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Rammstein

From Academic Kids

Rammstein is a German band formed in 1993. Their musical style, which they have dubbed Tanz-Metal, or "dance metal", incorporates elements of metal, industrial and electronic music. Their songs are performed almost exclusively in German.

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Rammstein bring on the flamethrowers - Globe Arena, Stockholm, 18 November 2004
Contents

The band

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A promo photo of Rammstein from around 2001

Rammstein takes its name indirectly from the western German town of Ramstein, site of an airshow disaster in 1988. The band's signature song, the eponymous "Rammstein", is a commemoration of the tragedy that took place at the Ramstein Air Base. The extra "m" in the band's name means that it translates literally as "ramming stone", or "battering ram", an appropriate name given the in-your-face nature of the band's music.

Even though the lyrics are not in English, the band has enjoyed huge success outside of Germany, and with the album "Reise, Reise" (2004), they became the most successful German-language band of all time worldwide. Rammstein has had several top ten singles in Germany.

The band's members all come from the former East Germany, specifically East Berlin and Schwerin. They are:

Riedel, Schneider and Kruspe-Bernstein were the original founders of Rammstein, following an attempt by the latter to compose American-influenced music with a West Berlin band called Orgasm Death Gimmicks. As Kruspe-Bernstein put it, "I realized it's really important to make music and make it fit with your language, which I didn't do in the past. I came back [to Germany] and said, 'It's time to make music that's really authentic.' I was starting a project called Rammstein to really try to make German music." He invited Till Lindemann, a basket weaver and drummer for the band First Arsch, to join the project as a vocalist. The four entered a contest for new bands and won, attracting the interest of Paul Landers, who knew them all and decided to join the band. "Flake" Lorenz was the last member to join; he had played with Landers before in the band Feeling B and was initially reluctant to come on board, but was eventually persuaded to join. Their first album was released a year later.

Lyrics and style

Although it cannot really be said that Rammstein stick to any particular genre of music, they are most often described as an industrial band; they are also often associated with heavy metal and hard rock. Some have categorised them with the controversial Neue Deutsche Hrte movement. Despite their brutalist image, they do show a sense of humour in their lyrics. Rein Raus ([Get] in, [get] out), for example, is clearly tongue-in-cheek. Zwitter ("Hermaphrodite") is a bizarre take on narcissism:

When the others searched for girls
I could already fertilize myself

Similarly, the song Amerika features the tongue-in-cheek lyrics:

We're all living in Amerika
Amerika ist wunderbar ...
We're all living in Amerika
Coca-Cola, Wonderbra!

and in the last lines:

We're all living in Amerika
Coca-Cola, sometimes war

Some of their songs show some unexpected influences. Du Hast is a play on German marriage vows ("You have asked me, and I have said nothing"), but it can also be understood as "You hate", which would be written "Du hasst" . Also, "Dalai Lama" is an adaptation of the famous poem Der Erlknig by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

The band almost always sings in German. Explaining why, Oliver Riedel comments, "German language suits heavy metal music. French might be the language of love, but German is the language of anger." (Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), October 24, 2004)

Rammstein's style has tended to divide critics, some of whom have responded with memorably dismissive comments: Jam Showbiz (April 2001) described Mutter as "music to invade Poland to"; New Zealand's Southland Times (Dec. 17, 1999) suggested that Till Lindemann's "booming, sub-sonic voice" would send "the peasants fleeing into their barns and bolting their doors"; while the New York Times (Jan. 9, 2005) commented that on the stage "Mr. Lindemann gave off an air of such brute masculinity and barely contained violence that it seemed that he could have reached into the crowd, snatched up a fan, and bitten off his head." That said, Rammstein has also attracted praise for their inventive lyrics and their uncompromising style.

