Third studio album of German band Rammstein, released April 2001 on Universal Records. The title means "Mother."
I'm impressed. I'm seriously impressed. Rammstein have avoided the trap that so many bands have fallen into and have made their third album sound fresh while compromising neither on style nor on quality. From the viewpoint of an old-school headbanger this is arguably the best metal release of the last ten years... not since Metallica's black album have I really gotten into a heavy metal album like this.
I think this album demonstrates the evolution of heavy metal as a genre. Like Rammstein's previous work it's got a distinctly 1990s industrial sound to it but Mutter also incorporates musical forms of the 1970s and 1980s into a blend more reminiscent of the epic metal of the mid-1980s than their previous work. They seem to be letting their musical influences flow more freely; Mutter isn't as musically claustrophobic as the previous two albums. I like the artistic direction they've taken.
It's only July but I'm already pretty sure that this will be my favourite album released in 2001. I also consider myself fortunate to grok German when listening to this album--there is much depth and poetry in the lyrics which translates poorly. The title manifests itself, in the form of references to childhood, as a recurring theme in many of the songs. Sometimes just dark, sometimes liberating. I unreservedly recommend its purchase.
Track by track
1. Mein Herz Brennt (My Heart is Burning)
A slow start that reminds me a bit of Nick Cave's Murder ballads and which soon escalates into a nightmare of childhood fears. The monsters under your bed in this song make those in Metallica's The Unforgiven look tame. Musically, I get Rainbow flashbacks when listening to this track.
2. Links 2 3 4 (Hip-2-3-4)
Once again oblivious to the risk of being associated with national socialism, this song has a marching theme where "links, zwo, drei, vier" is the pace of marching. "Links" means left--a march begins counting one as the left foot forward--and "zwo" is correctly used in place of "zwei" as is the practice in both military jargon and colloquially in parts of Germany. It does mean "two" and the idea I've read elsewhere that it's the English "two" is nonsense.
3. Sonne (Sun)
The first of several anthemic songs on this album. The protagonist is the loser of a boxing match as he's being counted out. (Thanks VAG). I haven't seen the video but, were I to script it, I'd expect it to look like Rocky directed by Leni Riefenstahl.
4. Ich Will (I Want)
A Queen-esque "I want to control you, or at least have your attention" song. The sound is reminiscent of 1980s glam metal. Visuals of Roger Daltrey in Tommy and Freddie Mercury in Radio Ga-Ga.
5. Feuer Frei! (Fire At Will!)
They do sound a bit funny singing "Bang! Bang!" in English. I won't be sure until I hear it, say, fifty more times but the theme might be matricide. Decent track, though the traces of war-like noises are a bit off and it doesn't quite measure up to the rest of the album.
6. Mutter (Mother)
A mostly straight heavy metal song with epic and classical passages. The Scorpions-like opening chords quickly evolve into the very sad, hateful dirge of a child abandoned by its mother. Roger Waters would have been proud of it.
7. Spieluhr (Music Box)
This reminds me of Goethe's Erlkönig. The story tells of a music box buried with a child that's woken by the frost in the ground. The first line of the chorus, "Hoppe, hoppe Reiter," is the first line of a nursery rhyme which one might find in a German music box. An amazing, haunting track, this is doubtlessly one of their best songs. I think it will gain a spot on my playlist for the next decade or so.
8. Zwitter (Hermaphrodite)
A darkly humorous story of someone who assimilates his unwilling partner and becomes a hermaphrodite. Strong on homoeroticism and at times quite funny.
9. Rein Raus (In Out)
In the best Rammstein tradition, unabashedly Freudian. "I'm the key, you have the lock." I'd say this is the most similar to their older work. Enjoy.
Classic 1980s metal guitar riffs, somewhat similar to early Iron Maiden, alternating with Christian Death like ballad passages about a final, deadly, drug trip.
11. Nebel (Fog)
Musically a flashback to old-school Legendary Pink Dots. A song of farewell, the last kiss on a deserted beach. A perfect ending.
Personally, I consider Spieluhr, Sonne and Zwitter to be the finest tracks on this album, though Mutter is the one that sticks most, and Nebel's perfect positioning on the album makes it linger. YMMV. If you've liked Rammstein in the past, you'll most likely love this album.
And my translation of the lyric of the title track. I've taken some liberties with it since an exact translation would kill the meaning.
The tears of a mob of aging children
Onto a white hair I thread
Throw the wet chain in the air
And wish I had a mother
No sun to shine upon me
No breast wept milk for me
I have a tube stuck in my throat
I have no navel on my belly
I was given no nipple on which to suckle
Nor a fold to hide inside
Nobody gave me a name
Conceived in haste and without seed
To the mother who never bore me
Tonight this I have sworn:
I shall gift her a disease
Then let her sink into the river
An eel lives in her lungs
A birthmark marks my forehead
Remove it with the knife's kiss
Even if it means I'll bleed to death
Mother! Give me strength...