Rammstein's music videos are an ironic and explicit way to poke fun at controversial themes, as well as society's prudishness.
Heavy metal is known for being a controversial genre. However, there are bands that know how to take the genre's shock factor to new extremes and with other purposes beyond just provoking the audience. This is the case of German band Rammstein. From the beginning of their career, the six members of this band have dared to explore and discuss taboo topics such as sadomasochism, cannibalism, and even incest.
The band's name shows how they don’t shy away from controversial issues, as it alludes to the 1988 Ramstein air show disaster, where 70 people died and 346 others were injured. However, the misspelling of the band’s name ended up creating a new word whose close translation would be “ramming stone,” which is a pretty accurate description of the innovative industrial sound they introduced in the metal scene. As if the name wasn’t enough to produce criticism from the harshest critics, their lyrics, live performances, and their imagery have made them subjects of criticism and censorship since they released their first album in 1994.
To explain in detail the variety of controversial topics they have explored would take a lot of time, so if you want to have an idea of how they deal with these themes, the best way is to watch their music videos. In the same way that they choose to like not censor themselves when discussing taboos in their lyrics, they make their videos as explicit and ironic as possible to poke fun at the darkest sides of the human mind, as well as our society’s reluctance to explore some themes that shouldn’t really be scandalous. Here are some of their most shocking videos that will help you understand the revolutionary music of Rammstein.
Although the lyrics of this song aren’t that harmful –they were meant to be an entrance for Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko–, the video is a total childhood destroyer. In it, we see a sadistic and gold-addicted Snow White dressed just like the Disney princess abusing the dwarves, who enjoy suffering, as they fantasize about her. The video was inspired while the band members were listening to the song as they watched the Disney film. However, before that, they thought about using other controversial ideas for the video, such as recreating the bombing of Hiroshima from the soldiers’ perspective, which would add an even darker nuance to the already heavy tone of the song.
"Mann Gegen Mann" (Man Against Man)
This is one of the songs that helped establish Rammstein’s reputation as a controversial band. First, their lyrics talk from the perspective of a homosexual man who represses his sexuality while expressing his desire for other men. According to guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe, the band met with people from the LGBT community to make sure the song wasn’t offensive towards them, but the real criticism came from conservative groups that thought the song was too explicit, not to mention the video, full of allusions to homoerotic imagery. On top of that, all the members of the band perform naked, except for vocalist Till Lindemann, who rocks an androgynous look with long hair and leather boots.
"Mein Teil" (My Part)
While making the video, each member of the band was locked in a dark room and told to do whatever they wanted. Of course, they didn’t restrain themselves when doing creepy and highly symbolic actions inspired by the eerie lyrics of the song. No one knew what each of the band’s members did until they saw the final result: a video that explores the most wicked desires hidden deep in the human psyche. Is there a better way to make a video for a song based on the blood-curdling case of Armin Meiwes, the Rotenburg cannibal? If you already think the video is disturbing enough, the band originally wanted to use sections of the footage that Meiwes recorded when he met with his victim to devour parts of his body, but they weren’t allowed to do it because it's confidential material in the hands of the police. Still, MTV Germany considered the video too disturbing and controversial, so they refused to air it when it was released.
Liebe ist für Alle Da (Love is Here for Everyone), the band’s latest release (without counting compilations and EPs), was surrounded by controversy, first due to the album’s artwork itself, and more importantly, because of its content. This album was subjected to the harsh criticism and censorship of Germany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (BPjM for its initials in German), which thought it was too sexual for young audiences. The band didn't care at all about the censorship and gave them even more reasons to censor them when they released the album's first single: “Pussy.” The song’s chorus, which is in English, is a straightforward explanation of sex, and the music video, almost considered pornographic, was actually released on the adult website Visit-X because it shows the band’s members having sex with women.
"Ich Tu Dir Weh" (I Harm You)
Another gem from Liebe ist für Alle Da, this was the song that put Rammstein’s name on the black list of the BPjM. And the scandal wasn’t really because of the video –in fact, it isn’t even that shocking for the band’s standards–, but because of its lyrics, that explore openly the pleasures of sadomasochism. However, the explicitness of the lyrics is best seen in the live performances of the band, where Till Lindemann forces keyboard player Flake into a bathtub and throws smoke and sparks on him, causing an explosion.
After seeing all these videos, we can see that the shock factor in Rammstein’s performances and imagery isn't just about scaring the audience. The idea is to make them reflect on whether the themes they consider inappropriate should be considered so and, more importantly, that sometimes taboo themes aren’t as scary and unnatural as we see them. Actually, both the beauty and the ugliness of ourselves is what makes us human. That, together with their powerful and revolutionizing music, makes them a band that has changed music like few artists and bands have done.
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Source: Robert G.H. Burns, "Liebe ist für Alle Da: A Visual Analysis of Rammstein's 2009 Album Artwork"