Movie and video appearances

Within only a few years of starting their career, Rammstein soon caught the attention of Hollywood for their explosive stage performances and energetic music. The directors David Lynch and Rob Cohen appear to be particularly strong fans; explaining why he set the first 10 minutes of his thriller xXx in a Rammstein concert in Prague, Cohen said:

"I guess it was in 1997 I was going through Hamburg and I caught their [Rammstein's] show as they chased each other around with dildos spurting custard, the fire pots and all of that, this is a crazy band; they're very theatrical and exciting, but their music is very, very good and German; it's very interesting in terms of the energy it evokes." [1] (http://www.mymovies.net/interviews/text_feature.asp?featureid=FTRE/1523/1610200216091861&filmid=1523&sec=)

Rammstein's movie appearances to date are as follows:

Year Film Song
1997 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation Engel
  Lost Highway Rammstein, Heirate Mich
  Wing Commander Eifersucht
1999 The Matrix Du Hast (uncredited)
2001 How High Du Hast
2002 Resident Evil Halleluja
  xXx Feuer Frei! (performed live on film)
  Lilya 4-ever Mein Herz Brennt
  fear.com Sonne
2004 Resident Evil: Apocalypse Mein Teil
2005 Elektra Du Hast


Rammstein's song videos also tie in quite closely with films as they frequently "quote" from movies, including Quentin Tarantino's classic Reservoir Dogs in "Du hast" and From Dusk Till Dawn in "Engel".

Shows

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"Other bands play, Rammstein burns!" - Brixton, London, February 2005

Rammstein has achieved particular fame (not to mention notoriety) for its hugely over-the-top stage show, using so many pyrotechnics that fans eventually coined the motto "Other bands play, Rammstein burns!". The heat is so intense that on occasion, people have been carried out of Rammstein concerts suffering from heat exhaustion, and lighting gantries have been seen glowing red-hot from repeated fireball hits. The variety of the pyrotechnics can be seen in a recent concert playlist, which includes such items as "Lycopodium Masks", "Glitterburst Truss", "Pyrostrobes", "Comets", "Flash Trays" and "Mortar Hits". The band's on-stage antics have included:

  • Band members using head-mounted flamethrowers ("Lycopodium Masks", also called "dragon masks") while singing/playing;
  • Till Lindemann singing an entire song while on fire (he now uses twin flamethrowers strapped to his arms);
  • Simulated sodomy and a giant custard-squirting dildo;
  • Exploding drumsticks, drums, microphones and boots;
  • Flake Lorenz being roasted in a giant cauldron by a flamethrower-wielding Lindemann;
  • Rockets fired along cables strung above the audience;
  • Band members surfing the crowd in a rubber boat.

Rammstein's shows have become increasingly elaborate since the first ones 10 years ago, when their effects were confined to pouring kerosene around the stage and setting it alight. After some unfortunate early accidents the band took to employing professionals to handle the pyrotechnics; Lindemann himself is now a licenced pyrotechnician.

The band's costumes are equally outlandish. During the current "Reise, Reise" tour they have worn lederhosen, corsets and vague military uniforms with steel helmets, while during "Mutter" the group kept to the themes of the album artwork and descended onto the stage from a giant uterus wearing diapers.

According to Kruspe-Bernestein, the on-stage wackiness is entirely deliberate (Rammstein's motto according to Schneider is: "Do your own thing. And overdo it!"). The aim is to get people's attention and have fun at the same time: "You have to understand that 99 percent of the people don't understand the lyrics, so you have to come up with something to keep the drama in the show. We have to do something. We like to have a show; we like to play with fire. We do have a sense of humor. We do laugh about it; we have fun ... but we're not Spinal Tap. We take the music and the lyrics seriously. It's a combination of humor, theater and our East German culture, you know?" (The Grand Rapids Press, Jul 22, 1999).

Albums

Rammstein have so far released four full-length studio albums: Herzeleid (1995), Sehnsucht (1997), Mutter (2001) and Reise, Reise (2004). While Herzeleid was well-received and is still the favourite album of the Band, Sehnsucht is widely regarded as Rammstein's breakthrough album. The production of the followup album Mutter was an experience fraught with difficulty for the band, which nearly broke up as a result of the strains that resulted. However, the differences were resolved by the time Rammstein produced Reise Reise (2004).

At the moment the band are working on a follow up to Reise Reise. From the production period of the last album, there are several songs, which did not find a place on their latest album due to dramaturgical reasons but are now brought to light. During Rammstein's visit at a Berlin studio, more songs have been recorded; and on June 14th, the mixing session of the new album started, which is supposed to be released September 2005. A title for the record is not yet affirmed, although various titles such as Benzin (Gasoline/petrol) and Reise Weiter (Journey Continues) have been suggested.

