It's been three years since German sextet Rammstein broke through in the States on the strength of fiery live performances and the hypnotic single "Du Hast." According to songwriter/guitarist Richard

It's been three years since German sextet Rammstein broke through in the States on the strength of fiery live performances and the hypnotic single "Du Hast." According to songwriter/guitarist Richard Kruspe, the delay in following up 1998's platinum-certified "Sehnsucht" can be blamed on band politics.

"The problem is that Rammstein is a very democratic band, and like a democracy, it takes three times as long to make any decisions," he says, speaking through a translator. "That's why we needed three years."

Kruspe hopes fans will think "Mutter," due today (April 10) from Republic/Universal, is worth the wait. The album sees the band once again fuse pounding, industrial-tinged riffs with throbbing rhythms, dark-hued keyboards, and deep vocals. It's also sung entirely in German. But Kruspe says he's not worried about the lyrical content of the album's 11 tracks being lost on American listeners.

"One of the strengths of Rammstein, in my opinion, is its ambiguity," he says. "Even if they don't understand it, people can make up their own stories, their own impressions."

For "Mutter," Rammstein reunited with producer Jacob Hellner, who was key in creating an agreeable work scenario, Kruspe says. "For us, it is more important to have a creative ambiance than a well-equipped recording studio," he says of the South of France setting where the album was cut.

Kruspe notes that while "Sehnsucht" was heavily influenced by technology, the group made a conscious attempt to separate "Mutter" from that. "We wanted to get away from this dependency and diminish the role of electronic beats and write songs based more on instruments," he says. "As a result, the songs have become more mature."

Those songs include "Sonne," the album's first single in Europe, and "Links 2 3 4," the lead radio cut for the U.S. An animated video for the latter is in the works, and radio has already been serviced with a single. According to Kruspe, the song was written in response to critics who have mistakenly categorized the act.

"In the past, we were often accused of a certain militaristic leaning, but it seemed to us that no one was really interested in learning the truth," he says. "For those who want to put us into a certain political corner, the song says clearly, 'My heart is on the left.' But we didn't want to make it too simple, so we combined this statement with military-style music to make it more artistic and more interesting."

The Coalition of Independent Music Stores will co-sponsor a contest to send a winner to see the band perform live in Berlin. Meanwhile, Best Buy, the label's top retail account for the group, will offer an exclusive, limited-edition CD that includes a bonus track and the "Sonne" videoclip.

That clip is airing on M2, the first step in what Universal director of marketing Jill Capone describes as an aggressive TV campaign that also includes 15- and 30-second teaser spots on MTV centered around the album's street date. She says, "Visibility is the No. 1 marketing tool behind Rammstein, because their images are so great."

A large component of that strategy is the band's live show -- in which singer Till Lindemann frequently sets himself ablaze. The band will tour Europe through June. It will then return to America for the first time since the 1998 Family Values tour to either headline their own tour or to open for Pantera.

For the "Mutter" tour, Kruspe says the group might have a new trick up its sleeve. "We're playing with the idea of combining water with fire, because our album is called 'Mutter' -- 'mother' -- and you think of birth," he says. "And birth, after all, has something to do with water."

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