Review Summary: Rammstein's foray into experimenting with their sound produces excellent results...
At first glance, ntoed industrial stomp-metallers Rammstein seem to have gone soft. Whereas their early releases featured insane techno-driven beats and monolithic walls of guitar, added with a few touches of strings and Till's expressive voice. Until Mutter, they kept this formula intact; and as their fans soaked up the sound of Metallica meets Kraftwerk and a bunch of other things, they decided to throw their fans for a loop. Reise, Reise was still a monolithic slab of industrial metal; but the techno influences were dropping and being replaced by a more atmospheric and symphonic touch to the music: not as if they were Nightwish, but the addition of female vocals (Moskau) and overdriven balladry (Ohne Dich) seemed to indicate a new sound.
Rosenrot is composed of mostly B-sides from Reise, Reise, and the funny thing is, this develops that more atmospheric and experimental side of the music; yet it doesn't suffer the expected drop in quality. A few tracks still recall the Mutter-era Rammstein, as the pyromania anthem "Benzin" attests, and Mann Gegen Mann's classic homosexual lyrics ("SCHWULAH") make the album instantly recognisable as a Rammstein disc. But some songs are definite curveballs: "Ein Lied" draws on a mournful guitar melody and quiet ambient vocals to drive its melancholy point home, and "Stirb Nicht Vor Mir" opts for a guitar jangle instead of a power chord crunch. And then in come English(!)-sung lyrics, just to make the whole thing one of the most unconventional Rammstein tracks to be ever released.
When Rammstein aren't fiddling with other languages (Stirb Nicht Vor Mir, Te Quiero Puta!) or odd trumpets over sexual lyrics (again, Te Quiero Puta!) they careen off into more artistic directions. Rosenrot and Hilf Mir seem literature-based songs (the later drawing on Der Struwwelpeter), continuing the tradition of the song Dalai Lama (which was based on Goethe's Erlkonig), which show a depth and clarity to the lyrics Rammstein didn't expose on for example Sehnsucht (where you could read every line as a metaphor for either fingering, anal sex, incest, paedophilia, or just weird fetishes). Their morbid humour returns here as well with the incomprehensible Zerstoeren, which recounts a tale of destruction and the meeting of a blind girl who dies. And last but not least, the theme of unrequited love returns in the form of "Feuer and Wasser", which is severely romantic but entirely creepy at the same time.
However, the band's biggest musical triumph is probably Spring, which combines their morbid sense of humour with an anthem about unintentional suicide, mass peer pressure, set atop droning bass lines, distorted guitars, and Lindemann's aggressive wail. As Till sings "Spring / Enttäusch mich nicht" (Jump / Don't disappoint me) you are almost granted with the vision of a young, distraught man on the top of a bridge. It ends with Till, the narrator himself, forcefully kicking him off the ledge; only Rammstein would be that cruel, and only Rammstein would make a song like that work. The depressive, mournful atmosphere just adds another layer of drama to the song, as if this were the cherry on some blackened soul's birthday (or should I say deathday") pie.
This may sound different for a fan that copulates to the crunching blasts of "Du Hast". But the atmospheric Rammstein produces an evolution possible in a band that was expected to be a one-trick pony; instead, they took their formula and added more on to it which shows that the depth and intelligence of this band, despite their image, is far beyond what the masses of unassuming parents will attest. This Rammstein album has something deeper to it, something to delve into; though it requires knowledge of their native German, this bonus element to the already awesome music (nothing here, except Ein Lied and Stirb Nicht Vor Mir, is below par) makes the album an exhilarating experience for any longtime fan. A recommended pick for anyone into the genre.