9. Rammstein, Rammstein (Universal)
Rammstein rivals Tool when it comes to making new music, but like Tool, it is always worth the wait. Still, though, although I was very much looking forward to Rammstein’s seventh album, I was not expecting it to be as strong as it turned out to be. What makes the band such a great shock rock act isn’t the fire and theatrics they bring to a concert setting (though that’s a large part of it) but rather their ability to bring a strong sense of psychodrama to the music. No band after Alice Cooper has been this consistent at it than Rammstein, and the triumphant self-titled record delivers the musical theatrics, in spades. The root sound remains the martial, industrial riffs slammed out punishingly by Paul Landers and Richard Krupse, but the deeper you delve into Rammstein, the more you hear the rest of the band shine. Drummer Christoph Schneider and bassist Oliver Riedel alternate between terrific grooves and melodic basslines, while keyboardist Flake is given the most room to showcase his talent we’ve seen in many years. He brings a Kraftwerk-derived sound to “Radio”, hi-NRG stabs to “Auslander”, and heightens the drama on such slower tracks as “Diamant” and “Hallomann”. Not surprisingly, however, singer Till Lindemann steals the show with his usual German bombast, but he takes his singing to another level on the revelatory “Puppe”, one of the finest pieces of rock/metal theatre I’ve heard in a long time. A character sketch of a young boy, he clings to his doll as his prostitute sister plies her trade in the next room with a constant stream of male abusers, and the more the physical torture goes on next door and the more the mental torture goes on in the boy’s head, the protagonist takes out his anger and confusion on the doll. This is some seriously dark subject matter, and the song is so evocative of that horror that it ranks right up there with Alice Cooper’s “Ballad of Dwight Fry”. It is an astounding centrepiece on an outstanding album. Rammstein is their best since Mutter in 2001.