[24 April 2012]
Made in Germany 1995-2011, provides a career spanning retrospective of one of the most unique, incendiary and satirical bands to ever exist. Over the course of almost two decades, Rammstein have established themselves as a band capable of engaging the senses. The Teutonic warriors have also proven more than adept at stretching public perception of what is deemed appropriate; sometimes crossing the line of good taste. But wasn’t that the original premise of rock ‘n’ roll - to rebel against societies norms, and spit in the face of conformity? Anarchism and self-expression are the very foundations on which rock was built and since their inception, Rammstein have possessed an inherent understanding of this ideology.
Originally influenced by the industrial, goth and new-wave scene, Rammstein relied heavily (both aesthetically and musically), on bands such as Laibach for inspiration. Over time, Rammstein have carved their own unique identity in the rock/metal landscape and have had their notoriety cemented through the refinement of their combustible live show and increasingly contentious music videos. However, controversy alone is immaterial without a proportionate musical base to ignite it. Made in Germany 1995-2011 offers an ample opportunity to reflect on the music itself; devoid of the visual bravado and spectacle. Rammstein through their music, possess the ability to unify disparaging sectors of the worldwide community while expressing themselves solely in their native tongue. Their overall sound is an amalgam of brute force metal musicianship (stereotypically German in its efficiency), fist-pumping, danceable anthems that stimulate the adrenal gland and blunt, and dramatic vocals that resonate like a Germanic curse.
Available in a number of formats (some versions including remix disc/DVDs), this compilation oddly glazes over debut Herzeleid; with only dance floor goth-grinder “Du Riescht So Gut” represented. Beginning with “Engel” from breakout second album Sehnsucht, its electro-metal crunch seamlessly combining Ennio Morricone inspired synth-breaks with the female vocals of guest singer Christiane Herbold. Flirting with singer Till Lindemann’s abrasive tones, the female vocals on this track provide an interesting contrast between the masculine and feminine. So much so that Rammstein further visited this collaboration on “Moskau”, from their fourth full-length Reise,Reise, which is noticeable by its absence here.
Nonetheless, Reise, Reise has been pillaged of its singles for Made in Germany 1995-2011, with all four finding a home here. The one-two knock-out punch of “Keine Lust” and “Mein Teil” demonstrate the sheer wall of sound Rammstein produce when they coalesce into a pulverising groove. The former’s riffage made for pyrotechnics and the latter’s real life cannibalistic references, vocal histrionics and staccato finish, stir feelings of cadavers and cabaret. “Mein Teil” has proven to be one of the band’s heaviest tracks, both thematically and musically. It has also become a highlight of Rammstein’s live show - its theatrics akin to Broadway through the sewers of a BDSM dungeon.
This greatest hits package also covers Rammstein’s more playful and sardonic side by exhibiting in its ranks - their ode to America and its cultural obsession with consumerism. “Amerika” provides one of the rare occasions that Rammstein venture vocally into English as Till slyly references in his rich baritone, a number of American corporate institutions. Its sharp sarcasm and participatory chorus elevates the track from being somewhat disposable instrumentally, to a joyous chant-along. The puerile “Pussy”, memorable for a number of reasons with its euro-trash riffs, synthesised pomp, lyrical absurdity combined with Jonas Åkerlund’s x-rated music video, can be polarising depending on where the listeners’ sense of humour lies. If the band’s intentions are misunderstood, it is easy to see why this track would be seen as being unbearable. Nevertheless, the humourous glint in the band’s eye that they could get away with using this song to push the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in a music video, makes “Pussy” almost ground-breaking in a way.
Ground-breaking could also be a phrase used to describe compilation standouts “Du Hast” and its dance partner “Ich Will”. The epitome of anthems; both sum up Rammstein’s sound to perfection in that they are driven, universal and addictively catchy. These tracks have set rock bars and goth clubs alight and caused more latex to bounce up and down than an S&M trampoline party. An obvious trance influence is apparent on “Du Hast and “Ich Will”, with both songs finding inspiration from Ministry of Sound just as much as Ministry. This compilation would be incomplete without their militaristic stomp. Throughout Rammstein’s career there has always been an overt martial influence amongst Rammstein’s drum beats and metal-plated riffage, which around the release of Mutter, unjustly lead to accusations that the band harboured fascist sympathies. “Links 2-3-4” was a left-wing statement of intent and direct reaction to these accusations. Beginning with the sound of an army marching before charging into battle with the Ministry-esque battery of the track’s main riff, “Link 2-3-4” has become one of Rammstein’s most celebrated songs and has too earned its place on Made in Germany 1995-2011.
The remaining tracks chosen from Mutter form the emotional depth of this compilation. The keyboard embellishments combined with dramatic vocal refrains on songs such as “Sonne” conjure a sense of loss that is apparent to the listener even with the language barrier. The use of strings on “Mein Herz Brennt” adds a regal air to proceedings and raises some of the more pedestrian riffage to epic proportions. The same emotions can be felt on “Mutter”; the swell of strings and vocal inflections dripping with drama before being slowly washed away with the blast of Black Album-era Metallica; particularly the lead guitar motif which echoes the main melody of Metallica’s “The Unforgiven”.
As with all retrospectives, when it comes to song selection, it proves futile to attempt to satisfy everyone and claims can be made that this album has left out some fan favourites such as “Los”, “Rammstein”, “Feuer Frei”, “Mann Gegen Mann”, “Benzin”; amongst others. Retrospectives also take the songs out of their initial context and as a result some of the tracks lose their original power. Regardless, Made in Germany 1995-2011 should be taken at face value, in that; it does a respectable job at celebrating the major hits that have formed the basis of band’s success since 1995. It also provides the unfamiliar listener with a starting point to explore the provocative world of Rammstein and gives the Über-fan the opportunity to further complete their collection. This album is available with six different album covers, each one adorned with a band members “deathmask”; a cunning marketing strategy that would have Gene Simmons licking his greasy lips in satisfaction.
Amongst all this, the only question remains - where to Rammstein go from here? Have they pushed the boundaries of expression to the limit and exhausted their reserves? Does Made in Germany 1995-2011 represent an epitaph to an unexpectedly successful career, or does it signal the commencement of chapter two in the Rammstein story? Only time can tell, but if “Mein Land” (previously unreleased, final track on this compilation) is anything to go by, it looks like business as usual for the fire-spitting masters of provocation.
Tinnitus and third degree burns, await the watchful.