Monday, 31 December 2001

Rammstein

I had looked everywhere. I had looked all around my hometown of Cromer. I had asked friends in nearby towns to try and find it for me. I had spent three hours going around every music shop in Norwich, both new and second-hand, looking for this compact disk. Finally, I checked the Internet, and managed to find it without any trouble at all.

Those of you who have been reading my entertainment columns for a while now will recall a piece I wrote a few months ago titled "Am I Alternative?". In that piece, I wrote about how, back in the mid to late eighties, my musical tastes, which included the likes of Guns 'N' Roses, was considered mainstream, but now it was considered alternative.

In the column, I wrote about how I had recently discovered the music of German rock band Rammstein. A little recap if I may.

Not long after Kerrang TV, a digital music channel from the same people who brought us possibly the world's greatest heavy metal magazine, viewers began to request a video by Rammstein, who, at the time, I had never heard of before.

The video in question was for the song "Sonne", which, translated into English, means "Sun". The video told the tale of a sadistic Snow White, who died in the bath after shooting up, only to come back to life at the end of the video at her own funeral. I know this sounds silly, but if you see the video you'll realise that it is quite serious.

I have no idea what made me watch the video. Rammstein sang in German. I couldn't understand a damn thing they were singing about. But something kept drawing me back to the video whenever it was played. It was as if I had never heard this sort of sound before.

For a short time, "Sonne" was taken off the Kerrang play list, to be replaced by a live recording of "Ich Will" ("I Want"). "Ich Will" was another song that immediately struck a chord with me. Seeing Rammstein live in concert, if just playing one song, reminded me a little of Black Sabbath live. Rammstein seemed to have the same sort of power that Sabbath, with Ozzy Osbourne as their front man, displayed in their prime. Everything about "Ich Will" made me sit up and take notice. I would often find myself humming the song, and on the odd occasion, trying to sing it, even though I understood very little German, and would very often get the words terribly wrong.

Wanting to find out more information on Rammstein, I used what seemed to be every writers favourite research facility, the Internet. First, I found their official website. Thankfully, it was in German and English!

I found that Rammstein were big not only on the European mainland, but also in the U.S. I also found that the kids responsible for the Columbine High School killings a while back were also big Rammstein fans. This was probably brought Rammstein to the attention of the American public. They say any publicity is good publicity, but in this case, I don't think this is the case. We all remember that Judas Priest court case from a while back, don't we?

Anyway, I continued with my search. On their official site I found that, because of their extensive use of pyrotechnics in their stage show, they had to cancel some shows in Britain because of safety concerns.

Another website showed me something that I had been searching for drastically - a translation of their lyrics. However, after finding the translation for "Sonne", I began to think that perhaps the Rammstein sound is better in it's native German. An example here, first in German, then in English;

GERMAN; "Hier kommt die sonne,
Hier kommt die sonne,
Sie ist der hellste stern von allen,
Hier kommt die sonne."

ENGLISH; "Here comes the sun,
Here comes the sun,
It is the brightest star of them all,
Here comes the sun."

I think you get my point here.

The third video I saw on Kerrang TV, after "Ich Will" was taken off the play list, was another live performance, this time of "Links 2,3,4". While, at first, not as catchy as "Ich Will" or "Sonne", it still showed the same power in their live performance.

These videos had done their job. I began my search. I wanted to find the album these great songs were on, and I didn't care if people said I was stupid because they didn't sing in English.

I wasn't really surprised when I found that I couldn't get the album I wanted in my home town of Cromer, or in the nearby town of Sheringham. It seemed that when I discussed Rammstein, no one had heard of them.

Venturing to the city of my birth, Norwich, I hunted and hunted around the record stores. HMV, Our Price, Virgin. I did find a Rammstein album, but not the Rammstein album I was looking for. It wasn't the one that had "Sonne", "Ich Will", or "Links 2,3,4" on it.

Disappointed, I returned home, with an idea of how I could get the CD. My brother Paul and I had planned a day trip to the French coastal town of Calais, as part of a coach party. The destination was the Cite Europe, a huge shopping complex, known for it's huge supermarket where cheap booze and fags could be brought. My idea was this; there were several record stores in the complex, and if Rammstein were huge on the European mainland, what better place to buy the CD than on the European mainland, and probably at a cheaper price as well!

However, two weeks before we were due to go, disaster struck! Due to a lack of interest in the trip, it was cancelled! Now, in my very poor French, could I say "Je suis desire une CD de Rammstein!"

Not wanting to take a train journey to London just to find this damn CD, I resorted to those kind people at Amazon. Within minutes, I found what I was looking for. The CD, with the three songs I wanted, was titled "Mutter". With credit card in hand, I placed my order!

And two short days later, the CD came through my letter box. With eager anticipation, I put the CD on, and immediately, I knew that it was money well spent.

The power of their music, which I had seen on television, came through on their album. Right from the first track, "Mein Herz Brennt", through "Sonne" and "Ich Will" to "Nebel", the last song, showed that this was a great album, and it made me think that the impossible could happen. A few months ago, I had thought that Slipknot's "Iowa" would be my favourite album of the year. "Mutter" kicked that notion into touch.

With my mission complete, I set about finding more of Rammstein's music. Having been given some HMV gift tokens for my birthday by some friends, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to seek out more of their music. This came in the form of their 1997 album "Sehnsucht", and their 1999 concert album "Live Aus Berlin". While not as good as "Mutter", they are still two great albums.

The popularity of Rammstein among the so-called "alternative" music buying public was born out when, upon the release of Kerrang 2; The Album, Kerrang TV announced their top ten most requested videos. While it was not surprising that Staind's "Outside" and Slipknot's "Left Behind" made the top slots, I did find it a little surprising that Rammstein's "Sonne" was at number eight, even higher than Alien Ant Farm's "Smooth Criminal", a single that had reached the UK top ten. "Sonne" was also included on the Kerrang 2 album. 


Although Rammstein have developed something of a cult following in the UK, they will probably never gain mainstream success over here. In a world filled with manufactured boy bands and dance music that seems to steal from songs I used to listen to when I was a kid, the fact that Rammstein prefer to sing in their native German will harm their chances over here. We music loving Brits never really seem to like songs sung in a foreign tongue, and the only acts we ever seem to like from the European mainland all sing in English. The likes of Abba, Aqua and A-Ha come to mind.

I look forward to hearing future outings from Rammstein, and exploring their back catalogue a little more. I may not be able to speak German, but who cares? Music speaks louder than words!