When first asked about Rammstein, I thought it was a new brand of pilsner, but after seeing the six-piece German powerhouse on Wednesday night at Oakland's Oracle Arena, I realize they are actually a great heavy metal band and one of the best live shows -- ever.
How good? All-capitals: AWESOME.
The show started with twin guitarists pounding their way through black stone walls with pickaxes, as beams of light shot out at each strike. A roar of heavy metal grandeur filled the air, then a huge bomb went off.
The band proceeded to rage through an impressive display of crunchy riffage and epic speedcore raveups augmented by constant pyrotechnics and operatic lighting.
In fact, bombs and flamethrowers went off during almost every song. It was epic Sturm und Drang that only a bunch of Germans could serve up.
Evidently this year’s tour is the first time the band has hit the road in the US in eleven years. That was easy to see given the fact that Wednesday night’s show was like a touring Blitzkrieg.
The Homeland Security Agency of the Bush-43 years would have had real problems with a bunch of foreigners like these guys going from town to town blowing things up at every chance. And that they did.
Like during one song, lead singer Till Lindemann got in an altercation with the keyboardist and blew him up with explosives not once but TWICE.
During the orchestral rave up section of "Feuer Frei," guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers each had thirty-foot flamethrowers shooting from their mouths.
During a couple of songs, instead of having drum solos they had explosion solos. Heavy metal doesn’t get better than that.
Everything was played with a straight serious face and yet it was all hysterically funny. At times it was like Spinal Tap, but they always kept taking it further, pushing the boundaries constantly till it went beyond the realms of self parody into a whole new level of rock grandeur.
Everything would have fallen flat if the music wasn’t good enough to sustain it all, but the band delivered on that level, as well.
Unfamiliar with their tunes, I found myself wildly shaking a "Hail Satan" sign in the air and banging my head uncontrollably to almost every song.
In fact, I was so inspired I wanted to bang the heads of those who did not bang. I didn’t understand a word frontman Till Lindemann was singing because it was all in German, but it didn’t matter, you found yourself singing along anyway.
Unlike many of the practitioners of “Cookie Monster Rock” Lindermann didn’t just snarl his way through all his lyrics, he actually had a dynamic range with some interesting harmonization.
The whole band acted like a pulverizing unit, Asgardian leather clad gods with Glen Danzig physiques.
Except for the keyboard player, Christian "Flake" Lorenz, who was kind of effeminate at times, frequently murdered or abused by the lead singer and forced to run on a treadmill during almost the entirety of the show, in a sparkling jumpsuit no less, following one of his resurrections.
During the closing song “Pussy,” Lindemann sat atop a giant, pink penis cannon hosing the audience down with massive amounts of foam and confetti, to the delight of the baptised masses.
By the show ending “Engel,” Lindemann emerged for the second encore wearing a pair of huge metal angel wings that opened up and shot out great streams of fire from the wing tips. As fire cannons erupted around the band on stage, you knew you had truly died and gone to heavy metal heaven.
If you are fan of Kiss, Alice Cooper, the circus, or just plain-old entertainment, you have to see this band live. Hopefully we won't have to wait another 11 years for them to come around again.