Rammstein’s “Sehnsucht” Hits Its Silver Anniversary, Still Golden After All These Years

To know Rammstein is to, at the very least, know the megahit that is “Du hast.” Whenever I tell someone that I speak German, especially in a club setting, I get asked if I know what the song is really about, or what the singer is actually saying. It’s at this point that I usually inform them what “Mein teil” or “Bück dich” is about. But we’ll get to the latter of those later.

After the success of their debut album Herzeleid, the Berliner godfathers of NDH (that’s Neue Deutsche Härte, or new German heaviness) had to go bigger. Truth be told, the album wasn’t as massive of a seller as one might think, but the band’s live performances helped to garner attention amongst a growing industrial metal scene. Think back to 1995, when Herzeleid was released. This was one year after The Downward Spiral, Ministry’s Psalm 69 was already three years old, and Rob Zombie hadn’t quite gone solo yet. Industrial metal was very much alive and well, but it was about to go to the stratosphere in the year of our lord 1997.

What brought them to the dance? Herzeleid has plenty of the threads that we would see in the later years of Rammstein, but it is far from the theatrical, over-the-top showmanship and lyricism that we would see on Sehnsucht and beyond. It’s very much an industrial record first and foremost, though the guitar gets plenty of workout. There are even guitar solos on tracks such as “Weisses Fleisch” and “Du riechst so gut,” and the ballad “Seemann” has one of the best bass guitar melodies this side of Primus. The grandeur comes in on “Heirate mich,” with a larger concept and lyrical storytelling. We know that Rammstein gets X-rated better than most, and we need look no further than “Das alte Leid” and the aforementioned “Weisses Fleisch” for examples of good fuckin’ songs (emphasis on “fuckin’”). 

Thematically speaking, the band was just getting warmed up on Herzeleid. The success of the album in their native Germany got them festivals such as Pink Pop, took them stateside for tours with Project Pitchfork and Clawfinger, and allowed the band to support The Ramones for eight shows on their 1996 “Adios Amigos” tour. David Lynch’s surreal Lost Highway also used “Rammstein” and “Heirate mich” on its industrial-heavy soundtrack. To say that the sophomore record was highly anticipated may be putting it gently, and that’s not a word that usually comes to mind when speaking of Rammstein. 

In November of 1996, the band traveled to Malta and entered Temple Studio with producer Jacob Hellner to record the follow-up to Herzeleid. By the beginning of April 1997, the band had a single in “Engel,” featuring vocals from Bobo singer Christiane Hebold. Bobo’s drummer Sascha Moser previously played with Rammstein’s guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe in the funk-metal outfit Orgasm Death Gimmick, reinforcing ties from ODG’s origins in the early Nineties. Prior to release of the iconic “Du hast,” the band remixed Korn’s song “Good God,” as well as released a Fan Edition of the “Engel” single, featuring two non-album tracks in “Wilder Wein” and “Feuerräder,” the former of which was a staple of the band’s live performances. The month of the album’s release saw both Herzeleid and the “Engel” single read Gold certification, and on August 25th, 1997, Sehnsucht was unleashed upon the world to rave reviews.

The artwork for the album was done by Gottfried Helnwein, who drew inspiration from his own work on the cover of Scorpions’ Blackout some fifteen years prior. Using surgical implements from surgeon Ferdinand Sauerbruch, six different covers were made for the album, one for each member of the band. While many different versions of the album have made their way out, I will be focusing on the standard 11-track version for the purposes of this retrospective.

The title track wastes no time getting to the stomping rhythm and monster riffage, as if to say, “Last time we kicked this off, we had to make a statement. This time you know who we are, so let’s just get to it.” And while the last record just hinted at sex in the opening with “Wollt ihr das Bett in Flammen sehen?,” “Sehnsucht” is very clearly about blue balls and wanting to rekindle an old flame:

“Zwischen deine langen Beinen such den Schnee vom letzten Jahr,
Doch es ist kein Schnee mehr da.”

“Between your long legs, I search for last year’s snow,
But there’s no snow there anymore.”

