Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Rammstein: No birds are singing anymore

I have already talked a little about Rammstein in my New German Hardness post but here I want to go into a little more detail. I was 15 years old when I first listened to Rammstein. The debut album Herzeleid to be precise. I had been spending part of that summer in Reykjavik where two of my brothers and dad(for clarification no my parents are not divorced, he was just on a business venture that didn't go so well in the end) were living. This album came at a rather intense time in my life, but I'm not going on some spiel about how it save my life. It didn't that was something completely different. My brother had borrowed this album from a friend of his and played it in the living room. I was fairly quickly completely taken to them. I can't remember if I copied the CD onto a tape(yes a tape) or not. But nonetheless I had found a new musical love in my life. Though what it was I couldn't really put my finger on. They sang in German, the guitar riffs were fairly plain, no guitar solo's(well actually one, Weisses Fleisch and the title song) and the album cover itself was a little bit suspect. But it was crushing in sound and breadth. Yes there's absolutely nothing original about it, but if I wanted originality I would have stuck to listening to Einstürzende Neubauten, whilst wearing my figmented skinny jeans and sipping red wine. But I'm thankfully not a hipster and I can like both Rammstein and Einstürzende Neubauten. And drink my beer.

But no, they were industrial, and as I said before crushing and quite frankly fun to listen to. There was nothing like them around, at least not in my music-o-sphere. The closest thing would be an Icelandic band called HAM. But they had quit many many years previous to that. Primal force that just pulverises you with direct sophisticated and precise musical attacks. That is what Rammstein was about. And singing in German, which was pretty unheard of, well except for in Germany of course... and Austria. But, no, what I mean is that it was unusual to hear a band NOT singing in English. Which also meant that if you didn't understand what was being sung you could use your imagination a lot more with the music, and the vocals became for as yet another instrument. Talking about vocals, Till Lindemann has got one of the best baritone vocal tones I know off. I have no idea what he is singing most of the time, but the emotions he carries are immense and intense. Generally just the one tone, one frequency that he uses, but for example when he wants to sing a ballad like Seemann he has your full attention. Oh and the use of the bass on that song is just brilliant. But yeah Till also writes all the lyrics, and when you actually get them translated you can see that he is a brilliant wordsmith, he's even published a few poetry books alongside his Rammstein career. But with that voice you can easily hear a Sergeant wading into battle on top of a horse with an enemy head in one hand and a sword raised to the air in the other.

Where Herzeleid really really succeeds is in the simplicity of, well everything, but when you start listening a bit more deeply you start noticing these little bits added in the background that make the song really really good. It's in the background where Flake shines. With some interesting samples and well played and well layered keyboards. Listen to Wollt Ihr Das Bett Flammen Sehen, and you get little samples from the classic game Doom. The start of Heirate Mich is also a good song to show Flake's prowess, he even manages to get in a bit of Hammond Organ in there.

Kruspe and Landers do provide the meat of the material. With their relentless riffing throughout every song. They tend to not deviate a great deal from the blueprint, and usually keep to one riff per song. The thing is though that their riffs are good enough to hold up those songs. Doom Schneider is of course the man who keeps this industrial beast in sync with his relentless near-computerised rhythmic beats. Every piece from every member seems to provide a little detail that makes the big picture. Without one, it would all fall to pieces. And the picture would never be finished.

The following year when Sehnsucht was released their popularity exploded! Especially due to the songs Du Hast and Stripped. Even though Stripped wasn't on Sehnsucht. But now I was part of a crowd, rather than a group of one. Which to me was a bit of a novelty at the time. Sehnsucht has a slightly more raw sound to it than Herzeleid, it is probably my least favourite album by Rammstein. But that is not to say that I don't like it. It's got brilliant tunes on there like Tier, Klavier and Engel.

Now the pinnacle of their career. The piece that they will never be able to top is Mutter. This is where their bombasticity became Epic. This is still my favourite album by them. Here they are sophisticated, direct and brutal in their attack, with re-inforcements from Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg. Individually the songs are all very good and very strong, but with the orchestral addition that power just becomes overwhelming and envelopes the listener, takes them by the scruff of the neck and pounds the enjoyment into the earholes. From the German marching Links 2 3 4 to loneliness of the title song to the obscure sexuality of Zwitter(this song is also the only one I can think of that makes great use of the outro, which is an aspect of songs that I generally hate with a fucking passion) and the abandonment of Spieluhr. This album is the crown jewel of Rammstein's career.

Now, I'm not saying that the stuff that came out after Mutter are not worth listening to. Reise, Reise and Rosenrot are both very good and are to some extent fairly major departures from the sound that they created in the first three albums. Now Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da, is probably their best album since Mutter, and they are obviously having time of their lifes on that album. Their gleeful poking at porn and shock rock is the perfect example of that.

I remember seeing them playing in Iceland during the Mutter tour and it has to be said that it is probably still the best concert I've ever been to. It would have been that if only Rammstein had played but no, it was also the time when HAM decided to re-unite. But only after lots and lots of peer pressure from the Icelandic nation, which never would have happened if the guitar player of HAM hadn't said that they would only reunite if Rammstein came to Iceland. They had it all, the pyrotechnics(though not as much as it was a closed environment), Flake on a dingy, Flake the Subservient and Till the Master. It was not so much a concert but more of an experience, with all the theatrics that was on show. The band came on like robots, or possibly humans without a soul and Doctor Flake flicked the switch that put the spark back into them.  And they rocked.

Music doesn't have to be super complex or obscure or original. Some times it helps, but the main thing is if the music is enjoyable. Whenever I want to have a little headslamming session these guys are perfect, when ever I just want the hairs at the back of my neck to rise these guys are perfect, whenever I feel like a run or just want to work out a little bit these guys I perfect.

Rammstein - A mass grave,
Rammstein - no escape!
Rammstein - no bird sings ... more
Rammstein - and the sun is shining.
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