The A-Z of Rammstein

Till Lindemann of Rammstein on stage at the Gelredome on 6th December 2009 in Arnhem, Holland
Till Lindeman
(Image: © Rob Verhorst\/Redferns)

Everyone loves Rammstein, don’t they? Why? Because Germany’s world-class purveyors of industrial stomp metal have never, ever compromised their sound or vision for the past two decades and they consistently put on one of the greatest live shows you’ll ever see.

So, in celebration of the Teutonic titans, here’s 26 things every Rammstein fan should know…

A IS FOR… ADIOS

The connoisseur’s choice. One of the closing cuts from Rammstein’s ground-breaking 2001 opus, Mutter, the track ebbs and flows until the 2:08 mark, where Paul H. Landers and Richard Z. Kruspe deliver the best guitar interplay in industrial metal. No, scrap that – in the entire history of music. Steve Vai might be able to play all the scales known to man with his pinkie, but it takes a band like Rammstein to deliver a song like this. Now, we just need to convince them to start playing it live again…

B IS FOR… B-SIDES

Everyone knows Du Hast and Ich Will, but some of Rammstein’s mightiest material comes from the lesser-known nooks und krannies. Kokain, the b-side to Das Modell (more on that song later), contains one of Till Lindemann’s greatest, subtlest vocal nuances; 54 heads into more traditional, straight-up industrial territory with a creepy Speak & Spell passage towards its climax; the spooky organ and anti-religious themes peppered through Halleluja prove that this band is more than just White Zombie riffs and lyrics about shagging. Search out Rammstein’s bonus tracks because they’re just as brilliant as the albums and singles.

C IS FOR… CANNIBALISM

Mein Teil was the first single to be released from their fourth album Reise, Reise. The song – slang for ‘my dick’ – is about the German cannibal Armin Meiwes, who, with permission, cut off Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes’ penis and ate it together, before killing him. Meiwes is in prison forever now. The song went to Number 2 in the German charts and was remixed by Pet Shop Boys.

D IS FOR… DILDOS

Rammstein are renowned for the zeal in which they re-enact their songs live, and Bück dich (means ‘bend over’) involves Lindemann violently spunking over keyboardist Christian ‘Flake’ Lorenz with the help of a strap-on dildo. A bulging boxset of 2009’s Liebe ist für alle da also contains six lovely pink dildos, allegedly moulded around each of the band’s schwanz. That’s cock in English.

E IS FOR… ENGEL

A fan favourite from 1997’s crushing Sehnsucht, this track features that iconic whistled melody playing alongside the band’s trademark, heavyweight riffing. In the live arena, it’s not to be missed, as Lindemann whacks on some massive metal angel wings that spew flames across the stage. Which, quite conveniently, brings us to our next item.

F IS FOR… FIRE

Fire from masks. Fire from the floor. Fire from the ceiling. Fire from a crossbow. Fire from flamethrowers. Fire on a giant silver coat. Flake’s on fire. Fire. All-consuming fire.

G IS FOR… GERMAN AIR SHOW DISASTERS

The band’s name was allegedly inspired by the Ramstein Air Base in south-western Germany, where 70 people lost their lives in an air show crash back in 1988. The band has since denied any ties to this, claiming that the name comes from rammsteine: a giant door-stop. Misspelling it as Rammstein literally translates the name to ‘ramming stone’. Which is pretty metal.

H IS FOR… HERZELEID

The album that started it all. The first official full-length –following a demo the previous year featuring half the band members – Herzeleid dropped in 1995 and changed everything. Asche zu Asche and Du riechst so gut are both setlist staples, but the rest of the record is just as massive. The hulking, dirty riffing resembled White Zombie to an American market and aped the likes of countrymen KMFDM in the ears of Europeans. Basically, it was – and still is – absolutely crushing.

I IS FOR… INTERESTING FASHION CHOICES

Lindemann and Flake represent the juxtaposition within Rammstein: the calm and the storm, the Yin and the Yang, the murderer and the gangly, weedy little victim. Early incarnations were a bit hit and miss, but the duo’s fashion of late has been on impeccable form. Lindemann’s hulking form has been ensnared in a pink fur coat during Ich Tu Dir Weh and his butcher get-up through Mein Teil has been a setlist centrepiece since Reise, Reise was released 12 years ago; Flake’s disco ball suit is also a strong look.

Till Lindeman, sporting the 'psychotic butcher' look in 2004

Till Lindeman, sporting the 'psychotic butcher' look in 2004
(Image: © Rob Verhorst/Redferns)

J IS FOR… JIZZ

When you go see Rammstein, there’ll be a lot of bodily fluid. You’ll be sweating. Lindemann might bash his head with the microphone until he bleeds. Or, you know, a cement-mixer-turned-penis-cannon might jizz all over the audience. Even in your own home, you’re not safe. Pussy’s video is a full-on porn flick soundtracked by – and featuring – the band. And we don’t need to discuss Bück dich any more.

K IS FOR… KRAFTWERK

Kraftwerk basically shaped the landscape for electronic music to spread its toes and walk across, so of course industrial metal would be nothing without them. They’re true innovators and Rammstein acknowledge this, covering Das Modell as a non-album single around Sehsucht’s release. There’s hulking, staccato riffs and there’s guitar slides. It’s huge. It’s a bit German. It’s very Rammstein.

L IS FOR… LITIGATION

Rammstein are actually suing their own government for the indexing of their Liebe Ist Für Alle Da album, for which they claim they’ve lost out on €66,000 through recalled CDs. It’s a bit like your Dad spending months fighting your local MP over a £20 parking fine – it’s not about the money, it’s the principle.