Then we get to the would-be mega-single “Engel,” which I would make the case for being an industrial track with shades of metal. The guitars really only make an appearance during the post-chorus, and it’s the keys and synths that get any sort of “solo” before the final chorus. Lyrically, it’s hedonistic and anti-religion, with the baritone of Till Lindemann proudly declaring “Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein,” or “God knows I don’t want to be an angel.”

“Tier” is a song that could have easily been a thrashy, pedal to the metal banger that even starts out that way. Instead takes a mid-tempo route, and to its benefit, making for a more dance floor-friendly number. It’s one of two songs on the record that talk of incest, though the rape-revenge route that the second verse takes is at least justifiable. 

“Bestrafe mich” is not a love song, it’s kinky and downright dirty in all the right ways. The bass guitar gets a rare moment to shine, with Oliver Riedel’s tight bassline driving the interludes between verse and chorus. There are readings of this song that make it about religion, a relationship between man and God (“der Herrgott nimmt, der Herrgott gibt,” or “the Lord takes, the lord gives,” a play on the old adage “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away”), and while it’s not my place to confirm this suspicion, it does hold water, holy or otherwise.

Then we get to “Du hast,” the song that launched a million German students or more. The double-meaning in the pronunciation is worth pointing out to the uninitiated; that is, as the song title is written, it means “you have,” but “hassen,” the word for “hate” is pronounced no differently, and the band even plays with this in the lesser-known English version of the song. The main riff is iconic, the drums that precede the verse serve as a warning to what comes next, and the showmanship and theatricality is classic Rammstein.

Then we get to “Bück dich.” Just as “Weisses Fleisch” was the sex song of its record, this song is, well, something else. Its neck-snapping pace and punishing riffing fit the loveless thrusting of its subject, sodomy. This song is infamous for getting the band in trouble during live shows, as Till has simulated anal with keyboardist Christian Lorenz, complete with squirting strap-on dildo and all the tender loving care that comes with that. In June 1999, this act would land the two in jail in Worcester, MA for the night due to the city’s stricter decency laws. The song was never released as a single, but it has a reputation all its own.

“Spiel mit mir” is as cinematic as it gets for the early Rammstein records. The strings plinking away between Till’s talk-sung lines and stanzas make for an uncomfortable listen, and given this is incest song number two, that tracks. Disturbing, haunting, and thematic is the name of this song’s game, and the line “Vater, Mutter, Kind” makes for a worthy crowd sing-along for live shows.

“Klavier” is to this record what “Seemann” was for Herzeleid, a power ballad about obsession turned deadly. Slow songs aren’t Rammstein’s usual modus operandi, but when they do decide to bring down the pace, they do so masterfully.

“Alter Mann” is a rarer cut, once again more of a techno / electronic song than a metal one. Dealing in old age, wisdom, and possession, this is a creepy track for sure, unfortunately lost to stronger efforts on this album. “Eifersucht” walked so that “Mein teil” from 2004’s Reise, reise could run. It deals in cannibalism, murder, and jealousy, and it’s a song that feels like it may have been left off of Herzeleid for whatever reason. 

We close with “Küss mich (Fellfrosch),” and this is straightforward industrial metal. Samples, a heavy main riff, and more bassy goodness from Oli Riedel. Allegedly, this song has never made the band’s live setlist, and that’s a damn shame given its crowd-popping potential and accessible groove.

This album has stood the test of time for a couple of reasons. The taboo material the band wrote and played about, the blending of metal and industrial music, and a fresh sound not felt stateside in some time. Sehnsucht allowed Rammstein to tour with the likes of Hanzel und Gretyl, Skunk Anansie, Soulfly, and even a couple of Latin American dates opening for KISS. Stateside, the band found its way to the Family Values Tour in 1998, and “Du hast” landed the band’s first of two Grammy nominations for Best Metal Performance in 1999. Rammstein also earned an ECHO Award for Most Internationally Successful German Artist, and the Live aus Berlin concert film that followed went on tour, and was released on DVD and VHS. 

