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Rammstein or The Trickiness of German Gothic
 By: Ruxandra Radulescu

Within the larger (ever larger) category of "industrial rock" one has placed Rammstein's heavy sound, deprived however (and to their fortune, I might add) of the shrieking quality of (mostly) American bands and refined (still my own semantic choice) by nuances of musical theatricality. Words have not been minced about the Teutonic strength of their imposing music (I have seen it compared elsewhere to the persistence of German kitchenware - hmmm, I guess we are all free to relate to whatever cultural cliches we have at hand!) and about the trait of "Horror Romanticism" (?) in their live performances. I would call attention to the manner in which these six (East-)Germans perform on tape, to their interpretative way of giving the songs a very particular intonation.

 "Sehnsucht" seems to me to a certain extent an album of jocularity if not only of some ludic mingling of rock and dance music. This should not ever suggest any similar technique of Puff Daddy-like sampling of rock bits; the "Rammstein method" involves an intrusion of irony, a style that relies on a background of seriousness only to foster rhythms that mock it: the title-song "Sehnsucht" with a touch of amused subversion of sentimentalism; "Eifersucht" (minus the lyrics); even "Du Hast". A proof of Rammstein's aptitude for a varied approach of mood & music, "Sehnsucht" is neither an evolved nor a degenerated phase from the previous "Herzeleid". And though impressive and consistent with his prior works, Helnwein's design/photography somehow (imho) does not match the diverse implications of the songs. 

"Herzeleid", Rammstein's first album, fits the description of a band's debut work and supports a label of "toughness", "gravity" and "relentless display of heavy-metal-like force" of guitars. Up to a certain point. Up to the B-side, an anticipation of "Sehnsucht"'s variety of voices. Or better still, an improvement of it. It is this B-side that is an obvious statement of musical theatricality, in the positive sense of the word "theatricality". It stirs a multiplicity of voices that take on the performance of the songs, that impose a playful approach to music. These voices mark a separation from the anonymity of precarious intonation of other bands' music. The roles that Till Lindemann assumes on this album sustain a structure of heterogeneous connotations in each song (for instance, "Herzeleid" or more evidently "Laichzeit"). Useless to say how much profit a deconstructive evaluation of Rammstein's music would take from the apparent contrast between their so-called rough industrial sound (syntagm which would make one expect impersonality and uniformity) and Rammstein's propensity towards irregularity in the regime of voices/roles/acts/dramatizations. Never ever a more kitsch and simplistic comparison than the one with Kiss (I read about it in some review on the net and now I have the chance to strongly disprove it)!

 Therefore, no remarks on the "Germanicity" of their style (others have done that before me and I'm not even convinced they knew the topic in depth) but I have to add my vote to the - alas - dominant opinion that Rammstein manifest some Gothic preferences. Just take a look at the lyrics for (of course) "Heirate mich", "Alter mann", "Seeman" and lend an ear to "Spiel mit mir"  (which constantly reminds me of "The Fall of the House of Usher" - ultimately, even the lyrics match!). Gothic preferences all right, but with a twist! Finally, one more thought: too bad they can't keep up the standard of the lyrics for "Alter mann"  throughout the album. This is probably my only criticism.

 Visit the Artist Feature for Rammstein


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