Even as the charges have ostensibly been dropped, the recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Rammstein’s frontman are likely to leave a foul taste in many mouths; that coupled with Cleopatra Records’ superfluity of tribute compilations would seem to make the timing of this album rather ill-advised. Still, Rammstein has long been the most visible and commercially successful entity in the style known as Neue Deutsche Härte, and with each member of the sextet universally credited for each song in their oeuvre, one could argue that a bad apple should not be allowed to completely taint the entire crop. As well, with this being a collection of covers, those fans left disillusioned by recent events now have an opportunity to enjoy without guilt some favorites as interpreted by other voices.
Any compilation is a mixed bag by nature, and covers even more so. It’s worth noting that the album is bookended by two distinct covers of Rammstein’s biggest hit, “Du Hust,” with the first featuring the collaboration of Mark Gemini Thwaite, Burton C. Bell, and Paul Ferguson – an impressive lineup in itself, the trio’s rendition is not only faithful to the song, but amplifies their individual strengths as MGT’s expressive guitar work fulfills many of the original’s keyboards; it’s not lacking for the absence of those choirs that adorn the original’s chorus, and Thwaite’s additional solos are certainly rendered in the spirit of Richard Kruspe. Ferguson’s drumming is as powerful as ever, while Bell’s vocals bellow in all their metal glory. In contrast, the closing version by Leæther Strip is a more monotone offering that skimps on chordal variation and simply lacks any nuance or energy beyond Claus Larsen’s signature EBM beats… but at least it’s the last track overall.
Some tracks, like Stoneman’s take on “Ich Will,” Lacrimas Profundere’s “Keine Lust,” or “Feuer Frei!” by The 69 Eyes take a somewhat safe route of remaining 100% faithful to the originals, only infusing some heavier growling and added keyboard orchestrations for good measure. Unfortunately, the same could be said of Juilen-K’s rendition of “Radio,” for while the synth tones are exceptionally well crafted and Ryan Shuck’s voice is treated with some additional distortion, it does little to distinguish itself from its source, although it’s notably a departure from what one would expect of Julien-K.
By and large, the album upfronts the strongest tracks, with the exception of the penultimate “Mein Teil” by Original God and There Is No Us. The martial drums and overall production have that sheen of modern alt. metal, with the vocal layering going right for the jugular with only the subtlest hints of the song’s inherent operatic pomp. Front Line Assembly infuses “Deutschland” with their signature electro/industrial potency, the guitars recalling the band’s own Hard Wired or Millennium era more than Rammstein, while SKOLD follows with his only darkly atmospheric take on “Sonne.” The absence of guitars in Priest’s “Engel” might seem jarring at first listen, but the rhythmic electronic throb makes up for it and even accentuates the whistling riff. On their slightly ghoulish take on “Ausländer,” Jah Wobble and Jon Klein slow things down a bit to allow the bass and percussion to shine through, but the real surprise of the album is Laibach – a band that has famously influenced Rammstein, now returning the tribute – going into a hillbilly mariachi exploration of “Amerika.” It may sound confounding, but it tonally services the song’s lyrical themes far more profoundly than a more Teutonic direction would have, not to mention the inherently pure Laibachian wit and irony of it.
Despite the cover bearing a greater resemblance to Iron Maiden’s Eddie, A Tribute to Rammstein provides what it should, with the misfires outnumbered by bangers that showcase the band’s solid songwriting. Conversations, discussions, arguments will as always ensue about separating art from the artist, holding artists accountable for their actions, taking other artists (like those featured on this collection) to task for honoring the work of bad actors… and such discourse should be maintained. Whether recent events will irrevocably tarnish Rammstein’s reputation in a historical context is beyond the purview of this article, but in this time and place, A Tribute to Rammstein is at least testament to the strength of the music being a key factor to the band’s renown.