The band wouldn’t return to the studio to record their next album, Mutter, until May of 2000, allowing for three years of touring, airplay, and publicity out of this landmark record. Is Sehnsucht their strongest record? Maybe, though some would say that the best would be yet to come, but twenty-five years later, Sehnsucht ist doch so grausam, und wir sind dafür besser.

Pax Americana by Deathline International

Deathline International’s anticipated newest release, Pax Americana, is a nice, comfortabole mid-tempo ride. It never rushes to get where it’s going but you enjoy the journey just the same.

Spin Zone is a strong opener that’s both dark and a party jam at the same time. And I thought the Andy Griffith sample was a nice touch.

In fact, spoken-word samples permeate this whole album, giving it a classic old-school industrial feel. But if anyone has a right to get old-school it’s producer John Fryer. When Fryer wasn’t making seminal electronic music, he was in the room. These throwback elements don’t seem tired and remain fresh in Fryer’s hands.

‘Inside’ has a nice balance between clean and distorted vocals and also has one of the catchier choruses on the record, IMO.

The minimal opening to ‘Lip Service’ harkens back to somewhere between 1990s Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails before going into a crunchy power ballad.

‘Born Again’ has the most memorable line with the repeated chanting of, “God loves what you hate.” Also a very catchy chorus.

‘In Deb Staub’ Is the most danceable song of the bunch with smooth synths delivered over a pounding beat, crunchy guitars and an Ogre-esque vocal delivery.

‘Sinking’ is a slow jam with lead vocalist Th3Count doing his best Roger Waters and is a great example of DI’s eclectic style before closing nicely with ‘Quiet’.

Old-school rivetheads will love this record because it’s a nice reminder of what we all love about industrial rock. It’s also a great starting point for newbies who want to dive head first into what’s current.

https://deathlineinternational.bandcamp.com/album/pax-americana

SPANKTHENUN Blend Old-School Chiller and New-School Killer on ‘The Bunker Tapes Vol II’

From deep in the heart of Texas comes SPANKTHENUN, with an inkling for old-school EBM worship. Their previous full-length effort, volume one of The Bunker Tapes, saw production overseen by the legendary Claus Larsen. With a punishing lead single in “Dominate,” the group have put the dark electronic world on notice, and with The Bunker Tapes Vol II, they wage war with vintage weaponry. Invoking memories of Skinny Puppy and the darker, snarlier days of EBM, this collection of nine original tracks, joined by a handful of remixes by acts such as Mirland and Planet Damage, is just about as no-frills as classic industrial gets, even with the modern lens and production standards.

https://spankthenun.bandcamp.com/album/the-bunker-tapes-vol-ii

Starting off is the lead single “Off Beatings,” with vocals by the aforementioned Larsen. It’s a mid-tempo, focused dark electro number with a marching beat that burrows and settles in the chest, if only to allow the follow-up, “I Self Me” to let the synths breathe just a bit more. Whereas “Off Beatings” is an icepick to the brain, “I Self Me” is more of a cattle prod jabbed into the side, urging you to move along while inflicting uncontrollable movement with its tubular synth work and low, snarling verse vocals. To that end, “The Smoking Gun” is a blend of the danceable synth work and the stomping grooves seen thus far, with a creeping but simple bass line pushing things forward. 

Right Father” is easily one of my favorite songs from the disc, with its post-punk melody, dancing synth lines, and the reverb-laden snare that evokes memories of the old guard. It lends itself nicely to its successor “Sick Pathos,” with its two-note bassline and samples abound, making for an instrumental dance floor filler that is all killer. The theme of a two-note bass line continues with the schizophrenic “Man on the Moon,” another banger with a certain cyberpunk flare not felt thus far in the album. 

