It is very difficult, or perhaps even impossible to express in words the sense of adulation, the near orgasmic thrill that one feels having experienced a live performance that surpasses in the presentation of audio and visual stimuli so massive that it sets a benchmark of excellence toward which all should aspire. Those who have had the good fortune of attending one of Rammstein’s legendary concerts will know exactly what that means. The group’s repertoire blends elements of industrial clamor, heavy metal aggression, melodic catchiness, and electronic dance into a style that, while often characterized as Neue Deutsch Härte (New German Hardness) or even more simply industrial/metal, the band has crafted into something that is very distinctly its own. Such music almost necessitates an equally dynamic live presentation, so it’s no wonder that the East German sextet has spent two decades constantly upping the ante and creating a concert experience that has rightfully been heralded as one of the world’s most theatrically expansive and most entertainingly over-the-top live shows.
An almost robotic klaxon sirens through the arena, which along with the chants and howls of the sea of devoted Rammstein fans creates a deafening roar of noise… one immediately gets a sense of a political rally held in a mechanized industrial factory. Then the smoke starts to clear as a steel ramp lowers and the band marches outward toward the A-stage with all the vehemence and majesty of a monarchial procession, torches and flags in hand. Each band member is decked out in his own individual regalia, finally lining up onstage and standing before their reverent and adoring subjects like the German titans they are, with vocalist Till Lindemann easily the most imposing and intimidating figure, microphones strapped like ammo packs. His deep and guttural voice begins the count as the rest of the band take their positions, ready to begin the sonic bombardment as “Sonne” hits the crowd with all the force of an explosive blast. Lindemann even relinquishes the vocal duties to the audience, allowing them to cheer the lyrics as he stands before like a proud warrior king. This becomes a regular practice throughout the show, with Lindemann as animated as ever and still hitting those operatic melodies as keenly as ever.
Indeed, each band member shines in their respective roles and takes their own moments in the spotlight, with guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul Landers flanking the stage with all the force of a front line assault as their pummeling riffs along with Kruspe’s incendiary solos battering the audience viciously… and boy, does the audience just love it! The same can be said for the rhythm section, with Christoph Schneider demonstrating his skills not only as a drummer but as a showman – decked out in chainmail, his brute power is a marvel unto itself, not only keeping time and volume with the programmed rhythms and sequences and providing that necessary “oomph” that amplifies every strum of the guitar, but also in being visually arresting even behind the drum kit. In contrast, bassist Oliver Riedel relegates himself to the background, content to allow his simple but thunderous bass lines to provide the groove and pulse; as understated as he is, one gets the impression he is the heartbeat upon which every other organic musical element relies, making his few standout moments of lead melody lines all the more satisfying. And then there is the Doktor, Christian Lorenz – a.k.a. Flake – on keyboards, and if his proficiency in handling the background programs and performing the electronic elements of the songs isn’t striking enough, then his flamboyant suit and bodily gyrations, dance moves, and treadmill marching certainly are.
Not enough can be said of Rammstein’s professionalism and humor. As each song proceeds, they all begin to shed layers of clothing, sweating profusely, and clearly expelling as much energy as the most well trained athlete… and never at any point does anyone show overt signs of fatigue. Sure, some might detect a sense of wear in Lindemann’s performance as his slower movements might lack in the fist pumping, head banging thrashing that audiences might be used to (let’s face it, he was less-than-a-year shy of 50 when this show was shot), this writer feels it was more a result of being overwhelmed at so massive an audience, the intensity of their adulation and the music feeding back into each other brilliantly. Kruspe and Landers are an excellent team onstage, playing side-by-side like a well oiled unit and always showing great enthusiasm in each note and riff, while the interplay between Lindemann and Lorenz almost reaches a level of burlesque pantomime that the pair clearly enjoys. For instance, during a seething high note in “Feuer Frei!,” Lindemann feigns discomfort as he clenches his ears, then proceeding to hit Lorenz’s leg to make him stop; after a moment, Lorenz drops from the riser to kick Lindemann’s ass in time with the beat, his spastic motion nothing short of cartoonish. Later, during “Mein Teil,” the now blood spattered vocalist emerges from the center of the stage wearing a chef’s hat and a butcher’s apron, pushing a giant steaming pot, his mic now a giant blade. Lorenz emerges from the pot with a keyboard, Lindemann even curtsying and dancing daintily during the song’s second verse before proceeding to fire the pot up with flame throwers. Lorenz hops in and out of the pot, taunting the singer until finally jumping out and running about the stage with sparks flying from his rear; it’s a visual befitting a Looney Tunes cartoon.
Oh, the pyrotechnics… of course, one simply can’t speak of a Rammstein show without mentioning them, and they are indeed something to behold. Kruspe and Landers brandish neck and facial apparatuses to shoot sparks and flames, their guitars even catching fire during the solo and breakdown of “Du Riechst So Gut.” At one point, Lindemann waves his arms around, sparks flying to create a spectacular flurry of burning light, but it is the massive wings on fire during “Engel” that present one of the show’s most vibrant and impressive images, the crowd shouting the last line of the chorus while the front man stands like an industrial deity manifest in metal and flame.
And then, there are the kinkier aspects to Rammstein’s music, best represented by the song “Bück Dich.” Kruspe takes to the B-stage to perform an ambient and rhythmic keyboard interlude as the ramp lowers to reveal Schneider in a blonde wig, leading the band like dogs on leashes to the stage, whipping them mercilessly to make for quite an arresting spectacle of BDSM debauchery. The sea of fans surrounding the band on the smaller B-stage, Lindemann takes over the dominant role, kicking the ballgagged Lorenz around before revealing a hosed dildo from his pants, spraying both band and audience to make for a grand decadent display. “Pussy,” by contrast is more straightforward as the front man generally stands still throughout most of the song, his whimsical expressions and hand motions taking prominence until he flails into a rage for the breakdown, finally straddling a phallic cannon that shoots foam out onto the crowd.
Originally screened as a limited theatrical release, RAMMSTEIN:PARIS is now available as a double live CD, standard DVD and Blu-ray formats, along with some special editions that include two-disc CD, a limited “metal” edition with dual CD and Blu-ray, and a deluxe boxset with four vinyl LPs, two CDs, and Blu-ray.