RAMMSTEIN’S ‘DEUTSCHLAND’: GERMAN HISTORY THROUGH HEAVY METAL

 

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It’s a bit surreal watching a band that’s existed since you were two years old reach what could be, allegedly, the end of their lifespan, especially when they haven’t released any new full length material (solo projects of varying quality aside) in around ten years. On the other hand, it’s just as impressive watching them return to go out with a bang the size of a small nuke.

 

Rammstein crept back into the public eye in mid-March with a short promo featuring the band members in concentration camp uniforms, silent, in front of nooses and SS officers. The internet promptly lost their fucking minds, whether from a decade worth of pent-up hype or from suspicion/anger at the use of Holocaust visuals in a promo piece from a band known abundantly for their penchant for shock value and graphic imagery.

 

Two days later, they finally released the music video for their new single, ‘Deutschland’; which will eventually appear on a self-titled final album. It’s almost epically long, as videos go, clocking in at nine minutes and 22 seconds for a track that on its own sits at around five, and it’s epic in its scope as well. In it, Rammstein goes through a frenetic and hyper-stylized retrospective of the history of Germany, as more informed people than me have managed to expound upon already. Interwoven are a myriad of references to their own 25-year-long musical career, and it’s fucking rad.

 

 

 

The video as a whole revolves around actress Ruby Commey as Germania, the physical embodiment of Germany, who actually gets more screen time than the members of the band. We follow her from the country’s infancy in the forest, to her shining in gold armor on a battlefield with a raptor and bright red eyes as the Hindenburg flies overhead, barely visible in the background, before shifting to brutal bare-knuckle boxing in what is supposed to be the Weimar Republic. This starts the frantic switching from time period to time period, violence to type of violence, from societal change and advancement like the zeppelin to the eventual exploration of space. It also has its share of the disturbing imagery we’ve grown accustomed to from Rammstein’s work. In the early minutes of the video, the first chorus kicks in, with a group of Christian monks feasting on the flesh of Germania as she lies on a wooden table, cringing in pain and shock, with men in gimp masks scurrying on all fours underneath her like childhood monsters under the bed on steroids.

 

Later on, the imagery that caused much controversy in the promotional material returns. The band members stand on the gallows in their death camp uniforms as an SS officer kicks the logs out from under their feet one by one. A rocket launches into space in the background, perhaps evoking the idea of progress on the back of violence. Germania lurks in this section too, of course, missing an eye and dressed as one of the officers in the camp. (The people that were not happy about the promo are even less happy about that scene, if you were wondering).

 

But the image that still sticks out to me, and got me to watch the video about seven more times in the first place, is a courtyard lit up by red light where soldiers are burning books in a pile on the ground while Germania, in a red dress with her head covered, burns alive on an elevated pyre in the background. For some reason a German metal band going out of its way to imply that the destruction of literature and art that kicked off the darkest period in the country was akin to taking their homeland and burning it down to cinders is powerful. In a video full of shocking scenes and ballsy statements, this image certainly stands out; particularly due the creeping resurgence of the same far right sentiments rearing their ugly heads both there and elsewhere. In that vein, a climactic clip of the camp prisoners shooting the officers in the face point blank with rifles is particularly satisfying.

 

That said, if you’re not the type who is into weird artistic interpretations of German history and ethical questions, there are a fantastic amount of Easter eggs thrown around basically everywhere that span almost the whole of Rammstein’s career. The first lyrics spoken are even “Du hast,” and both the suits from that video, as well as some similar camera angles, are used to invoke their most commonly-referenced song. Also take note of the band walking away from the Hindenburg crashing and burning, and the blimp replacing the car bomb at the end. The space suits they occasionally wear call to mind the suits in the fake moon-landing scene in ‘Amerika.’ The band members in drag, as well as on all fours crawling on the ground, is reminiscent of several scenes from ‘Mein Teil‘ (as well as the live performance of that song in recent tours). The book burning shows a barely visible live performance flamethrower mask behind a wall of fire. The heads from the covers of the Made in Germany retrospective release are displayed prominently on pedestals. And after all that, Germania herself is lifted up on the steel wings used in ‘Engel,’ as the piano instrumental for ‘Sonne‘ plays as the credits start to roll.

 

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Whatever expectations I may have had for a song titled ‘Deutschland,’ the video blew all of them out of the water and gave me more to revisit and think about than any video they’ve released in the past. With every subsequent viewing, it truly feels like a fine-tuned climax of their and Germany’s shared history as the most iconic band from the area, perhaps ever. I think it’s a fantastic opening send-off to what is unquestionably one of the most iconic modern heavy metal bands, and I think everyone should watch it, maybe twice or more. If this is their lead-in, I can’t wait to see what they pull out for the rest of this album when it drops on May 17. My expectations are very high.

 

 

Samantha Schorsch

Sam Schorsch is a freelance writer and editor and lifelong resident of Chicago. She graduated with an MFA in writing and publishing from DePaul University in 2017. She is also firmly on the Jason side of the eternal Freddy vs. Jason argument, when applicable.

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