Their sound is simply overwhelming. Their look is absolutely chilling. Their style is nothing short of astonishing. Their attitude comes across as something akin to what you might expect if Star Wars droid R2-D2 had spent the last 50 years absorbing the intricacies of Mein Kampf.
The band is Rammstein, and if you don’t know about them by now, then you simply haven’t been paying attention. Since the appearance of their most recent release, Sehnsucht, early last year, this German unit–whose name fittingly translates into “ramming stone”– has conducted a blitzkrieg raid through the upper echelons of hard rock society. While singing only in their native tongue, and bending only minimally to soften their Teutonic approach for more “delicate” American sensibilities, vocalist Till Lindemann keyboardist Flake Lorenz, guitarist Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers, bassist Oliver Riedel and drummer Christoph Schneider have quickly established themselves as one of the most potent new forces on the world’s metal scene. Rammstein’s highly theatrical stage shows– which often resemble nothing more than a Bund rally crossed with freak convention– have amazed even the most gristled “seen-it, been-there” rock and roll veterans, many of whom believe this highly distinctive group may well represent both the sound and the style of hard rock’s future.
“We’ve learned a great deal while we’ve been touring in America,” Flake said through a translator. “One important thing we noticed is that America really isn’t just one place. Fans in one part of the country react to certain things differently than fans in another part. That’s very interesting.”
Despite the superficially different taste patterns expressed by certain segments of America’s rock fan base, it seems that just about everyone, everywhere has fallen under the hypnotic spell cast by Rammstein’s brand of heavy, industrial rock. Prior to the start of their American road invasion (which kicked off last summer when the band was an integral part of Korn’s Family Values tour package), many State-side pundits openly wondered if this admittedly bizarre, unabashedly unusual band would be able to hit a responsive chord with the occasionally jaded American rock masses. Well, Rammstein certainly managed to strike that chord, in the process catapulting Sehnsucht to the top of the hard rock charts. Even some of the bands that shared the bill with these Rheinland rockers had speculated about how U.S. fans might react… they didn’t have to wait long for the answer.
“Rammstein was a great band to have on the Family Values tour,” said Korn’s vocalist Jonathon Davis. “We wanted the tour to really present some unusual acts, and expose kids to different kinds of music. Well, Rammstein were certainly different, in a really cool way. The response they got from the crowd every night was unbelievable. Their singer would set himself on fire at one point in the set, and the crowd would go crazy.”
Despite the pyrotechnic appeal of Rammstein’s live show, as well as the off-beat attraction of their highly stylized, semi-robotic stage movements, it is the band’s razor-edged musical attack that has clearly drawn the majority of fan attraction. Unquestionably, the radio and video acclaim afforded their song Du Hast last year must rank as one of the most surprising and unexpected success stories in recent hard rock history. But true to their above-it-all nature, the members of Rammstein would never even think about admitting to any degree of surprise pertaining to their somewhat stunning State-side recognition.
“We grew up in a highly disciplined environment.” Till said with the help of his translator. “We grew up behind The Wall. We were from East Germany, a place where you were presented with a very definite perspective on the world. We’ve maintained some of that attitude as we’ve made our music and set out on our tours.”
One can’t help but speculate at this point about where a band like Rammstein will go from here. Will their initial American success prove to be nothing more than a fluke, where various cultural forces all came together in the right place at the right time in order to make these Euro-rockers the unlikely, “flavor of the month” in the eyes of the ever-fickle U.S. rock constituency? Or will the foundation provided by the run-away success of Sehnsucht allow Rammstein to continue evolving… perhaps to the point where they become prominent players in directing the course and style of the hard rock form in the years to come? The group’s members want no part in trying to predict where their unit may be in the months and years ahead. At least for the moment, they seem more-than-content to simply accept their recent good fortune rather than concert themselves with any future exploits in the rock and roll circus.
“There is still much for us to learn,” Flake explained. “Just being on tour in America was a very interesting experience because we had the chance to experience many things for the first time. We’re enjoying each experience for what it is. We’re not even thinking about the next album or the next tour. We’re focusing everything on what we’re doing right now.”
Well, “right now” Rammstein are kicking some serious ass from Berlin to Brooklyn and back again. Maybe this is their one time shot at fame and fortune. Maybe they’ll emerge as rock’s Next Big Thing in 1999. Who really knows? Who really cares? Certainly not the members of this all-consuming ramming stone. After all, when you’re getting your first taste of first-class American hotels, four-star restaurants and top-of-the-line air travel after growing up in economically-deprived East Germany, what’s the point of worrying about anything! If you’re Rammstein, you just keep doing what you’ve been doing, and pray that Till doesn’t go up in a puff of smoke during one of the band’s patented in-concert fireballs.
“We’ve always been a very visual band,” the singer explained. “But we quickly learned that the authorities in America don’t look kindly on bands using fire, and we’ve never really had a problem. It’s just one of those things that when people see it, they do remember Rammstein.”
Original source: Hit Parader
Date: June 1999