1997’s Sehnsucht, as well as 2001’s Mutter and 2005’s Rosenrot.
Skipping over many chapters of the band’s history, we find the members of Rammstein—Vocalist Till Lindemann, Guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers, Bassist Oliver Riedel, Drummer Christoph Schneider, and Keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz—facing quite the conundrum. It’s fall 2020, and thanks to the void created by the postponement of their highly-anticipated stadium tour, they have opted to return to the studio. Self-producing with the help of longtime collaborator Olsen Involtini (Seeed, Kummer), they shun typical restraints, instead, allowing themselves the freedom to experiment and find joy in the spontaneous.
Thanks to this shift, Zeit, or “Time” in English, is a collection of tracks that, in some of its most inspired moments, feels mature and thoughtful. And yet, despite an extensive catalog of back material that confronts a myriad of serious topics, at times, it can feel as though Rammstein has also become synonymous with on-stage acts of (mock) sodomy and songs like “Pussy,” “Mein Teil,” and “Bück Dich.” Fortunately, this particular 11-song journey feels like a natural extension of 2019’s untitled/self-titled disc, but it also stands as its own entity, one that sees Lindemann and co. sampling a range of new flavors. Although, many fans will no doubt be happy to hear that they remain loyal to their infamously poor taste, giddy to remind us that they will never not love a nice pair of Squishmallows.
The more pensive version of Rammstein comes, not as a shock, but as a return guest. What shined brightest on many of their previous LPs provides a framework for this material, emanating from tracks such as the dark lullaby “Meine Tränen” and its evocative echo, “Lügen,” as well as album namesake, “Zeit.” In this lament for time, a force that knows no mercy, Kruspe opens an escape hatch for his cohorts to transcend their gossamer moments, shifting gears toward something much closer to the band’s signature Hard Rock/Metal sound. Closer in scope to the former, macabrely balladesque pair, the stunning piano intro to “Schwarz” sets an emotional tone as it builds into the full bounty of the ensuing song, displaying the band’s individual talents and passion for their craft.
Despite these moments of grandeur that allow the band to step outside of the box that they have built around themselves, it’s pretty safe to say that the vast majority of Rammstein’s English-speaking fandom does not exist to worship the band’s lyrical IQ. And so, never ashamed to be hopelessly hormonal, they proudly nestle themselves into the cushy “Dicke Titten,” a straightforward track that pairs perfectly with the second single, “Zick Zack.” The latter does offer an underlying commentary on beauty standards and the desire for eternal youth, allowing the two-ring circus to cycle back to the album’s title and (loose) theme.
Somewhere in the middle of these spheres is where the bulk of Zeit lies. Songs like “Armee der Tristen” thump ominously, while “OK” opens to choral vocals before racing through its chugging rhythms. An intriguing listen, it sits flawlessly beside the dirty bass of “Angst.” (But don’t be fooled into believing these European rockers are moving to Seattle: the German “Angst” translates to “Fear.”) Then there’s the powerhouse “Giftig,” born of a similar cloth to “Deutschland,” sonically speaking. Reveling in its toxicity, the track is an undeniable earworm meant to entrance its listeners.
And yet, their grand finale is the real show-stopper—for a multitude of reasons. Anchored by Lorenz’s melancholic piano, the disparate elements of “Adieu” wander across peaks and valleys as Rammstein seemingly lines up like the von Trapp family (Lindemann as little Liesl) to say “Auf Wiedersehen.” Given that this is the final track, it’s hard not to consider that perhaps, after nearly three decades of award-winning and boundary-pushing debauchery, Rammstein is finally taking some time to go and smell the edelweiss. (Or, more likely, they are simply playing a game with our hearts and minds.)
Whatever the case, Zeit shows Rammstein stepping up their game, offering more intelligent food for thought while remaining true to their deep-seated roots. It’s a bold record from a band that has made a stellar career out of being ballsy, a quirky narrative that dares to stop time so that its listeners might parade their sadness and worship female anatomy. In this, the group’s signature sense of humor remains intact as they move into the next phase of their career. What that will be, only these six talented artists know, but for the rest of us, the ride is bound to be just as shocking and titillating as the past 28 years. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Zeit 5 out of 5 stars. (Bizarre side note: Bryan Adams, yes, THE Bryan Adams, photographed the cover of the record. Apparently, everything he does, he does for Rammstein.)