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Not since the salad days of KRAFTWERK or SCORPIONS has the world been so enthusiastic about a German band, but industrial nu-metallists RAMMSTEIN were a different kettle of fish. A sextet as much known for their bad taste/tongue-in-bum-cheek, sex ’n’ violence promo videos, as their singer’s simulated stage-pissing antics, once one had witnessed RAMMSTEIN, many other metal acts seemed pale by comparison.
Formed in East Berlin around January 1994, it’d be guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe (from Orgasm Death Gimmick) that’d initially instigate the group. Together with flat-mate Oliver Riedel (ex-bassist of The Inchtabokatables), Christoph “Doom” Schneider (of Die Firma) and former European Junior Olympic swimmer-cum-basket weaver, Till Lindemann (of First Arsch), they surprised even themselves when they won an amateur band competition. Named after an ill-fated, similarly-titled airbase in Ramstein (they added an extra “m”), and on the strength of a consequential demo tape, they enticed Feeling B alumni, Paul H. Landers (rhythm guitar) and Christian “Flake” Lorenz (drums) into the fold as they signed a deal with Motor Music.
Like a fusion of LAIBACH, MINISTRY and fellow countrymen, EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN, schlock-meisters RAMMSTEIN unleashed their debut album, HERZELEID (1995) {*6}; aka “Heartache”. With a string of major homeland hits featured, including `Du Riechst So Gut’ and `Seemann’, the ‘Stein’s nihilistic growls and grinds were played out in full theatrical aplomb. This was due to their OTT stage extravaganzas which featured Lindemann singing (in his native tongue) covered in a metallic coat of fire, before he unveiled to show off his muscular, upper-naked body complete with fully-endowed pissing-dildo strapped upside his leather belt. Meanwhile, the naked Riedel (all but his white socks), Kruspe (wearing a white wedding dress) and the rest of the bare-cheeked crew played their aggro-rock to a backdrop of (Hitler’s fave rave!) Leni Riefenstahl’s controversial film, Olympiad.
The German-only released debut album was finally upstaged by a second, SEHNSUCHT (1997) {*8} – “Longing”, which went on to sell over half a million copies when finally released in the States. Prog-metal, gothic-metal, power-metal: call it what you want, the RAMMSTEIN boot boys were unique in their no-holds-barred or all-balls-held approach. Chart-topping native hits such as `Engel’ and `Du Hast’, bounced and chugged into top gear, while the staggering title track, `Tier’, `Bestrafe Mich’, et al, sounded if they’d escaped from a Transylvanian tomb.
In the autumn of ‘98, RAMMSTEIN were at the centre of some accusations of neo Nazi-ism when English tabloids branded them with that unfortunate tag. Around the same time, the single `Du Hast’ (subsequently covered by many rock/folk artists) was given a British release, as it looked as if these brass-necked technoid show-offs were going to eventually invade our shores. On the back of LIVE AUS BERLIN (1999) {*6}, RAMMSTEIN’s long-awaited studio follow-up album, MUTTER {*8}, was unleashed to the public in spring 2001; the broody bunch were now on their way to becoming Germany’s best hard-rock export since MICHAEL SCHENKER and the SCORPIONS. Garnering an orchestra to bolster their extreme soundscapes, the anthemic `Sonne’ (complete with “band”-new-spanking/sado-masochistic Snow White & the “six” dwarves video), `Links 2 3 4’, `Ich Will’ and `Feuer Frei!’ (the latter two British hits) were bludgeon-meister, trademark RAMMSTEIN.
The techno shock troopers returned in 2004 with “Journey, Journey” REISE, REISE {*6}, their first UK Top 40 album, although hardly a departure from the Halls-of-Valhalla arrangements and wheat beer-curdling growl that their fans know and love. Among subjects for lyrical bulldozing were the `Dalai Lama’, Germany’s infamous cannibal case and life in 21st century America, as heard in hilarious UK Top 40 single, `Amerika’ (altogether now.. “We’re all living in Amerika, Amerika is wunderbar!!!”) – JAMES BROWN eat your heart out. `Mein Tiel’, `Keine Lust’ and the dramatic title track, excelled from their usual suspects of industrial chugging.
