Review Summary: 'F & M' is a sterner attempt at delivering something new, but in that change, something gets lost in translation.
One of Skills in Pills
’ biggest dividing points came from Till’s decision to approach his vocals and lyrics in English – defying the natural choice of going with his native, German tongue to angle a more interesting experience that went against the grain of his usual style. And sure, I can understand why people would see the jarring presentation of Till’s sometimes stilted performances on Skills in Pills
as a detriment to the songs, or the lyrics being so outrageously campy they look as though they’re taking aim at the lowest common denominator, but to that, I would say you’re missing the very point of Lindemann. It’s no secret that Till Lindemann relishes in all the perversions sex has to offer (or so he would want it to appear in the public eye), to the point where I wouldn’t put it past him trying to get a hold of and solve the Lament Configuration puzzle box – to attain the unfathomable reaches of pleasure and pain this world can’t offer. But equally, he has as much of a sense of humour that mirrors his desire for the darker sides of sex, and to that end Skills in Pills
offers a harmonious balance of both: excess taken to the max. It’s satire I found greatly enjoyable – and still do – but more than that, I thought the English sung vocals were a masterstroke that elevated the comedic disposition of Skills in Pills
and brought something a little different to the table.
So when the announcement of F & M
came about, I was met with both surprise – considering this is the same year Rammstein broke their ten-year silence with the excellent Rammstein
– and a minor washing of disappointment that Till opted to shift back into his modus operandi. Indeed, F & M
sounds like Lindemann on a compositional and sonic level, but vocally the record is sung entirely in German. Whether I’ve been living under a rock and it turns out the collective masses always detested the English-sung debut, forcing him to better think his approach for the sophomore LP, or he caved in on his own insecurities – as it was the second half of Lindemann, Peter Tägtgren, who suggested he sing Skills in Pills
in English, with Till begrudgingly agreeing – remains to be seen. Regardless, one of the more unique aspects of Lindemann has been scrapped for a different perspective this time around, and the results are plain to see. F & M
is a solid and enjoyable metal album, and that’s about where it ends. There’s nothing distinct, colourful or particularly interesting to unearth here, it’s just good, competent metal music. After a couple of spins with the album, I thought there may have been more to the record the more you sat down with it. Unfortunately, the more time I gave this record, the more glaring the problems became.
The biggest issue and most persistent flaw I found throughout almost all of F & M
’s songs was that they had an excellent set up, but were then immediately marred with a dull symphonic, watered-down chorus that didn’t suit the overall tone the verses were initially offering. That’s not to say there’s anything obnoxious here, but when you hear the sinister opening of “Ich weiß es nicht”, which sounds like Mutter
-era Rammstein with Till’s guttural rasps and the disturbing industrial sample backdrop, it’s a little disappointing that the resolve is always looking towards a sugary chorus with a symphonic backing. There’s a lot of really great ideas at the heart F & M
’s songs, but there was a constant niggle that felt as though something was always missing in these pieces. A little dive into the lyrics also revealed a much more grounded approach in the writing, adding to the banality overall. Of course, there are a couple of noteworthy moments here that stop it from being completely forgettable. The folky “Knebel” is a superb piece of writing and offers an infectious melody and some bouncy acoustic guitar playing for its first half, before obliterating the silence for the second half with heavy riffs and Till’s excellently performed screams. The smooth “Ach so gern”, with its foot-tapping double bass groove and mandolin tremolo in the background, had me picturing Till and Peter, suited and booted, playing in a smoky dive in Spain; it’s a curve ball that is completely out of context with the rest of the record, but it brought life into the eccentric personality this band once had. While “Platz Eins” dips its toe into the retro electronica of the 90s, sitting on a bedrock of techno-infused synths and Lindemann’s usual grinding riffs.
F & M
is an enjoyable album, and it will appeal to a much broader audience than that of its predecessor, but I feel the duo have thrown the baby out with the bath water here. The album plays things very straight this time around: gone are the debauched, self-contained and thematic chapters to an overall story, in favour of a much more grounded record that rarely shows its original selling points. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this of course, but if you’re going to strip one of your most distinct traits away, you’d better make sure everything else is up to an enhanced standard. And that’s the crux here – musically there’s nothing really standout to make it more memorable than its predecessor, it’s just a good wholesome metal album with a couple of eccentric moments to help it chug along.
PACKAGING: A5 digibook with various stills and (German) lyrics. A nice package, but it isn’t particularly interesting or out of the norm. 3.5/5
SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: This edition comes with two bonus tracks: a metal rendition of the seedy “Ach so gern”, and a new version of the contentious “Mathematik”. The former is an inferior version that lacks the charm of its original, while the latter – ominous, trap inspired – “Mathematik” is an improved version that removes the horrendous rap breakdown sections. 3/5
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://shop.rammstein.de/en/showroom/lindemann-single-steh-auf-album-f-m