M IS FOR… MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

A decade away can do wonders for your career. Rammstein hadn’t graced US soil since 2001, with plans for a return in the pipeline for years. And then, in 2010… Madison Square Garden. 18,000 punters. Tickets gone in a morning. That might seem commonplace now we’ve got stuff like Babymetal, but this really shouldn’t have happened. A band singing in German about incest, murder and sodomy shouldn’t be playing to anybody, let alone inside of the world’s best known venues.

N IS FOR… NEUE DEUTSCHE HÄRTE

Okay, so Rammstein play industrial metal, but this is the proper term for the Germanic brand of rock they exude. So what does ‘Neue Deutsche Härte’ mean, then? ‘New German Hardness’. Does what it says on the tin. Bands like Oomph! shit out a similar racket to Rammstein, and it can even be traced back to the likes of hard hitting acts such as KMFDM and Die Krupps. So there you have it.

O IS FOR… ORIGINAL LINE-UP

Since that monstrous debut 21 years ago, the essential ingredients of the Rammstein recipe have remained the same: Till Lindemann on vocals, Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers manning the axes, bassist Oliver ‘Ollie’ Riedel, Christoph ‘Doom’ Schneider beating the shit out of the skins and, of course, Christian ‘Flake’ Lorenz on the keys. Yeah, it’s been seven years since the last record, but we’ve had over two decades of untouched, unspoiled industrial perfection.

Rammstein circa 2000

Rammstein circa 2000
(Image: © Mick Hutson/Redferns)

P IS FOR… PLATINUM ALBUMS (YES, REALLY)

Their first five records have certified platinum in multiple territories. Sehnsucht is the only German-speaking album to reach Platinum status in the US. Say what you like about the band, but you can’t accuse them of riding any sort of hype.

Q IS FOR… QUEASINESS

The band’s music videos are artistic statements in their own right, but they’re best not watched on a full stomach. Mein Teil has Till being fellated by an angel, returning the favour by eating her wings and killing her; genitals flap with reckless, feckless abandon through Mann gegen Mann’s promo shoot; and then there’s the Pussy video. This band never compromises, no matter how uncomfortable the end product may be. They will tackle content other bands wouldn’t touch with a seventy-mile shitty stick and that’s why we love them.

R IS FOR… ROSENROT

Originally dubbed Reise, Reise Volume Two, Rammstein’s fifth LP contains six tracks originally slated for Reise, Reise alongside some new material. The band didn’t tour the record and it’s a real shame; Benzin and Mann gegen Mann usually remain in the band’s core setlist, but there’s some proper leftfield material here. Stirb nicht vor mir, in particular, is a career first for Rammstein – Lindemann trades lines with Sharleen Spiteri and Bobo. Christ, it’s beautiful.

S IS FOR… SEHNSUCHT

The cover art for the band’s second album was created by Vienna artist Gottfried Helnwein, who was responsible for the Scorpions’ 1982 cover art for Blackout. In a possible nod to this classic sleeve, individual portraits show the band to be wearing kitchen utensils as partial masks. Although being Rammstein, it probably represents something different entirely.

T IS FOR… TILL LINDEMANN

If you’ve ever seen Rammstein, you’ll know about the Till Hammer: Lindemann pounding his thighs with his fist to the tribal, unstoppable roar of the band. Audience members join in and smash their legs into small pieces, leaving the gig bloody, bruised messes. He bleeds for Rammstein, having had a surgical incision so that light could actually shine from his mouth during Rammlied. But Lindemann isn’t all brute. He’s written two poetry collections and, despite his signature bass vocal, he’s quite the crooner, as can be heard on the acoustic version of Mein Herz Brennt. Then again, he’s also got a band with Peter Tägtgren – handily titled ‘Lindemann’ – who do a song called Golden Shower.

U IS FOR… UNLAWFULNESS

You might have had a chuckle at Bück dich, but Lindemann’s artistic willy-waving got him and Flake arrested in 1998. The police in Worcester, Massachusetts weren’t having any of it, arresting the both of them once they came off stage. As soon as he enters America these days, he’s still carted away for an interview, having to explain: “So, you know, like, sometimes, you’re hanging with your mates and you just jizz over them with a pump-action dildo, yeah?” Quite.

V IS FOR… VITALI KLITSCHKO

Sonne was the first single take from the band’s third album Mutter. According to Lindemann, the song was originally written as the entrance theme for the towering Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko.

W IS FOR… WIENER BLUT

Taken from their 2009 album Liebe ist für alle da, Wiener Blut – translated as ‘Viennese blood’ – is the band’s interpretation of the horrific case of Josef Fritzl, an Austrian man who kept his daughter imprisoned in a cellar for 24 years. He is currently serving a life sentence in a secure psychiatric institution.

X IS FOR… X-RATED

See: The Mann gegen Mann and Pussy videos, dildos, pump-action spunk cannons…

Y IS FOR… YOUNG BLOOD

Rammstein might seem like a bit of an anomaly, but the German sextet have had a sizeable impact on the newer generation of bands. Obviously they brought prominence to the Neue Deutsche Härte genre, but also influenced acts across the pond; Deathstars and Combichrist – who’ve both supported Rammstein in recent years – borrow from the Germans’ sound and theatrics.

Z IS FOR… ZWITTER

The lyrics for Zwitter – translating as ‘hermaphrodite’ – are as brilliant as one would expect from Rammstein: ‘two souls under my chest’. Yet that’s the thing with Lindemann’s words – his lyrical scope is broad, borrowing everything from newspaper clippings to Bertolt Brecht lyrics and motifs to children’s TV shows and picture books. None of this is half-arsed, generic drivel. These are gorgeous, intricately crafted tales enhanced by the crushing industrial backbone of Rammstein’s musical output.

Rammstein headline Download on June 10. For more information, see the festival’s official site.

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