Perhaps the most mainstream-ready track is “Industrial Beats,” with a four on the floor groove and a message we all can understand: “Music gives me what I need / I need my industrial beats.” And was that a Bill Moseley sample I heard? At any rate, the bouncy, descending melody of “Lockdown” feels like it would really ramp a crowd up at a live performance, the slow build to the hook growing the anticipation. It’s a droning, burrowing piece with the reminder that we all, in fact, live in the broken machine-ah. We move forward into the mid-90s or so with the last original track “I Am The Fire,” with its slower pace making for more deliberate grooves. The vocals stand out here, a low talk-sung growl that lets things burn all the more brightly.

We then pivot to the remixes with Mirland’s remix of “Off Beatings.” It’s far more percussive than its album version counterpart, with more 808s and less of an overall melody. Next comes Nature of Wires remixing “Right Father,” adding realistic drums (insofar as they sound like they could be live) and taking some of the mud and distortion off of the vocals. Planet Damage’s take on “The Smoking Gun” feels like textbook 90s industrial, with plenty of flare and panache to take it to places the original mix didn’t need to go. We end on the Psychosomatik remix of “I Self Me,” which brings the war with machine-gun percussion, though it does so in a more club-ready fashion. 

Sounds and Shadow’s interview with SpanktheNun

My first taste of SPANKTHENUN was Glitch Burn Sin, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by them. Single after single, record after record, this is an act that turns out bangers that hold down the underground. This is a must-listen album for fans of industrial, new, old, and otherwise.

Check out The Bunker Tapes Vol II:

I Took a Week Off To Promote My Mental Health. So Lets Review Some Music

It has been a tough few months. A Lot of stress, but also a lot of exciting news. Sounds and Shadows keeps finding new ways to grow like last months S & S Darkscene Chart. I did Bandcamp Friday reviews last week, but I wanted to write a few tonight and just spend some time with new music. As always reach out to me or one of our other reviewers if you have something you want to hear us write about.

Machines With Human SkinTransience – Brand new album from Chicago Industrial artist Adrian Halo. I’ve been spinning a bootleg CD copy of this Adrian handed me at Coldwaves festival. I’ve really loved watching his growth and progression. As a songwriter and producer I hear continual learning with every release. Such an underrated aspect or organic growth. I love how this album uses the power of a whisper. The power and anger comes forth, but not with exploding bass, ear splitting guitars, and screams. When you deliver lyrics with a breathy and melodic intensity it makes you lean in to listen. Makes you want to be inside the circle and absorb the emotion. The bounce of these basslines really create movement and give the wispy chant a vehicle. This is my favorite work MWHS have put out to date, it is effortless, soulful, and the mix really sits in the pocket without forcing the intent.

https://machineswithhumanskin.bandcamp.com/album/transience

Hey look, It’s Adrian and I in the Post Punk Industrial Museum

Favorite Track: Invisible – This song really struck me in part for the clean and focused tone. In part for the raw and exposed aspect of the lyrics. It’s glitchy with a high energy pace and curled lip defiance. A firehose of pressure and political discourse fired with crystal cool water and builds.

Recorded at Maynott Studios, Chicago, IL
Mastered by Jules Seifert at Epic Audio Media, London, UK
Artwork: Jim Marcus

Sequential ZeroSecond Sequence – Some of the great Australian goth talent teams up with Orcus Nullify axe master Bruce Nullify. Ant Banister of Sounds Like Winter provides a haunted, emotive delivery on vocals. The dark disco style Lenn drums create an abstract Cabaret Voltaire openness. The tracks are gripping hands of tension, holding the mind and forcing introspection. This release really excites me for the future of the project. So many talented voices finding a space together and lifting each other up.

https://sequentialzero.bandcamp.com/album/second-sequence

HelixBad Dream – It surprises me I don’t think I have reviewed the powerhouse team up that is Mari Kattman and Tom Shear (Helix). I will rectify that now. Bright, bold, and teaming with energy. Mari has an elegance to her voice that feels like a bird of prey gliding on an air current. This is music that makes my legs pump with a desire to concur the world. I’m genuinely mad at myself I haven’t listened to them more before now. Track 2 Slip has a gorgeous triphop backbeat that captures the idea of movement on ice. I love the subtle changes in the vocals cadence, everything happening in the same volume and range, yet creating movement with tiny variations. Masterful songwriting and execution.

