After a relatively brief lapse of time since Rammstein's last release, Reise Reise--- just a touch under a year and a half, in fact--- the Deutsche musical juggernaut has presented its listening audience with Rosenrot. Released 3.28.06 (USA)through Republic, Rosenrot is the recording which might perhaps be Rammstein's most controversial work to date. The inflammatory qualities of the material, however, do not generally lie beyond the boundaries of their core, long time fanbase, whose devotion to Rammstein's music is anything but casual.
Indeed, there are some difficult central observations for a Rammstein fan to make after a few dozen honest, attentive spins of Rosenrot.
The first ties in with the fact that (roughly) half of the material released on Rosenrot was in reality a body of residual composition remaining from the Reise Reise sessions. Apparently, this material was deemed worthy to serve as the musical axis of a differently packaged/mixed recording--- and thus the band grafted several newer tracks onto this body of pre-existing work. This becomes a curious insight, if one examines one of the major gaps in Rosenrot--- which is trying to discern the over-arching identity of the recording and, by default, exactly where and how this album, as a whole, fits into the musical pantheon of Rammstein's catalogue to the present time. From start to finish, Rosenrot throws out the flickering glow of being two EPs, each with its own collective feel, but sculpted out as a single, full length LP.
The second pertains to sound mix. The songsmithing on Rosenrot is generally (though with some exception)--- and in contrast to prior works--- less edgy, it is more consciously indulgent, and it breathes with the very deliberate air of a band that is in search of new sounds and (perhaps as a natural by-product) a wider audience. In spite of this, the final choices made at the mixing console tend to indicate an increased thickness of guitar strength, which would have been smashing if Rammstein had released a more thoroughly metal-oriented recording. This curiosity is then compounded by scattered but noteworthy moments throughout the recording which outline a diminished presence (which has nothing to do with the actual quality) of Christian Lorenz's arrangements on synth/keys--- if one is prepared to formulate this consideration alongside each prior Rammstein release, of course. For a band whose past four releases have all yielded a single-worthy song ratio of at least 75%, Rosenrot operates between 40-50%. "Spring" (marvelous story/plot, but average song composition), "Hilf Mir", and (in particular) "Stirb Nicht vor Mir" (Cuddling up to soft rock radio play, presumably?) and "‘Te Quiero Puta!" (whether critics choose to love this simply because it is in Spanish is irrelevant, this song itself is inane)--- these do not come across with the vigour and enthusiasm which are typically so easy to identify in Rammstein.
The recording draws the curtain up with "Benzin", a guitar laden and mild double bass flirtation, which effectively captures Rammstein's long standing flair for multi-sided interpretations: either a open-ended statement which addresses our dependency on non-renewable energy, and its rising cost, or simply an ode to the band's time honored love for fire and explosives. "Mann Gegen Mann" proceeds the first track--- an intentionally rousing commentary on (not merely) homoerotic love, but also a criticism directed towards societies/groups which are unwilling to co-exist with it. Reasoned messages aside, the music is rather blase, with one basic riff filling up most of the measures. The dynamics? Quiet-loud-quiet-loud, etc.
Not that Rosenrot is without its merits, mind you. Do not be mistaken. The most palpable example comes by way of the words. Lyrically, areas of this recording may showcase some of Rammstein's finest moments--- if measured in terms of creativity, and Till Lindemann's exquisite talent for harnessing the beautiful and weighted, lilting cadences which naturally occur in the German tongue.
The title track Rosenrot moves in for the third slot. After all is said and done, it is clearly one of this release's strong trump cards, and enjoys a near perfect placement within the general song order. Rosenrot (the song) crawls thickly and also coldly, to extraordinary effect, thanks to Oliver Riedel's exquisitely dressed bass effects. Till Lindemann moves up on the chorus with the kind of melodic command which Rammstein is so justly acclaimed for--- "Tiefe Brunnen muί man graben, wenn man klares Wasser will"... memorable, and with just the right touch of noble sentimentality. For those with a palate leaning more towards the band's heavy dabblings, then "Zerstφren" is the most likely to be rated as the premier entree on the Rosenrot menu--- it is frenetic, impulsive, and strikes like a rainstorm of boulders. There is little room for doubt as to whether or not this track will become a staple of the band's live performances.
The album's two strongest tracks, from the standpoint of structure, feel, and stylistic coherence, were wisely placed at numbers five and ten, which aids greatly in evening out Rosenrot as best as possible. "Wo Bist Du" achieves the high water mark of Rammstein's newer musical directions fantastically, all while maintaining and acknowledging certain compositional consistencies with their musical legacy. The other--- "Feuer und Wasser"--- is a track worthy enough to eventually occupy a place alongside such ballad-powered Rammstein colossi as "Seemann", "Klavier", and "Ohne Dich". "Feuer und Wasser" is ambitious, grandiose, poignant without washing over as too sappy, and erotic without exhibiting any transparent juvenility. To merely read the words in English would truly be a crime; only in its mother tongue is the lyrical aesthetic fully realized.
Feuer und Wasser kommt nicht zusammen
Kann man nicht binden sind nicht verwandt
In Funken versunken steh ich in Flammen
Und bin im Wasser verbrannt
Rosenrot may be the most difficult of Rammstein's releases to wrap one's opinion around to date. Either the album is simply too nuanced for immediate, unconditional appreciation--- and perhaps needs some more time fermenting in the bottle--- or it is a case of two EPs posing as an LP, offered up to fulfill contract negotiations. In either case, Rosenrot--- with the exception of a few tracks--- will have a choppy time spending the years in the wake of its older siblings, during those circumstances where every release is measured as a whole. How Rosenrot translates the terms of the band's future direction will, strangely enough, take longer to distil than it will to release their next recording.