In their 25th year, German electro-industrial steamrollers Rammstein remain der Goldstandard for New German Hardness, with their mix of industrial sternness, techno hedonism, and metal aggression. Their seventh album lands somewhere between Faith No More and Franz Ferdinand, taut grooves meshing with bludgeoning riffs and disturbing stories. Lead single "DEUTSCHLAND" is scabrous, politically volatile doom-disco laying out conflicted feelings about living in their homeland, even tweaking the verse of the national anthem used in the country's fascist past. The rest follows the chug and bombast of albums like 2001's Mutter and 2009's Liebe ist für alle da: "RADIO" is like a heavy metal Kraftwerk, "SEX" is snaky glam-sludge, and "PUPPE" is a creeper with a coming-undone performance from lead singer Till Lindemann.
Rammstein became superstars in their native Germany upon the release of their 1995 debut, Herzeleid. However, the industrial-leaning metal band can thank David Lynch for laying the groundwork for the U.S. success of their second album, 1997’s Sehnsucht: The director used a pair of songs from Herzeleid in his high-profile film Lost Highway, which landed in theaters several months before Sehnsucht hit stores.
These two tunes, “Heirate mich” and “Rammstein,” also appeared on the star-studded Lost Highway soundtrack—meaning the group were already rubbing elbows with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, and Marilyn Manson. Rammstein’s brawny hard rock fit right in with the output of those musical titans, as Sehnsucht (a word that translates, roughly, to the concept of “longing” in the English language) paired chugging metallic riffs with gruff vocals and futuristic electronic effects. This approach is best embodied by “Du hast,” a rock-chart hit driven by insistent programming pulses and aggressive guitar shards, and the slower “Engel,” which employs sinewy grooves and disorienting digital bursts.
Yet Sehnsucht succeeded because of Rammstein’s flair for the dramatic and well-honed sense of dynamics. Expressive frontman Till Lindemann barks out his German-language lyrics like a poised stage actor on the menacing strut “Spiel mit mir.” That song is directly followed by the equally ominous “Klavier,” which alternates between quiet verses full of spidery piano and crashing, loud choruses. Confident and seductive, Sehnsucht was a creative high point of the ’90s industrial-metal boom.