I already knew that Rammstein would dominate my 2022.
When I first met my wife Stacey seven years ago I was impressed that this crazy smart, beautiful woman also loved Rammstein. In fact at the time she knew way more about Rammstein than I did, was more attuned to their deeper cuts, the songs I tended to skip over. Her interest encouraged me to dig even deeper into Rammstein’s music than I already had, and that commonality between us became a really cool little bond. I loved learning what her favourite songs were, what emotional connections she had to the music, and it made me appreciate the band even more than I thought I already did. Rammstein became an even deeper thing thanks to Stacey. In fact, at the end of our wedding reception, when the banquet room was nearly empty and the DJ was about to pack up, Stacey requested he play “Du riechst so gut”, she dragged me to the dance floor, and we had one last little slow dance to the song. It was very sweet, one of the best moments of a really good day.
Needless to say, seeing a Rammstein show together was a bucket list goal for us. We’d both been wanting to witness the fire and mayhem of Rammstein going back to the 1990s, and when the band announced their Montreal show in January 2020, we did not hesitate, and I got us some swanky VIP tickets for the terrace at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a venue I know very well. It was money very well spent.
But then the pandemic hit, and we, like everyone else, was adrift in a world of uncertainty. The Rammstein show slated for August 2020 was postponed for August 2021, but that was postponed again! So we had no idea if we’d ever see this concert. But 2022 started to settle down just enough that it was starting to look more and more like it would actually happen this time. I was on pins and needles all summer, hoping like crazy that all the pieces would align to allow this event to happen.
Meanwhile, unthinkably, Rammstein had decided to release a new album. This concert was supposed to be in support of the band’s wonderful 2019 comeback album, but much to everyone’s surprise this normally meticulous band decided to take full advantage of the pandemic lockdown to crank out a new record. And I don’t know what it was – the immediacy of it all, the right chemistry, the timing – but the resulting album Zeit turned out to be even better than 2019’s untitled opus. Personally I was dumbstruck. From out of the blue Rammstein had released an album that was not only their best work since 2001, but would be – in my opinion – their second best album overall, right behind Mutter. Zeit has no business being as great as it is, but I’m thankful, because this thing is an instant classic.
Musically Rammstein has several distinct characteristics. First, you’ve got the massive riffs and industrial rhythms that churn away at a martial pace. Then you have the ballads, which as the years have gone on, have become more and more grandiose, albums Wagnerian in scope. And balancing out the profundity is a wicked sense of humour by a band unafraid to laugh at themselves while laughing at the rest of the world. That balance of those three sides is impeccable on Zeit. “Armee der Tristen” is a stirring rallying cry for their legions of followers, “Giftig” is a hard-charging tune that delves into sadomasochism, “Zick Zack” is both a crazily catchy single and an hilarious satire of cosmetic surgery, while “Angst” is a menacing tale about the boogeyman. Then there’s “OK”, a dryly funny homage to, erm, unprotected sex, and the uproarious “Dicke Titten”, a song that Russ Meyer would appreciate if he were alive today.
Interestingly enough, the ballads were what won me over the most, and that has never been the case with me and Rammstein before. There are no fewer than five ballads on Zeit, and each one is remarkable. A big reason is that Till Lindemann is a better singer than he was 25 years ago, as he lets a lot more emotion into his vocals than he did early on. There’s vulnerability in his performances now. And you feel it on tracks like “Schwartz” and “Meine Tranen”. “Lügen” gets darn near operatic in his portrayal of a pathetic, compulsive liar, Till’s vocals tweaked by autotune to accentuate the decline of one’s sanity. “Zeit”, the best track on the album, is a profound examination of the passage of time, how fleeting those perfect moments can be. Then “Adieu”, the final track on the album, goes back to the theme of time on “Zeit”, at one point saying, “Adieu, Goodbye, Auf Wiedersehen / Die Zeit mit dir war schön (“Farewell, goodbye, see you soon
That moment with you was great”). I did not expect a new Rammstein to be this sublime, but there you go. Zeit was the most beautiful surprise of 2022.
We made it to Montreal in late August. The day of the show was spent getting absolutely drenched by heavy rains on the Parc grounds. We were soaked to the bone, were crushed when they opened the gates, and we had to run in soggy clothes and squishy shoes to snag a good spot on the terrace. Once we were settled there, the night started to get absurdly perfect. The weather cleared up. The massive stage structure looked spectacular with the city in the background, and the sunset was beautiful. The show itself was the best outdoor concert I have ever seen: crazily loud, impeccably mixed, with loads and loads of theatrics and, of course, fire. “Sonne” was beyond awe-inspiring; I was speechless. I can’t watch a video from that show and not feel just how hot those massive pillars of flame were. We were literally barbecued, which Stacey loved because she gets chilly easily. It was a magical night, and it was very sweet to see Rammstein play “Du riechst so gut” with my wife at my side. It’s all about those perfect moments. In this day and age when the world seems to be collapsing around us, when the “greater good” has given way to selfishness and fascism, learning to truly savour those perfect moments is one of the most important things we can do as individuals. I’m just grateful I get to experience those moments with my favourite human in the world.
It was so gut. So very, very gut.