After an interminable decade-long absence from the studio, German metal titans Rammstein rekindled their flame, igniting a new era with their seventh effort, RAMMSTEIN. Celebrating the band's 25th anniversary, this precision attack is both a satisfying return to classic sounds and a fresh vision of the band that remains triumphant and, most shockingly, even elegant and graceful. RAMMSTEIN stands tall alongside the expansive scope and experimental textures of early-2000s releases Mutter and Reise, Reise, stepping aside from the blitz of their preceding effort, 2009's Liebe Ist für Alle Da. As Christoph "Doom" Schneider's drums pummel, the corrosive twin-guitar attack of Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers provides a fresh batch of addictive, headbanging riffs. Beneath the frontal assault, Rammstein remains groove-heavy and melodic, owing to both bassist Oliver Riedel and the band's ever-patient whipping boy, keyboardist Flake. Here, Flake in particular has more moments to shine brighter than he has in years. While the Herzeleid synths on the Kraftwerk-indebted "Radio" inspire appropriate nostalgia, the cheesy Euro-techno stabs on "Auslander" complement the equally unsavory subjects of the song itself. His finest work on RAMMSTEIN is the synth-washed centerpiece "Weit Weg," a soaring epic that conveys longing and loneliness through the lens of a voyeur, while elevating the lecherous subject matter with frontman Till Lindemann's poetic celestial imagery. It's not just an album standout, but a catalog highlight. In addition to the band's tightened execution, Lindemann has also advanced in terms of vocal delivery and lyricism. While Rammstein has always been more insightful and socio-politically minded than they're given credit for, mainstream controversy frequently distracts from their oft-misunderstood messages, which tend to condemn societal ills, not glorify them. This set is no different, as Lindemann delves deeper into the darkness by exploring topics such as fraught nationalism ("Deutschland"), religion ("Zeig Dich"), and the sex trade ("Auslander," "Puppe"). Whereas "Weit Weg" and "Deutschland" are the heights of RAMMSTEIN in terms of band performance, "Puppe" is a showcase for Lindemann. From the perspective of a young child, the father of two daughters examines the human toll of sex trafficking, the pain and rage of the lyrics exploding through his bloodied vocals on one of his most intense performances to date. By illuminating such perversions and the sordid side of ourselves and society, Rammstein's maturity and wisdom continue to evolve, even when they reliably dip back into the playful and satirical, like on odes to the less complicated delights of life ("Radio," "Sex," and "Tattoo"), and love and loss ("Was Ich Liebe," "Diamant"). Injecting their trademark sound with fresh flair, RAMMSTEIN is one of the band's best efforts, a potent distillation of all the elements that have endeared them to fans for two-and-a-half decades. After all these years together, it's a wonder that Rammstein continue to improve while still retaining the hunger and passion that has helped them amass a devoted following across the globe.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung