It was going to happen eventually. It’s time I talked about Rammstein. Rammstein formed from the ashes of East German punk, and the kindling flames of German unification. Since its formation in 1994, the band has built a mass following around the world. How did they do that?
Well, the answer is multifaceted, in my mind. Rammstein’s sound is distinct, Techno infused metal, flanked by its brutal guitar riffs, and Till Lindemann’s guttural vocal delivery, with clever wordplay and double entendre that is based around their language. It’s also down to the imagery you get from the band. Industrial stage shows, Fire, Violence, Debauchery, tongue in cheek madness that has a deeper meaning. Rammstein, in my mind, is a band of duplicity. Commentary and critique dressed in violence and savagery. Refined revulsion.
This is a hard playlist to construct, as the band is one of the most consistent I’ve done on here. Some songs are my favourites, some are not. Some are their most famous songs, and some are album tracks that don’t get enough attention. I hope a varied playlist will provide a deeper understanding of the band’s oeuvre.
HERZELEID- Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?
Very rarely does a band have its sound together in its first album, though Herzeleid managed to do just that. Though the sound will mature a bit in later albums, the basic tenants of the Rammstein sound are right here. The guitar, the keyboard, and the vocals. The three core elements of the Rammstein sound are here. And even the themes that the band would become known for show themselves here.
The song’s title, translated, is ‘Would you like to see my bed in flames’, and it is about sex. But, rather than your traditional metal romp about such escapades, it turns the act of foreplay into a call to charge, like an advancing army. Lyrics, such as, ‘SEX IS A BATTLE, LOVE IS WAR’ make this theme clear as day. As an album, this is a solid start to the sound you come to expect from the band, but with some of the expected naivety and the unrestrained potential a new release showcases. The band has a bit of everything, ballads, like ‘Seemann’, and the catchy anthem ‘Du Riescht so Gut’, and utter headbangers like ‘Weisses Fleisch’ all work together in harmony. My personal favourite on this album is Rammstein, which is also on my playlist on general principle.
SEHNSUCHT- Du Hast
Du Hast is a pure anthem of a song. I consider it to be one of the first songs where the band saw their international audience, and began to cater to them. This song features some of Rammstein’s simplest and most effective wordplay. ‘Du Hast’ means ‘You Have’, but is pronounced the same as ‘Du Hasst’, or ‘You Hate’. Little things like that really are fun to know about, and just makes the song more fun for me. This is a song you have to sing to. The German is simple enough to at least repeat some lyrics to. That keyboard jingle will also not leave your head.
Sehnsucht, as an album, is a more refined Herzeleid, with a slightly larger appeal to international audiences. More of the songs are headbanging anthems, such as ‘Du Hast’ and the infamous ‘Buck Dich’, where the band were arrested for indecency for performing the song on stage while simulating sodomy. Songs like Engel and the frankly disgusting ‘Spiel Mit Mir’ (More on that later) are also great tracks to listen to.
MUTTER- Feuer Frei
Mutter is an album that starts to show the evolution of Rammstein’s core sound.. It begins to show a maturing sound from the group, with a mix of influences and feels. The symphonic ‘Mein Herz Brennt’, the ethereal ‘Nebel’, and the power ballad that is ‘Mutter’ showcases the variety of the band, an expanded range of topics, and a more nuanced approach to constructing the songs. Feuer Frei, however, shows that the band still can pull out pure rockers.
Well, I say pure rockers, this song does showcase some of the band’s maturing sound, while still keeping the core elements of the sound in check. When bands start adding to their sound or changing things up, there is a risk that the core elements can be lost. Feuer Frei does not lose the core elements. If anything, they’re strengthened.
REISE REISE- Moskau/Amour
This is a two for one, as Reise Reise is my favourite Rammstein album. Moskau and Amour are companion pieces to two of Rammstein’s most popular and famous songs, Amerika and Ohne Dich. Both follow their respective tracks immediately. Where Amerika is a critique of Americanisation, Moskau is, seemingly, a love letter to the country. It personifies Moscow, the city. However, if you read what it actually says, it portrays Moscow, and Russia, as bloated, and as ugly as America. Though the lyrics denote a primal connection, personified by wanting to have sex with the city. It’s complicated, which I think is what the song is trying to say. I could go deeper into it, but for brevity, I will end it there.
Amour follows the power ballad Ohne Dich, and while it has its share of power and ferocity behind it, it is more of a slow burner, and a more intimate song. It doesn’t reach the heights of Ohne Dich, but it has more of a meaning behind it. It states that love is a wild animal, and talks about the hurt that comes with such trust in another person. It’s probably one of Rammstein’s sweetest songs, and I could go much deeper into it .
Reise Reise is the band maturing, along with its sound. While Mutter saw the band’s sound grow and expand, it seems that the band itself has grown and expanded, if not in size then in experience. The topics are much more varied than relying on the taboo, though still touch on human nature. From apathy, to cannibalism, in songs like Keine Lust and Mein Teil, to love, to weary consternation over world powers and their influence. Reise Reise really is a journey. Listen to the whole album, its good.
ROSENROT- Ein Lied
I am not a fan of Rosenrot, as an album. Technically, it is as strong as Reise Reise, but suffers from the fact that it is primarily made up of songs rejected from that album, plus some new ones. It lacks the consistency that Reise Reise features, but takes leaps of faith at points, and has elements of being an excellent album. It isn’t bad, it is a good album, with some big highlights. ‘Benzin’ is a fun song, with a bit of comedic flair, as is ‘Mann Gegen Mann’ and ‘Te Quiero puta!’ Rosenrot has flashes of Amour in it. And even its complete failures, such as ‘Stirb nicht vor mir (Don’t Die Before I Do)’ has some good singing from Till on it.
Ein Lied, for me, is a strong album closer. Its Rammstein’s softest song yet, and is a love letter to the fans, in the vein of ‘Teo Torriate’ by Queen, and the cynics amongst us could say it is an apology for the albums inconsistencies and weaker elements. Till doesn’t even roll his ‘R’s on this one, which helps solidify the sincerity of this song for me. It isn’t a rocker, it is the least Rammstein song that the band has ever released, but that is why I would rank it quite highly. Rosenrot is worth a listen, as an album, though be prepared for some disappointment.
LIEBE IST FUR ALLE DA- Haifisch
Haifisch means Shark, and discusses the idea that even the most brutal of killers can still cry. You just don’t see it because the tears disappear in the ocean. And that is perhaps one of my favourite meanings behind any song ever written, since it has the ability to humanise the most horrific things. It can also be a warning to not humanise things as well. The shark still does kill, after all. Even if it is to survive.
‘Liebe ist fur alle da’ is a return to form, after Rosenrot, combining the experimentation of that album, with the consistency and variety of Reise Reise. This is an album that was banned by the German government for how lewd it is. ‘Pussy’ and ‘Ich Tu Dir Weh’ will do that. But those songs don’t define it. ‘B********’, Waidmann’s Heil (My favourite on this album), and Roter Sand make this more than an album about sex. Despite the title of the album, I don’t think of this as an album about just love. I think this is an album about the emotions that make up love. Happiness, anger, jealousy, regret, greed, perversion (Wiener Blut is about Josef Fritzl). This album is distilled Rammstein. And it is glorious. Listen to it, and get into arguments about how you interpret ‘Roter Sand’.
Rammstein’s most recent album, and their first in ten years is an introduction to the band, by the band, for the benefit of new fans who are just getting into their music. Basically makes this playlist pointless, though it is a good way to get into the band’s catalogue. This album goes into areas each album has covered. It is basically a greatest hits package, made entirely of new material. Deutschland takes us to the heights of Reise Reise, in its commentary on Germany. Hallomann is a screwed up song, from the perspective of a paedophile, which fans of Faith No More’s ‘The Edge of the World’ will be familiar with, shares its DNA with songs within Herzeleid. While you hear some of Mein Herz Brennt within Zeig Dich.
For this, I must pick Puppe, as I interpreted it as a direct sequel to Spiel Mit Mir, from Sehnsucht. The children in that story are older now, and the elder sibling, who seemed to be a girl, is now a prostitute to support herself and her brother. And the brother hates it. Maybe it’s down to jealousy, or down to the pain of hearing his sister having sex with strange, and potentially hostile men. This, to me, denotes a sequel to that song. It features some great instrumentation, and some absolutely vile lyrics, with the brutality that you would expect from such an experience.
Rammstein has managed to, despite hiatuses and almost breaking up more than once, stay together and produce some of the most consistent music within their genre. With their latest release, they cement themselves as elder statesmen of metal. Masters of Neue Deutsche Harte. If you have never given them a try, I think you should. Rammstein are a band that are more than just shouting German and brutal guitar riffs. If that’s not the impression you get from reading this, and listening to the songs, then you’ve clearly read it wrong.