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Positive Feedback ISSUE 16
november/december 2004


Rammstein, Mutter
by Roger S. Gordon


Every now and then, I need to get in touch with my inner barbarian. When that happens, I reach for a head-banging heavy metal album. Godsmack, Korn, Metallica, and Tool are okay, but when I really want to return to my Teutonic roots, nothing does it like Rammstein. The simplistic verses, sung in guttural German and driven by hard-hitting percussion, hit the spot. I used to think that my predilection for Rammstein was an aberration, but at the recent Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, many people enjoyed the copy of Rammstein's Mutter that I was carrying around so much that they wrote down the CD info so that they could get their own copy.

What does Rammstein sound like? People have described them as Goth, Kraut Rock, and/or Industrial Metal. On this, their third album, the German sextet adds a string section, as well as a synthetic soprano and chorus. It is hard to describe, but it works., When I saw people in their 60s tapping their toes and nodding their heads in time to the beat in the demo rooms at the Audio Fest, I knew that the music was good. The fact that half the people in the room got up and left every time I played the CD also says something.

Is this music for you? Unknown. If you like rock and roll with a driving beat, you might want to give this album a try. Go to one of the websites that allows you to play music for free and listen to a few tracks. If you like what you hear, buy the CD. The lossy MP3 format does not serve Rammstein's music very well. One of the things that I like about Mutter is that it is very well recorded. The music is very rich in harmonics, and a lot of the subtle detail on the CD is lost in the MP3 format.

I recommend Mutter on vinyl. The LP is not available in the U.S., but can be ordered on the web from a number of European sites. The sonics of the vinyl are a mixed blessing. Even though the inner grooves run almost to the edge of the label, the engineers did not have enough room to put the entire album onto the LP without either compressing the dynamics or rolling off the bass. Fortunately, they decided to roll off the bass, and the dynamics of the vinyl are equal to that of the CD. What is missing from the vinyl is the bottom octave. My speakers are flat to 37Hz, and my subwoofer goes down to 17Hz. If I play the CD with the subwoofer turned off, it sounds very similar to the vinyl played through the speakers plus subwoofer. Why would you want the LP if it is missing the bottom octave? Because of the additional detail. With the LP, you get more of the subtle details of the recording. If I want head banging, I crank the CD up LOUD. If I am in a more pensive mood, I play the vinyl, also LOUD.

If you are planning to buy the LP, be forewarned. The quality of German vinyl has been declining of late. If you go onto some of the on-line vinyl chat rooms, you will find many mentions of the fact that many current German LPs have off-center spindle holes and dimples in the vinyl. I have run into both problems with different copies of Mutter. Caveat Emptor. Here's hoping that Mutter gets reissued on either a double LP or on SACD. It would nice to hear what is really captured on the master tape. Roger S. Gordon