Covers and adaptations

Rammstein's songs have been covered by a number of other artist, notably the Pet Shop Boys (who remixed the song Mein Teil) and Nina Hagen with Apocalyptica who covered Rammstein's Seemann. More unusually, the German composer Torsten Rasch has produced a classical opera cycle entitled Mein Herz Brennt, based on the album Mutter.

They've also done several covers themselves including Das Modell by Kraftwerk, Stripped by Depeche Mode and Pet Cemetary by The Ramones.

Controversies

Rammstein have not been shy of courting controversy and have periodically attracted condemnation from morality campaigners. Their stage act earned them a night in jail in June 1999 after the infamous giant dildo was used in a concert in Worcester, Massachusetts. Back home in Germany, the band has faced repeated accusations of fascist sympathies due to the dark and sometimes militaristic imagery of their videos and concerts, including the use of extracts from a propaganda film by Leni Riefenstahl in the video for Stripped. Also, when the album Herzeleid originally came out in Germany in 1995, the band was met with accusations from the media and critics that the band was trying to sell themselves as "poster boys for the Master Race". Rammstein have denied this vigorously and the members of the band have said that they want nothing to do with politics as well as supremacy of any kind, citing that vocalist Till Lindemann takes offense to accusations of the sort because his mother is Jewish. The song "Links 2 3 4" was written as a riposte to these claims. According to Kruspe-Bernstein, it means, "'my heart beats on the left, two, three, four.' It's simple. If you want to put us in a political category, we're on the left side, and that's the reason we made the song." (The Grand Rapids Press, Jul. 22, 2001). Of course this is a two-sided thing, since "Links 2 3 4" is the usual command in marching practice in the German army, "Links" referring to the left foot in that case.

In April 1999, it emerged that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - the two boys who perpetrated the Columbine High School massacre - were fans of Rammstein and had declared it to be one of their favourite bands. Rammstein came under heavy criticism from right-wing and Christian groups in the United States, who claimed (among other things) that Till Lindemann's rolling Teutonic r's were an imitation of Adolf Hitler's diction. In response, the band issued a terse statement:

"The members of Rammstein express their condolences and sympathy to all affected by the recent tragic events in Denver. They wish to make it clear that they have no lyrical content or political beliefs that could have possibly influenced such behavior. Additionally, members of Rammstein have children of their own, in whom they continually strive to instill healthy and non-violent values."

Following the tragic conclusion of the Beslan school hostage crisis in Russia in September 2004, the Russian authorities claimed that the hostage-takers had "listened to German hard rock group Rammstein on personal stereos during the siege to keep themselves edgy and fired up." [2] (http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=573206) The claim has not been independently confirmed, and the Russian authorities are known to have been concerned that Rammstein was too appealing to "undesirable" elements in Russian society. A Rammstein concert in Moscow scheduled for July 19, 2002 was cancelled due to fears that it would attract skinheads.

Jeff Weise of the Red Lake High School massacre was also said to have been a fan. [3] (http://www.duluthsuperior.com/mld/duluthsuperior/11213759.htm)

In October 2004, the video for "Mein Teil" caused considerable controversy in Germany when it was released. It takes a darkly comic view of the Armin Meiwes cannibalism case, showing musicians of the band being held on a leash by a transvestite and rolling around in mud. The controversy did nothing to stop (and may even have helped) the single rising to No. 2 in the German charts.

The band's own views of its image are sanguine: "We like being on the fringes of bad taste," according to Paul Landers, while Flake Lorenz comments: "The controversy is fun, like stealing forbidden fruit. But it serves a purpose. We like audiences to grapple with our music, and people have become more receptive." (The Times, Jan 29, 2005)

Discography

Studio Albums

Songs

Singles

Videos

  • Du Riechst so Gut ("You Smell so Good")
  • Seemann ("Sailor")
  • Rammstein
  • Engel ("Angel")
  • Du Hast ("You Have")
  • Du Riechst so Gut '98 ("You Smell so Good")
  • Stripped
  • Sonne ("Sun")
  • Links 2-3-4 ("Left 2-3-4")
  • Ich Will (“I (demandingly) want”)
  • Mutter ("Mother")
  • Feuer Frei! ("Fire At Will!")
  • Mein Teil ("My Part")
  • Amerika ("America")
  • Ohne Dich ("Without You")
  • Keine Lust ("Don't Feel Like It")

VHS/DVDs

External links

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