“Rose-Red”, or ROSENROT (2005) {*6}, continued RAMMSTEIN’s Teutonic rumble toward glory. Never straying from their course, with the exception of `Stirb Nicht Vor Mir (Don’t Die Before I Do)’, which teams up Till with TEXAS girl Sharleen Spiteri, records such as `Benzin’ [Petrol], the mariachi-enhanced `Te Quiero Puta!’ (featuring Carmen Zapata) and the incendiary `Mann Gegen Mann’ [Man Against Man], railed against the oil barons, corporates and company alumni that are ruining our world. As a fan commemorative release, the CD/DVD live-in-concert document – mainly from a 2005 gig in Nimes, France – VOLKERBALL (2007) {*7}, was dodging no-one – the clue’s in the name.
It was inevitable that RAMMSTEIN would crack the transatlantic Top 20 at some time; other European countries had long since taken the sextet into their hostile hearts. Studio album number six, LIEBE IST FUR ALLE DA (2009) {*8} – meaning “Love Is There For Everyone” – was steeped deep in gothic grime and cod-piece cabaret. At last they’d come-of-age as classic-rock uberstars of the modern rock world, and it showed on head-banging stoners such as `Rammlied’, `Ich Tu Dir Wir’, `B********’ and the title track; the sinister, curtain-call creeper, `Roter Sand’ (very NiN “Hurt’), marking out their most softest moments.
If RAMMSTEIN had offended unwitting listeners, then Till’s subsequently self-named LINDEMANN project (alongside HYPOCRISY’s instrumentalist Peter Tagtgren) was sure to triple the effect on 2015’s SKILLS IN PILLS {*8}. Number one in his homeland more or less due to a jaw-dropping promotional video single for `Praise Abort’ (think ROB ZOMBIE in bed with The League of Gentlemen and several piglets), the English-speaking 50-something “50 shades of spray” Till pervs his way through the track without blinking an eyelid. Not a one-off by any means, the “Phantom of the Horror-opera” explored all the deviant positives of being `Fat’, while the self-explanatory `Golden Shower’, or even `Ladyboy’, are expletive-friendly and S&M party-time with your car keys in a bowl on the coffee-table.
Spread across a triple-disc double-CD/DVD, a commemorative document was showcased as PARIS (2017) {*7}, by all accounts a triumphant night in France for the riotous RAMMSTEIN, and indeed industrial heavy-metal. One can’t think of anything they left out of this blood, sweat and fears recording.
2019’s eponymous RAMMSTEIN {*8} set – alternately known as “untitled” – spawned the dangerously dark `Deutschland’, a jingoistic chart-topper back on home soil. Testing the waters of nationalism in these diverse socio-political and fraught times, the aforesaid opening cut also propelled the triumphant long-player to the top (No.3 in Brexit Britain and 9 in America). The sleazy and shocking subject matter was typical Till (e.g. `Sex’, `Puppe’ and `Auslander’), whilst one could almost taste the cultural chaos in the chunky churn-tastic/noodling of track two, `Radio’. Whether the Rammsteiners were still regarded as tongue-in-cheek industrial metallists, or, indeed, fodder for the resurgent hate brigade was, one supposed, not in their hands. However, over the years, the strictly NDH (“Neue Deutsche Harte”) sextet have distanced themselves from unsavoury political movements.
Whilst Richard Z. Kruspe had recently dispatched his third EMIGRATE side-project set, “A Million Degrees” (2018) – the eponymous “Emigrate” and “Silent So Long” had emerged in 2007 and 2014 respectively – Till and PAIN compadre Peter Tagtgren were quick on the buzzer for a follow-up LINDEMANN album, F&M (2019) {*7}. Meaning “Frau” & “Mann” (or “woman” & “man”), complemented their modern-day concept adaptation of the evergreen Hansel and Gretel tales. Soaring German-spoken vocals, gloomy guitars and sexy synths, the perverse pair reeled off intense and emotional part-industrial tracks that pounded into one’s eardrums. Addendum vinyl piece, `Mathematik’ (a single from 2018), was pure D.A.F., whilst the grinding glory came through opener `Steh Auf’, `Allesfresser’, `Knebel’, `Platz Eins’, the gritty `Gummi’, and the JACQUES BREL/“Next”-esque `Ach So Gern’.
© MC Strong 2001-2006 / rev-up MCS Feb2013-Dec2019

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