It's been a long wait, with the highly-anticipated sixth studio release from Germany's premier metal outfit shrouded in secrecy for the better part of a year... and the recent debut of the outrageous first single (not to mention the literally pornographic video promoting it) had fans wondering if the guys had finally gone off the deep end. But I'm here to let you know that Rammstein has not only reasserted their dominance with Liebe Ist Für Alle Da (loose translation: 'There is Love for Us All'), but have proven that they've still got some impressive weaponry left in their sonic arsenal.
I spent some quality time with the two-disc special edition (not the incredibly naughty deluxe set, which I'll tell you about later), and I'll break it all down for you below the jump, so buckle up your vinyl lederhosen and get in here!
After a somewhat disappointing reception for 2005 release Rosenrot (which admittedly had a couple of excellent tunes like Benzin and Mann Gegen Mann, but lacked energy overall), as well as rumors about friction between band members, there was some concern among devoted Germaniacs that this project may not come to fruition. I'll admit that I was also a bit concerned that the pure animal passion that propelled the masterful albums Mutter and Reise, Reise might have dulled a bit as the guys approach middle age. When I heard the first single from their as-yet-untitled sixth opus would be titled Pussy – and then heard the song itself – I started to wonder if the band had collapsed into silly, grotesque self-parody. When the video for Pussy made its debut (on a porn site, no less) I approached it nervously, but ended up laughing my ass off at its sheer audacity... and nearly threw up in my mouth a couple of times.
Basically the naughtiest novelty song ever recorded (you probably wouldn't have heard this one on Dr. Demento's radio show in the most lenient of times), Pussy was the flagship of a mega-sleazy promotional campaign that is so completely off the chain that it just might work. The band's ability to make you shout “holy crap, did I just see that?” certainly hasn't weakened, but the biggest question still remained before me: sure, that was fun and all, but what's the serious stuff sound like? I mean, at their best, these guys can rock the rivets off a cement truck. Can they manage it one more time? Thankfully, the answer to that one is a resounding “hell yeah.”
As silly as that single comes across, you'll have to admit is hard to get out of your head once you've heard the bizarre, Beavis & Butthead-friendly lyrics – which, like those of Amerika, are a mishmash of mangled English and German, the latter including lots of naughty riffs on words like “bratwurst.” It may be little more than a funny diversion in the final analysis, but it's really the only such item in the bunch; the other ten cuts are both meaty and mighty in equal measure.
We're back on welcome turf with the operatic strains that open the first track Rammleid: it's the first time lead singer Till Lindemann has chanted the band's name in a new song since their international breakthrough album Sehnsucht, and it assured me that the awesome skull-crushing beast that had been hibernating these past few years has finally awakened. The grandiose and darkly beautiful cut Ich Tu Dir Weh alternates icy ambient synth chills with gut-chomping riffs, both of the heavy grinding industrial variety and wiry, clean strums during the verses, peaking with Till's bold, superbly melodic vocals during the chorus. Wagnerian horn blasts open Waidmanns Heil, a higher-tempo industrial-metal epic driven by a crunchy, flanging riff and vocals so aggressive they sound almost bearlike.
Though one of the weaker cuts, Haifisch nevertheless sounds for all the world like Rammstein's take on Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus. You may recall the guys did a nice cover of Stripped a while ago, so you know they're up to the task, but it's not really their strong suit in my opinion. But all is forgiven with the arrival of B********, which is not actually a naughty word, but one Till reportedly made up himself (I've seen it written out as “Bückstabü”), which splits the earth's crust with one of the band's heaviest riffs ever – as well as Till's most ferocious line delivery – all done up with big, brassy orchestral accompaniment.
The tone softens a bit for the eerie ballad Fruhling In Paris, which drifts like cigarette smoke through gentle acoustic verses in a mixture of German and French lyrics, introducing a semi-breakbeat drum line, climaxing in glassy-sounding distorted synths during the refrain. The opening string washes of Wiener Blut led me to think I was in for more of their kinder, gentler side – until the buzz-saw riff kicked in and promptly sliced my ears off. The title track rolls along at a heart-stopping tempo, punctuated with fierce tremolo picking between each stanza of Till's verses, and accentuated by some of Christoph Schneider's finest drum-work and Richard Kruspe's soaring lead guitar in the bridge.
This one and follow-up Mehr collectively win as my favorite cuts of the bunch; the distorted arpeggios and tinkly piano intro of the latter belies an apocalyptic force lurking at the center, which rears its fanged head with a spiky riff that is a guaranteed fist-pumper, and even takes a surprisingly epic melodic turn in the bridge, before remembering to come back and beat your ass some more. The closing track Roter Sand continues the Rammstein tradition of ending albums on a plaintive note, and aside from the uplifting cinematic orchestral score (including a boys choir), it's one of their purest and most straightforward ballads; not since the early hit Engel has the band used whistling to such great effect.
The expanded set contains five superb bonus tracks, including another of my personal faves, the electro-infused Fuhre Mich, which features a brain-slamming riff reminiscent of the excellent Sonne; the operatic ballad Donaukinder and the Metallica-sounding ¾ time grinder Halt. We also get a warmer-sounding version of Roter Sand, minus guitars, but with some unusual, wordless backing vocals. The same whistled melody opens the final track Liese, which sounds like an alternate approach to the same tune.
In summary, this is far and away Rammstein's most varied and diverse project, incorporating elements of their industrial “dance metal” roots with heavy hits of thrash, a touch of grind, and just enough pop structures to summon some excellent hooks. If the band were to close up shop after this one (Lindemann has said that he plans on retiring at 50, which isn't too far off), I'd say they went out with a mighty roar, while managing to tug the heartstrings more than any gang of mad musical geniuses could dare to hope. If you love them only for their heavy, minimalist beat-driven riffage, or also appreciate their satiric edge and Wagnerian sensibilities, there's so much to love here... just like the title says.
Oh yeah... on the front page I mentioned there is a forthcoming special edition... and it's nearly impossible to describe without a barrage of double-entendres, so let's just get that part over with: this extra-large “package,” limited to a short run of “units,” is bundled in a silver travel case containing six purple... jeez, can I even write this?... let's just say six latex “personal products” designed to represent each “member” of the band. It also features a bonus tube of lube, in case you can't restrain yourself long enough for a trip to the local pharmacy, and a pair of handcuffs if you like to restrain yourself anyway. I didn't investigate whether the band actually underwent castings for these particular objects; I mean, there may be very few horrors truly off-limits to FEARnet, but... sheesh.
I was disappointed that we couldn't embed the clip for Pussy, but we can at least safely share this little featurette about the making of that video, which is mostly safe for viewing at work, assuming you have a fairly open-minded employer.