Favorite Track: Run (Hallowed Hearts Remix) – These tracks have all really impressed me. This one though managed to take that same beaming energy and fire it through a violet lens of darkness. The shadowy tones open up even more space for Mari’s vocals to shine. I put this track up for the S & S Darkscene charts. These layered guitar leads add a whole other level.

https://helix.bandcamp.com/album/bad-dream

daddybearHypnotic (feat grabyourface) – It seems whenever Matt Fanale (Caustic/Klack) and Marie Dragontown (Grabyourface) team up glory ensues. This beat is grinding dance floor magic. Marie’s vocals are sensual and terrifying. The whole song is a promise of ill intent which remains tantalizing while communicating destruction. After a few collaborations anytime I see this team put out a new song, it is an automatic buy. I have been requesting it in every Twitch Dj stream I jump into.

https://daddybear.bandcamp.com/album/hypnotic-feat-grabyourface

Goth ProfessorSwamp Gothic (Halloween Single) – Unnerving atmospheric horror trance from Florida’s Goth Professor . I really didn’t know what to expect wadding into these swampy waters. If you want to invite 9 guests to a mansion, feed them delicacies, then commit a murder everyone remaining is left to solve. This is the soundtrack you need.

https://gothprofessor.bandcamp.com/album/swamp-gothic-halloween-single

Review/Interview of Stoneburner “Apex Predator”

The newest offering from Stoneburner now on COP International is now available and Steven Archer keeps finding ways to ferociously raise the bar in modern industrial music. Teaming with COP International and adding in a legendary producer like John Fryer  [NIN, DM, Cocteau Twins, etc] pushed the precision and clarity of message. To create an album full of ruckus noise and chaos which focused on lyrical message about a giant wolf god reigning apocalypse on a world that had lost it’s way. The metaphor tackles hard truth in everything from feminism to mental health. Crushing percussion and uncharacteristic pop hooks combined with wry wit to sling shade at the industry from within.

https://stoneburnerofficial.bandcamp.com/

We got to interview Stoneburner in Hamtramck MI backstage

In true Steven fashion there is also a mystery to solve within the album:

We offer the physical as well as a digital version of this album and tried to figure out what could entice you the unsuspecting fan to get the actual CD. So Steven came up with an elaborate scheme. Within the artwork of the CD version is a hidden puzzle. Solve the mystery and get eternal bragging rights! You will also get a secret email address. If you are the first person to crack the riddle you will receive the original piece of cover art.

Photo by Jen Jeffery including Nathanial and Hemlock

Currently on a must see tour to support. Find Stoneburner passing through your city:

10/15 Fallout, Richmond VA10/21 Darkotica, Cincinnati OH10/22 Small’s Bar, Detroit MI10/29 Mr Small’s Funhouse, Pittsburgh PA10/30 Dracula’s Ball w The Crystal Method @ Underground Arts, Philadelphia PA10/31 Ivy City, Washington DC11/3 Red Sea, Minneapolis MN11/4 Liar’s Club, Chicago IL11/5 X-Ray Arcade, Milwaukee WI11/6 Black Circle Brewing Co,Indianapolis IN11/7 The Crack Fox, St Louis MO11/12- 11/14 Unconvention (also w Ego Likeness), Iselin NJ

Currently #3 on the Sounds and Shadows Darkscene Chart !

Favorite Tracks include:

No Light No Spark – I just adore the brutal tank tread juggernaut feel of this track against the melodic chanting. A vibrant explosion of energy against a desolate darkness.

Spectrum – Sharp striking dance track addressing the neurotypical and expanding understanding of brainwaves in the current world. Donna adds vocals here to add shining blade contrast and light.

Photo by Jen Jeffery

Overall: This is Steven taken off the chain and turned to 11. Unapologetic making industrial music of wild machines and wires. Spewed forth with venom to a world without a concern to how it will land. This is the true punk rock ethos driving giant steam punk construction vehicles. This is the industrial that Joe Strummer prepared us for.