In one of those ironies with which popular culture brims, Marilyn Manson was tarred with the stain of the Columbine shootings even though the perpetrators of that crime had no interest in his music, while Rammstein, whose noise the killers reportedly admired, largely escaped public scrutiny. The main reason, in all likelihood, was Rammstein's relative obscurity, circa 1999, as compared to Manson's, but there was another factor as well. Manson sings in English, and Rammstein's songs are in German -- meaning that most American guardians of morality had no idea what lead singer Till Lindemann was saying outside of a few random phrases they remembered from Hogan's Heroes. It sure was hilarious when Sergeant Schultz would yell "Schnell!" wasn't it?
On Mutter, the men of Rammstein -- Christoph Doom Schneider, Doktor Christian Lorenz, Richard Z. Kruspe-Bernstein, Paul Landers, Oliver Riedel and Lindemann -- wisely stick to their native tongue. Their Web site, Rammstein.com, offers an English translation of just one song, "Links 234," and even then, two unauthorized "suggestions" are presented in lieu of a definitive version. (Is it "Can hearts sing/Can a heart shatter" or "Can hearts speak/Can one torment a heart"? Monolinguists may never know . . .) Fortunately, though, uncertainty works to Rammstein's advantage. Hearing Lindemann shout "Bang! Bang!" in the midst of his otherwise incomprehensible sputtering on "Feuer Frei!" gives the proceedings an additional, well, bang! bang!
Not that the music is otherwise especially intimidating. With rare exceptions, such as the gentle introduction to the title track, which emerges as a kind of Teutonic power ballad, Rammstein specializes in Wagnerian metal that's fairly old-fashioned; its big riffs and anthemic choruses aren't all that far removed from the oeuvre of the Scorpions or Judas Priest. Moreover, the group is so unwaveringly straight-faced that accouterments like the Mr. Roboto vocoder in "Spieluhr" seem downright riotous.
But, of course, Rammstein isn't as deadly serious as it lets on. Anyone who's seen the act's extremely theatrical concerts, which showcase more fire than The Towering Inferno, understands that despite their stern exteriors, the players are having the time of their lives. In other words, Mutter is good, clean, Germanic fun that won't push any kid off the deep end who wasn't headed there anyway.
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Rest easy, moms and dads. Junior's going to be just fine.