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Rammstein: What is hidden in the lyrics

Lots of love and lots of heart. This is what Rammstein's lyrics are about - at least if you look at the number of individual words in the band's seven studio albums, which are grouped together by word stem. Singer and lyricist Till Lindemann most often uses words in German lyrics that have to do with "love". Second place in the Rammstein Lyrics ranking goes to the "heart", followed by "man" and "good".

Sounds like Rammstein could also appear in a German hit show, in which the audience cheerfully claps the one and three in a four-four time rhythm. The good mood would probably pass if he heard the complete lyrics:

A person is slaughtered and eaten, a girl is held in the cellar by a rapist, a man is driven to death by a pack. Welcome to Till Lindemann's horror cabinet.

Goethe and German fairy tales at Rammstein

But not all the horror comes from Till Lindemann's pen. For some of the lyrics, the front man was inspired by classic German literature. For example, there are references to Germany's most prominent poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

In the ballad "Erlkönig" it says:

Who rides so late through night and wind?

It is the father with his child;

He's got the boy in his arms

He'll take hold of him safely, he'll keep him warm.

At Rammstein it says in "Dalai Lama":

An airplane lies in the evening wind

There is also a man with a child on board

You sit securely, sit warm

And so go to sleep in the yarn

In Goethe's original, the ghostly figure of the Erlkönig whispers to the child and wants to snatch it away into its kingdom. At the end of the ballad, the son dies in the arms of the riding father.

At Rammstein, the "King of the Wind" wants to bring the boy to him; Finally the boy suffocates in the arms of his father, who is clutching him tightly because of the impending plane crash.

Bertolt Brecht, Struwwelpeter and Theodor Fontane

But it doesn't just stay with Goethe: The Rammstein song "Rosenrot" borrows the title from a German fairy tale compiled by the Brothers Grimm, "Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot", in the music video for "Sonne" the fairy tale figure Snow White appears in "Help For me "the first-person narrator burns because he plays with fire - just like" Paulinchen ", from the children's book" Der Struwwelpeter ", which is very popular in Germany, in which Heinrich Hoffmann used macabre stories to warn of dangers in the mid-19th century.

The duel scene from "Roter Sand" is reminiscent of that from the 19th century novel "Effie Briest" by Theodor Fontane.

The founder of epic theater, the influential German playwright and lyric poet Bertolt Brecht, is also immortalized by Rammstein:

And the shark has tears

And they run off the face

But the shark lives in the water

You can't see the tears like that

In the "Moritat von Mackie Messer" from the play "The Threepenny Opera" from 1928 it says:

And the shark has teeth

And he wears it on his face

And Macheath, he has a knife

But you can't see the knife

In addition to the references to literature, there are other references to German culture and history. Music professor and musician Rob Burns even wants to see similarities between the singing of Till Lindemann and German cabaret singers of the Weimar Republic and draws parallels between Rammstein costumes and concert set design and the machine aesthetics of Fritz Lang's expressionist film "Metropolis" from 1927.

Are Rammstein Nazis?

The exaggerated pronunciation and the rolling "R", the ribbon logo that is used for Till Lindemann's singing, but also for the clichéd portrayal of Nazis in international films, is the symbol of the armed forces in National Socialist Germany, reminded, the appearance with a lot of fire and monumental lighting - all this reminds many of the Nazi regime.

When Rammstein published a music video for the Depeche Mode cover "Stripped" with pictures from a film by Leni Riefenstahl, one of the most controversial directors in film history, it led to a scandal and a lot of criticism.

Leni Riefenstahl was on the one hand an innovative filmmaker, on the other hand she supported the Nazi regime with propaganda films such as "Triumph des Willens" and the "Olympia" used by Rammstein.

Rammstein emphasized in several interviews that none of their members adhered to right-wing ideas. In a new video, the band tries to declare themselves to be the "Stripped" video again:

In 2015, Till Lindemann said of his lyrics in the magazine "Cicero": "I should always analyze my lyrics, but in reality I don't think about them that much."

Rammstein and the German clichés

Rammstein represent what one would think clichéd about Germany abroad, cultural scientist Melanie Schiller is convinced: "The stereotype is the representation of masculinity, the extreme representation of 'hardened', 'idealized' bodies, of male power, camaraderie and maybe also the fascination of evil, violence. The themes of guilt, suffering, alienation and the question of victim and perpetrator come up again and again in lyrics and videos. "

Schiller is an assistant professor at the University of Groningen and has examined Rammstein's relationship with his homeland - in comparison to that of the hit star Heino, who has been known in Germany since the 1970s. She recently also wrote a book about dealing with German identity in music: "Soundtracking Germany: Popular Music and National Identity," it says.

With irony against totalitarian ideologies?

"You could say that Rammstein not only use German stereotypes, but are a kind of German caricature, grotesque overdrawings, grim depictions of being German," says Schiller.

She says: Rammstein's exaggerations are so exaggerated that the band generally show totalitarian ideologies: "Rammstein emphasizes how ridiculous these ideologies are instead of celebrating them."

After all, the band has its roots as punks in the repressive German Democratic Republic in the 80s.

Read an article about the origins of Rammstein in the GDR here.

German history in the Rammstein lyrics

This story, the trauma of the division of Germany into two states and the construction of the wall can be heard in Rammstein's lyrics, says Schiller - especially in the song "Mein Land", which was on the 2011 Best Of album "Made in Germany" has appeared.

