A piece-by-piece expert dissection of Rammstein’s Zeit
Rammstein remains one of the most inscrutable metal bands. While the Berliners do not hide behind balaclavas or masks, their eighth album Weather nevertheless comes to a frenzy of scrutiny as fans try to untangle every detail behind each song – understandable, given how much symbolism and weight have fueled both the lyrics and the title track’s gripping music video. from the album.
We doubt Till and co. will soon reveal all the subtle nuances of their powerful new release, so with that in mind, we instead turned to Karen Leeder, Professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Oxford, to help us decipher the incredible details that are entered into each song. And we learned a ground…
1. Armee Der Tristen (‘Army of Le Morne’)
“It is a rallying cry for the desperate and the abandoned. Listeners are urged to ‘fall in’ with the ranks of “Party of the Desperate”. He quotes the Communist Party Workers United Front Songwritten by Bertolt Brecht, and referenced on the 2001 album whisper also. But this alliance is existential: for the ‘depressed, saddened, broken… diabolical pessimist.’
The union will be based on “faded roses” drawn from the pathological undersides of romanticism. There is a pun: ‘walk to sad’ for the most normal ‘in Tritt’ (marching) before the chorus of banners ‘Kom mit’ invites the listener to be part of Lindemann’s night army but also to join the adventure of the album: ‘We close ranks / march in step against happiness.'”
2. Zeit (‘Time’)
“The second track is a ‘memento mori’ riffing on a 16th century German preoccupation with the ephemeral. Comfort is sought in the ‘Perfect moment’, in the arms of a lover or a life well lived. The choir offers the heartfelt injunction ‘Time, please stop, stop!’. That this is more complicated is suggested by ‘we keep dying until we live’ – a direct inversion of the line of Dalai Lama on Reise Reise (2004) ‘Wir mussen leben bis wir sterben’ – which touches on the Freudian death drive but also gives rise to the time-reversing images in the single’s brilliantly unsettling video.
Is it a containment song as the philosopher Slavoj Zizek suggested? Maybe, but the comment we always strive for (‘streben’) and the call in time to stay: ‘Verweile doch’ straight from Goethe Faustwhere the man who strives to make a bet with Mephistopheles never to settle for what the devil can offer him – under pain of his soul.”
3. Schwarz (“Black”)
“Schwarz begins with a reminiscence of a famous 19th century children’s evening prayer. But here, as the song says, ‘no prayer and no candle’ require to. The speaker is exiled from all light and salvation, gloating in the ‘the death of the sun’ and drink the black ‘in the deep drafts’. The night is a place of desire, represented here as a perverse mother: holding ‘many to his chest/Drinkers, whores and conspirators.’ If this track calls again Faust (the wandering soul with Goethe’s word “irren”), or the atavistic fantasies of the 20th century poet Gottfried Benn, it ends with the injunction ‘drink the black’ join the confederation of night.”
4. Giftig (‘poisonous’)
“Track four begins with an edgy oriental synth sound and a needle-punched chorus (‘You are poisonous, ah so poisonous’). The speaker was stung, bitten, it seems, while he slept. The culprit creature lurks camouflaged nearby. The vocabulary is deliberately archaic and evokes primitive fears. With the sharp teeth and paralysis of the victim, we are reminded of the High Gothic of the vampire and above all, the year of his 100th anniversary, the classic German film Nosferatu.
But, it turns out that the victim is consenting. As the poison courses through his veins, there is already a white light on the horizon, and he is glad there is no antidote. The erotic nuances appear in the last line: ‘The language is so deep.'”
5. Zick Zack
“Zick-Zack (an onomatopoeic phrase suggesting “snip snip and look sharp”) shifts to a more satirical contemporary vibe. It’s a grotesque ode to heightened contemporary ideals of beauty – but also to anything that can be unceremoniously cut and thrown away as the high camp video suggests (‘Belly fat in the organic trash / Now the penis sees the sun again’).
Behind the irony hides a feeling of mortality: “zick zack” modulating to the ticking of a clock: ‘Tick tock you’re old / your time is running out’. In the warning that beauty involves suffering, there is a hidden reference to DAF, the German electropunk band of the 80s. And in the ‘light wire scissors’ line, we hear an echo of a common warning to children against things that can be dangerous and inevitably bring pain.”
“OK is short for ‘Ohne Kondom’ – without a condom. It’s a fast-paced adventure filled with puns and sexual innuendo (“You have me in your hand”, “There are a lot of holes to plug”) as well as a repeated request to be mistreated. Difficult to fully decode but certainly hints of sadomasochism and anal sex.”
7. Meine Tränen (“My Tears”)
“In My tears, Rammstein fans will recognize another metaphorical matricide. This one depicts a mother and her adult son, still living together in a claustrophobic relationship in a house that is too small. They are alone and silent.
But it’s also a brutal relationship; the mother figure slaps the son’s face and demands that he not cry. The high pathos suggests this is meant to be a sympathetic portrayal of masculinity (“you should be ashamed / never show your tears”). But that doesn’t hide the familiar undercurrents of Freudianism (the son and father were brutalized by the smiling mother).”
8. Anguish (“Fear”)
“The starting point is again the family, the father threatening the naughty child with the ‘black man’, or the bogeyman. But we soon see countries and peoples arming themselves against what they do not understand and therefore fear. A powerful chorus calls out to the useless scapegoat: ‘Who’s Afraid of the Scarecrow?’.
The song has its roots in an 18th century German playground game, Black Man, a game linked to the folklore and history of the plague, and there are further allusions to the famous poem “Erlkönig” (” King of the Elves”) by Goethe, in which a goblin comes to steal a child as the embodiment of fear. But with households going into lockdown, we certainly have warnings here about COVID and Fortress Europe.”
9. Dicke Titten (“Big Boobs”)
“After the great drama of Anguish the next track arrives with a whimsical intro, much like an oompah band. Girls don’t need to be rich or smart, the post says, they just need big boobs. The image of the aging man losing hope and hair and fantasizing about massive breasts is rendered with wry pathos. But the quirkiness of this song is the way cheerful seaside smut sits alongside excursions into (Rammstein’s favourite) Wagner or Gottfried Benn and self-consciously ironic rhymes.”
10. Lügen (‘Lies’)
“Lügen opens with a melodic vision of happiness: lasting love and many children bathed in sunshine. The me of the song will be faithful, never swear, write poems, cook without fat and visit grandma. Now it has the sweet quality of an advertisement and it doesn’t take long for the guitar to arrive with the accusation: “Lies, all lies”.
Everything is deception, the I even lies to itself. No one believes everything, not even him. The song is about a Hofmann-style anguished “heartbreak” and the feeling that life is a banal illusion. There is, however, once again the threat that time is running out, that something will happen that will bring the truth to light.”
“What comes in the final track that says goodbye and teases multiple meanings that will have fans scratching their heads. Death is hailed is the only thing that will last forever. The body is doomed to decay. In counterpoint is a grand gesture from the barricades of time: ‘one last song, one last kiss’ (echoing the 80s punk band Die toten Hosen?).
The phrase ‘Jeder stir for sich allein’ (“Everyone dies alone”) is a watchword but also an anti-fascist resistance novel by the German author Hans Fallada. But in line with the first song, Goodbye offers community in death: ‘We will be by your side’ and later ‘you will always be with us’. The last line reminds us ‘the beautiful moment’ of the track Weather.”
Weather out this friday april 29th