NY Times: Offering Sturm Galore, Fire and Drang as Well

Go for the fireballs, stay for the self-mythologizing and angst: That could be the pitch for Rammstein, the German rock band that played its first American show since 2001 on Saturday night at a sold-out Madison Square Garden. During the concert flames shot up from the stage, down from the rafters and sideways from flamethrowers mounted in microphones and on a set of angel wings; fireworks added explosions and showers of sparks. At one point a man ran around the stage in a flaming suit, with an E.M.T. on hand to snuff him out.

It was the kind of spectacle that has made Rammstein an arena and festival headliner across Europe. Its members are not modest. “Lend your ears to a legend,” announced “Rammlied,” their first song, followed by a guttural shout that the crowd shared: “Rammstein!”

The music shows Rammstein’s origins in the mid-1990s, when bands like KMFDM, from Germany, and Ministry and Nine Inch Nails from the United States had already bonded hard-rock guitars and dance-music synthesizers. The songs run about 60 percent rock, 40 percent electronic, slamming away and pausing occasionally for half-speed interludes of brooding pomp. Rammstein’s lead singer, Till Lindemann, is a bass-baritone who makes his every utterance — sung, barked, spoken — portentous enough to match his stage presence; stocky and all muscle, he could be one of Wagner’s Nibelungen.

In Rammstein’s early years its songs worked the easy shock effects that were common in industrial rock, singing about impulses of sex, violence and destruction. Rammstein’s international breakthrough song from 1997 — and a major singalong at Madison Square Garden — was “Du Hast” (“You Have,” also a play on “Du Hasst,” “You Hate”), a bitter rejection of marriage vows.

Rammstein stays grimly foreboding in songs from its most recent album, “Liebe Ist für Alle Da” (“Love Is There for All”) (Universal). There were dolls hanging overhead as the band performed “Wiener Blut” (“Viennese Blood”), which brings a woman into a castle basement for an ominous tryst: “Welcome to the darkness,” Mr. Lindemann intoned, as the band started a churning, thrashing guitar attack.

But Rammstein doesn’t present itself as a band of simple, cartoonish bad guys. There’s a troubled self-consciousness in songs like “Waidmanns Heil” (“Happy Hunting”), which opens with hunting-horn calls and confesses to a creepy bloodlust, and in “Benzin” (“Gasoline”), a stomper about fossil-fuel addiction. Amid the visual and musical blasts, Rammstein doesn’t exult in human depravity; it worries. During “Engel” (“Angel”), between streaks of flame from his wings, Mr. Lindemann was singing, “We are afraid and alone.”

Original source: NY Times
By Jon Pareles, DEC. 12, 2010
Photos: Chad Batka

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