“Other bands play; Rammstein burns” goes the fan motto. So the O2 Arena should prepare for a roasting. The German industrial metal band will put a rocket upLondon’s biggest venue on February 24. Tickets have gone fast among those who don’t value their eyebrows – this is the hottest show in town.
Rammstein (the name, with typical subtlety, means “battering ram”) are unlikely candidates for British arena rock domination. They reached number 30 in our singles chart once, in 2002. They rarely sing in English, barrel-chested frontman Till Lindemann taking full advantage of his native tongue’s guttural power to deliver his lyrics like a man bringing up his dinner. But their concerts speak a universal language of flaming terror, a singeing spectacle that leaves the fans with huge smiles on their faces for having survived it intact. I must have raved to more people about the Rammstein live experience than about any other band, and I don’t even care much for metal’s Sturm und Drang usually. TheBerlinsextet put on a show like no other act I’ve ever witnessed, from rock heavyweights to arena pop glamourpusses.
If past gigs are anything to go by, you’re likely to see Lindemann firing balls of fire from a flaming crossbow over the heads of the crowd, singing with a blazing light inside his mouth to make it look as if he is on fire from within, or sporting a gigantic pair of metal angel wings that shoot jets of fire from their tips. Three band members strap flamethrowers to their faces and shoot bursts across the stage whenever they sing. Most shocking of all is the moment when Lindemann turns his flamethrower on a hooded stage invader and sets him alight – a set-up that seems all too believable given the man’s deep love of burning anything that comes in his path.
When they started out in the mid-Nineties, they simply poured petrol around the stage and set light to it. As they progressed to huge popularity across mainlandEurope(the last five of their six albums has reached number one inGermany) they attained full mastery of the burniest of the four elements. “When you are on the stage you have a different chemistry inside you. When you add fire to that, it’s a good reaction,” Lindemann has said.
The stunts have got weirder too. During possibly their most notorious song, Mein Teil, about jailed German cannibal Armin Meiwes, Lindemann has appeared as a blood-spattered chef and flambeed skinny band stooge Flake Lorenz in a giant cauldron. During possibly their other most notorious song, Pussy (“Take me now, oh, don’t you see/I can’t get laid inGermany”) Lindemann sits astride a giant pink cannon and ejaculates foam into the front rows.
In case it isn’t already apparent, there is a sense of humour here, albeit one that delights in shocking those who aren’t in on the joke. Their song Amerika rhymes “wunderbar” with “Wonderbra”. On the cover of their debut album, Herzeleid from 1995, they stand oiled and topless in front of a giant flower. On the sleeve of Pussy their heads are transposed onto the bodies of six naked women – Lindemann is pregnant. “We like being on the fringes of bad taste,” guitarist Paul Landers has said. “We’re getting to the borderline of acceptability.”
And sometimes past it. Their last album, 2009’s Liebe ist fur alle da, could only be sold under the counter to over-18s in their home country. There were a few reasons for this, particularly the cover, which showed the band dissecting a naked woman, the sadomasochistic song Ich tu dir weh (“I hurt you”) and the special edition, which contained handcuffs, lubricant and six pink sex toys modelled on the band’s own members.
That collection might admittedly be more fun than the music, which growls and stamps with military might and does not encourage singing in the shower. But even here there’s an occasional lighter touch offered by Lorenz’s keyboards, and the band are becoming increasingly interested in orchestral arrangements. In 2002 Dresden contemporary classical composer Torsten Rasch released a song cycle, Mein Herz brennt, based on Rammstein’s music. It was heavily praised in Tory fanzine The Spectator, no less, which called it a “lacerating mix of heavy-metal pop and late romantic/early modern orchestral intensity, whose music wholly transcended the callow protest of its lyrics in unforgettable excoriation.” Beat that.
I recommend Rammstein live for a baser reason, however: the simple thrill of a giant fireball shooting in your direction while guitars pummel and a violent man in a leather corset growls at you incomprehensibly. Once seen, burned on the memory forever.