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Released: September 27th (November 16th in the US)

Ah, Rammstein... are they named after a battering ram? Or are they named after the German town where a 1988 air show came to a tragic end after three Italian fighter planes collided and landed on a crowd of people, killing seventy and injuring hundreds more? The debate rages! However, despite my always having given them the benefit of the doubt, I noticed their fourth and latest album may provide a clue to the answer. Seeing the words "Flugrekorder, nicht öffnen" (flight recorder, do not open) on the album cover made me a tad suspicious, as did the subsequent inlay photos of said recorder in an obviously post-crash torn and smashed condition. Clue to the band name's origins? I'll leave you to decide for yourself...

Apart from all that though, what is the album actually like? Well you may have to forgive/correct my incomplete grasp of the German language throughout, but the word Reise translates as "travel" or "voyage", and upon opening the case you will find the CD embossed with what looks like a map of the north pole (although I am frequently wrong about these things). In keeping with this the first track opens with the strangely synthesised sounds of what is obviously supposed to be the cries of seagulls, and a song about a seaman's voyage. The chorus then kicks in, and this is where you realise that this is definitely good ol' Rammstein, only with an indefinable twist which wasn't present on the more regimented Mutter. As the album goes on this feeling persists, although what the twist actually is is difficult to pinpoint. It seems easier to just put it down to the album being a more experimental version of Mutter, the old next-album, band-maturing phenomenon of somehow breaking free without being terribly different. All this twist business also distracts you from realising that nothing else on the album appears to be relevant to the built-up voyaging theme (unless, of course, said twist involves the band voyaging into unknown waters musically). If I come across sounding disappointed I'm not, as none of this is really bad, and in fact I may actually like Reise, Reise more than Mutter due to its greater diversity and broader scope of sound.

Anyway, enough rambling, here are the tracks:

  1. Reise, Reise - the title track seems to be a strangely Moby Dick-esque Man vs Fish tale set at sea, with Rammstein's typically dark and heavy sound. Good but not too outstanding.

  2. Mein Teil - this translates as "my part" which can be (and having read the lyrics, is) German slang for penis. It is a song about cannibalism which makes a lot more sense in the light of the quote in the inlay: „Suche gut gebauten 18-30jährigen zum Schlachten“ - Der Metzgermeister which is apparently a quote from Armin Meiwes' online advert for a willing victim in the recent and notorious cannibalism case. It translates as: "Looking for a well-built 18 to 30-year-old to be slaughtered" - The Master Butcher. Their flippant treatment of a man being fed his own "beautifully flambéed" penis with a nice glass of wine will make you want to either laugh or vomit. (It also makes the chorus of "du bist was du ißt" - "you are what you eat" - a lot funnier and more subtle). A brutally heavy chorus makes this a satisfyingly wicked listen.

  3. Dalai Lama - it is the lyrics which save this quieter track as it isn't too great musically. It is a more serious and very poetic song (not surprisingly, as it is apparently based on Goethe's poem Erlkönig) about a father and son on an aeroplane during a storm. The child is convinced that the "king of the wind" wants to take him, which becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy when his father holds onto his terrified son so tightly that he squeezes the life from him. Interestingly, the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is afraid of flying.

  4. Keine Lust - basically, "no desire." Although commonly used to express the desire to do something (or lack thereof in this case), Lust can also mean the same as it does in English, thus lending itself to the usual Rammstein-style puns. The song's energetic and unusual 3/4-time heavy riffing inexplicably blends with the sentiments of the lyrics - that the guy just can't be bothered to do anything except lie there and "count the flies". Ich habe keine Lust!

  5. Los - this is another departure from the norm, with a dark and brooding riff courtesy of an acoustic guitar which, accompanied by a harmonica in the chorus, makes this a sort of evil country song you can march in time to. I can't quite make sense of the song's message, packed as it is with German language puns using the word/suffix "los", but it basically says they were nameless and songless, now they aren't, and we'll never get rid of them. Strange, but good.

  6. Amerika - a highlight on the album, and yet another diversion for Rammstein, this time into the world of political satire. It is more a dig at the ubiquity of Westernised culture throughout the other cultures of the world, but places the blame (perhaps unfairly) with America and its capitalist greed for so relentlessly and insidiously forcing it upon them. The chorus is in English, another first for Rammstein, with the catchy and very sarcastic "We're all living in America / Amerika ist wunderbar!" reminding us that American consumer culture is so prevalent in most countries that we might as well be living there. In case the listener hadn't picked up on this, the bridge, again in English, makes their feelings clear with a gruff "This is not a love song". The tune itself is almost cheery with sarcastic joy, but still heavy enough to headbang along to, and even if you don't agree with the message it's a darn fine track. The video is also well worth a look, and might even make you feel ashamed to be a westerner.

  7. Moskau - yes, you guessed it, a song about Moscow strategically placed right after a song about America. Another less-than-flattering tribute to "the most beautiful city in the world", this time comparing it to an old prostitute you just can't stay away from. This is another favourite, not only because of its energetic beat and unusual sound but because some lines are actually in Russian, sung Tatu-style by a female vocalist, which cleverly rhyme with the German.

  8. Morgenstern - this translates as "morningstar" and once more Rammstein have lost me. I'm not too sure what/who they're talking about with this one, but what/whoever the morningstar is, Rammstein don't like it. A heavy track featuring a choir as backing and some dark lyrics telling the morningstar that he/she/it is very ugly indeed.

  9. Stein um Stein - my definite favourite, from the first listen. Slow, melancholy and with a very heavy chorus, Stein um Stein (stone by stone) begins almost sweetly, promising someone to build them a house, and only as the song progresses do we see that this house will have no windows or doors and that he means to wall in the poor person in question stone by stone. Very dark and melodic, and I love it.

  10. Ohne Dich - "without you." What, a love song? Well, this is Rammstein, it's a lost love song. Nevertheless, it came as quite a surprise, and hearing gentle lyrics being sung in German still doesn't sound quite right, but as always they are rife with poetic melodrama. Amidst pronounements that the birds no longer sing, the chorus proclaims "Ohne dich zähl ich die Stunden, ohne dich / Mit dir stehen die Sekunden / Lohnen nicht ohne dich" which translates as "Without you I count the hours, without you / With you the seconds stand still / Without you they aren't worth it."

  11. Amour - apparently it isn't just me that thinks this is a slightly disappointing note to end an album on, but it is nonetheless a good track. Another slow one, this time describing love from the tired and cynical eyes of someone who has evidently not had a good experience. Comparisons with love to a wild beast persist throughout, and toward the end as the guitars kick in the singer is begging to be given poison. If it were in the middle of the album rather than the end I think it would have a better impact on the listener, although as it stands it is still one of the better tracks.

So that's my two cents. Definitely worth a buy if you're into that sort of thing, and worth a try if you're not. There is enough diversity on this album to please those who may not have liked Mutter, and enough of the traditional sound to please those who did. Is it better? I think it might just be.

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