"This song works explicitly as a search for identity. It is about being constantly excluded, from an impossible identification with a country or a homeland, from being divided internally, even a kind of schizophrenia", Schiller interprets and adds:

"If you look at the lyrics, it says:

'Where do you go where?

I go with me from east to west.

Where do you go where?

I go from country to country alone.

And nothing and nobody invites me to stay. '"

This eternal search and being a stranger, the feeling of restlessness and insecurity, according to Schiller, are exactly the opposite of the meaning of the term "home".

Rammstein: open to interpretation

Schiller also emphasizes, however, that this view is not the only one at Rammstein: "Rammstein's music and the representations in the videos are very open to interpretation. You can also read in them that they celebrate an idealized version of an original German, national identity. And that's why Rammstein is popular across the spectrum of political views. The judgment depends on where you come from, what you want to see and how you interpret. Both are possible. "

For example, the assassins of the rampage at Columbine High School were probably Rammstein fans. In the aftermath of the fact, some US and UK radio stations stopped playing the band's songs.

Nevertheless, Rammstein is extremely successful from the USA to Russia. The concerts of the Europe Stadium Tour, which began in Gelsenkirchen in May 2019, are almost all sold out. But do you understand how complex Rammstein is?

"My experience is that above all Rammstein's exaggeration and irony are perceived much more directly abroad. These stereotypes come from outside, and they are accordingly more easily recognized and understood from outside. And, above all, they are less from this perspective painful, "says cultural scientist Melanie Schiller. On the other hand, many nuances, references and contexts have also been lost, she admits.

The kiss in Moscow also provokes a lot of comments on social media

Some of Rammstein's symbols are then easier to understand: Rammstein guitarists Richard Kruspe and Paul Landers kissed each other on the mouth on stage in Moscow's Luschniki Stadium in July 2019. In Russia, this gesture is a criminal offense as "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations".

"Rammstein's music says something about society at the moment the music is released. And the political situation in Germany has changed a lot in the last - let's say - five years," says Melanie Schiller, playing with it on the debates on migration and flight in Europe and the emergence of right-wing populism in Germany; the right-wing populist "Alternative für Deutschland" has been represented in all 16 federal states since 2018.

Rammstein is changing

Rammstein also used rubber dinghies, such as those used by refugees when crossing the Mediterranean, in combination with a welcome sign for the shows on their stadium tour, which they will not end until 2020. For Schiller, social change is clearly reflected in Rammstein: "The questions about searching, about being critical have become more explicit. Rammstein has really become clearer without being less nuanced."

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Made Rammstein known in the USA: Director David Lynch ...

    US director David Lynch, one of the most famous filmmakers in the world, had a sensational run in the 1990s with titles such as "Wild At Heart" and "Mulholland Drive": Critics and film fans alike revere Lynch for his extraordinary motifs and nightmarish scenes. Rammstein's brute music fits like a glove with some psychotic sequences in Lynch's masterpiece "Lost Highway".

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    ... and musician Trent Reznor

    For the soundtrack to "Lost Highway" Lynch secured the collaboration with Trent Reznor, film composer, industrial rock icon and head of the Nine Inch Nails. Reznor's use of two Rammstein songs in the Lynch soundtrack was equivalent to an accolade for the German band and suddenly made them known in the USA - and not only among film-loving hipsters.

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Rejected backstage: Sean Lennon

    The son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono is usually associated with much gentler music. As Rammstein keyboardist Flake recently told on his own radio show, things went wrong when Lennon wanted to visit the rockers backstage. Singer Till Lindemann threw him out because he understood "John" instead of "Sean", with the following sentence: "I can be kidding myself".

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Loves playing with clichés: Annett Louisan

    Chansonnière Annett Louisan is also at the other end of the hardness scale compared to Rammstein. When asked why she still covered the Rammstein song "Engel", she told the Frankfurter Neue Presse: "I think it's incredibly smart what Rammstein are doing. They play with archaic clichés in a great way and are understood internationally."

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Promo gag or real theft? Heino

    2013 pop star Heino completely changed his look and approached rock and metal with a cover album. One of his inspirations: Rammstein. They even invited Heino to perform at the Wacken Festival. But the relationship between the musicians was clouded when Heino covered the Rammstein song "Engel" on his last album in 2018 - allegedly without asking Rammstein's permission beforehand.

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Let Lindemann write for himself: Roland Kaiser

    Another hit legend is an avowed Rammstein fan: Roland Kaiser. He even had Till Lindemann write the lyrics "I know everything" for him. "I had met Till at a couple of events and was also on his 50th birthday. At some point I asked him because this is a form of cooperation that gives both their credibility," Kaiser told the SZ.

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Never responded to the Nazi allegations: Slavoj Žižek

    The Slovenian philosopher commented on Nazi allegations against the band in 2008 in the "Zeit": "Rammstein do not undermine totalitarian ideology through ironic distance, but by confronting the obscene corporeality of the rituals associated with them, thereby rendering them harmless." Rammstein are not only not Nazis, they actually "undermine" their ideology.

  • Prominent Rammstein fans

    Appreciates authenticity: Kiefer Sutherland

    In the documentary "Rammstein in America" ​​by Austrian director Hannes Rossacher, numerous US artists talk about their relationship with Rammstein. Among them Iggy Pop, Marilyn Manson and actor and singer Kiefer Sutherland (picture). He says, "You need that level of authenticity, style and culture - then people all over the world will understand your language."

    Author: Philipp Jedicke