I wouldn't exactly say I'm into metal, musically. My tastes are so eclectic I don't think I can describe them succinctly. I like to experience music actively and viscerally, so anything I can dance or otherwise get physical to pleases me, from waltzes to hard, thumping metal. I also like clever lyrics and interesting music videos. By way of the latter, I've been watching/listening to a lot of Rammstein lately. The lyrics are mostly wasted on me since they sing primarily in German, which isn't one of my languages beyond a half-dozen simple words (a few numbers and dance terms). They generally sound angry, but German is a great language for rage, and as a friend of mine pointed out, for all I know they might just be aggressively reciting their grocery lists.
(After that comment I went and looked up some lyrics. Definitely not grocery lists.)
They've been classified as Neue Deutsche Härte ("new German hardness"), Tanz-Metal ("dance metal"), industrial rock, heavy metal, gothic rock, etc. Whatever. I've no clear idea what distinguishes those genres, but I know what I like. I first heard a song of theirs when I danced to it at Stanford Waltz Week a few years ago, then was reminded of them last fall when I received a mix CD with one of their songs on it. Since then I've been digging around for information and trawling for videos on YouTube.
Rammstein has engendered (and deliberately courts) some controversy. They've been accused of being Satanic and inspirational to the Columbine killers, though I take that with a grain of salt since the accusations come from places like the 700 Club. I'm not particularly bothered (more like amused) that they spent a night in jail in Massachusetts after simulating sodomy on stage with a squirting dildo during one of their tours. More problematic for me: some of their visuals go right up to the line of playing with Nazi themes, including the use of footage from Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia in one of their videos, and they have a certain contingent of skinhead fans. Shouting "Hi hi hi" at their concerts is uncomfortably close to "Heil, heil heil," and their logo is reminiscent of a swastika. They don't quite cross the line, but it's hard to know whether that's out of reluctance or merely self-preservation. They do claim leftist politics, and it's unfair to leap straight from "angry German" to "Nazi" nowadays, especially when balanced against some of their more interestingly decadent videos. Lead vocalist Till Lindemann, whom the New York Times described as giving off "an air of such brute masculinity and barely contained violence that it seemed that he could have reached into the crowd, snatched up a fan, and bitten off his head" (article here) said in an interview:
I like my boundaries pushed. And I like music that makes my entire body thrum. From the same Times story:
I've never seen them live, but after that description I'd sure like to. They wear a variety of costumes in their concerts, and they play with fire -- serious pyrotechnics, enough that some of the band members are now licensed pyrotechnicians. They're working on a new album, so perhaps they'll tour in the U.S. in support of it and I'll get my chance.
In the meantime, let me share a few favorite videos. I particularly love the way they play around with fairy-tale imagery. All translated lyrics below are by and copyright Jeremy Williams; I've provided direct links to his translations.
Du Riechst So Gut
This song was their very first single, back in 1995. The title means "you smell so good," and the song is about a predator hunting by scent (lyrics translated here). The video is a variation on Little Red Riding Hood: a woman is tracked through the forest and into a party by a werewolf. No grandmothers here, though. Instead, we get masked aristocrats in vaguely 18th/19th century costumes playing cards and (much to my amusement) performing a country dance. I love the luscious costumes, the sped-up dance scene, the werewolf in white amid the black costumes of the party guests and the brilliant crimson of Red, and the hints of consensual bestiality.
This song and video plays off the fairy-tale character Rose-Red, whom I've embodied in two different costumes at different points in my life. The lyrics are about a boy getting killed doing what his sweetheart wants:
So it was and so it will always be
She wants it and that's the custom
Whatever she wants she gets
I have to like those sentiments. Williams' translation of the full lyrics, quoted above, and from which I pulled the title of this post, is here.
In the video, the "boy" in question is one of a half-dozen religious (priests, monks) from what seems to be several different orders/sects who visit a village for a pleasant mix of partying, religious ritual, and flagellation. He becomes entranced by a young woman and helpfully kills her parents for her. Why does she want this? Damned if I know. But it doesn't work out well for him. I find the visuals as well as the story entrancing.
Having covered Rose-Red, we now move on to Snow White, though chronologically this is the earlier song. The title simply means "sun." Williams' translation of the lyrics is here; I was amused to see "here comes the sun" repeated several times. I'm a little surprised Disney hasn't gone after them for their visual depiction of Snow, who appears here as a gold-dust-snorting dominatrix with a crew of miners who get spanked when they don't produce. Or maybe when they do produce...
This video is straight-up concert footage from a few years ago. No fairy tale imagery here, just lots of screaming fans and growling lyrics (Williams translation here) about the parallels between war and spearfishing. I assume the sexual metaphors (thrusting spears) are obvious. The title translates to "arise, arise."
There are plenty of other Rammstein videos on YouTube. I haven't had a chance to view them all yet, so if anyone finds one I really ought to see (especially any more fairy tale ones) please mention it here.