Concert: Rammstein in Anaheim, CA
Imagine a Technicolor Leni Riefenstahl film shot on a Ridley Scott "Aliens"-inspired set with a Wagnerian metal soundtrack on a stage hotter than the surface of the sun. Yes, Rammstein is Beavis' wet dream come to life. Surely there was a pyromaniac furiously gratifying himself somewhere amongst the 15,000 sweaty bodies at Anaheim's Honda Center Thursday (5/17) evening.
For the uninitiated, the East German band are purveyors of the Neue Deutsche Harte scene, which combines the industrial sturm and drang of bands such as Einsturzende Neubauten with the heavy drop D guitar of traditional metal.
Lead singer Till Lindemann's powerfully Teutonic baritone puts any cookie monster vocalist to shame. It also proves the point that German is a language far better suited to metal than any other tongue. Backed by a tight five-piece band, Lindemann performs with a tense militaristic drama, but not without a healthy dose of sarcasm and humor, which is somewhat lost on non-native German speakers. Additionally, Lindemann's set-long verbal and physical abuse of keyboardist Flake Lorenz brings levity to the doom.
To experience Rammstein live is an assault upon the senses. Yes, all the typical fire spurting accoutrements were present and accounted for: Flaming crossbows, mic stands, guitars, flamethrowers attached to faces, arms, legs, backs, buttocks, not to mention the 30-foot bursts of inferno emanating from nearly every inch of truss and stage. Their set is tightly choreographed for no other reason that one wrong move would bring immediate incineration. The enormous fire-spurting angel wings wielded by Lindemann were particularly stunning. But there are also blasts of icy Co2, streams of water and soapy ejaculation over the crowd during "Pussy." The alternatives to fire were a welcome relief given the intense heat generated from the front of the stage, for it is not uncommon to leave a Rammstein show with a bit of a sunburn.
And then there is the crowd. Rammstein is not your average metal band and therefore attracts all comers, Goth punx, industrial insects, white trash heshers, burnouts, German expats, art school Jack Sparrow/Prince hybrid weirdos and even a binocular wielding Latina grandmother who shrieked and bounced throughout the entire affair.
And yes, despite the linguistic challenges, they sing along. It doesn't get much weirder than 15,000 people screaming "Schwuler" during "Mann Gegen Mann" at the top of their lungs. One wonders what percentage of the crowd realizes they're screaming the German equivalent of "faggot" during a song that artfully describes the pain and rejection that many homosexuals suffer. This sort of subject matter is another example of what separates Rammstein from your average tits, cars and beer metal band. Their themes are vast and veer from the darkest recesses of the human mind with songs such as "Mein Teil" (a sinisterly comic view of the Armin Meiwes cannibalism case) to tongue-in-cheek perversions like "Pussy". "Links 2 3 4" is an anti-Nazi response aimed at those who hurl right wing accusations at the band. "Mutter" is a disturbing tale of matricide. Their anthem, "Amerika", takes its place alongside Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" and The Guess Who's "American Woman" as misunderstood paeans to patriotism.
Rammstein essentially ignored North America for nearly 10 years while becoming one of the most successful international acts in the world. It is inspiring to see Americans finally embrace an act that performs in a foreign language. Rammstein has four more U.S. dates on their U.S. tour before finishing up at Houston's Toyota Center on May 25.