On December 11, 2010, Rammstein played their first show in America since 2001. It turned out we missed them, as the band sold out the hallowed Madison Square Garden in only 20 minutes. The concert, not surprisingly, is the captured in all its glory of one of the two DVDs on the set In Amerika that was released last week, but it’s the journey that got them there that’s really the focal point. The two-hour In Amerika documentary isn’t just a story about the band’s introduction and ultimate triumph in the United States, but also one of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of six like-minded individuals becoming a global phenomenon.
The fact that Rammstein exists at all is due to guitarist Richard Z. Kruspe escaping communist East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Amerika shows the genesis of the band via their previous acts, Orgasm Death Gimmick and Feeling B. Both bands, obsessed with the mythology of America, traveled there separately before uniting in Rammstein. After gaining some success in the mother land, we hear from the band’s at first skeptical booking agent, label rep and a band they played with (Hanzel und Gretyl) at their first American show, in 1997 at the now-defunct NYC goth club The Bank. Seeing the band’s stage show at a subsequent show convinces the initial naysayers that the music and their pyro-filled stage show transcends the fact that they sing entirely in German.
Of course, rest is history. “Du Hast” takes off the following year when their second album, Sehnsucht, is released, and the band find themselves on the Family Values tour alongside Korn and Limp Bizkit. This is a great part of the documentary, as the six band members, who barely know any English, find themselves thrust into a tour where they’re really just happy to be able to eat Hungry Man dinners on their first-ever tour bus. The documentary shows some hardships along the way, such as when frontman Till Lindemann and keyboardist Flake Lorenz are arrested for indecency in Worcester MA after a performance of “Buck Dich” that pantomimed sodomy. But it’s not long before they’re touring with KISS in South America, appearing in films like XXX and Lost Highway and getting props from celebrities ranging from Keifer Sutherland and Iggy Pop to Taylor Momsen and Steven Tyler (among the many who appear in the documentary).
Of course the documentary culminates in their triumphant return to America in 2010 at the Garden. There’s really only one big question that isn’t specifically answered: why didn’t they play the States for almost a decade? September 11th is mentioned, with the band stating that they felt attitudes in America had changed. Well yeah, they had, but not because of six Germans. It also mentions that the bigger the band got, the less they communicated with each other, especially while touring in the States. But instead of delving into their American absence and why it happened, it talks about how they retained and perhaps increased their popularity in the States by staying away for so long. There are probably some logistical reasons, like the Station nightclub tragedy resulting in more stringent regulations on pyrotechnics, but that’s not addressed. Regardless, the two-our documentary is a highly entertaining look at the humble beginnings and eventual global rise of one of industrial metal’s biggest bands, and perhaps the only band to have an all-German album ever go platinum in the United States.
As for the Garden documentary, it’s a must-see for any fan of the band. Even if you were at the show (like we were), it’s as close as you’ll get to see them in concert for some time. The 100-minute show is filmed meticulously, and even if you don’t know a word of German or know any songs beyond “Du Hast,” it’s an entertaining watch. Every song has it’s own set piece, from Lindemann showering Flake with sparks in “Ich Tu Dir Weh,” to a “roadie” being set on fire during “Benzin” to the show-ending angel wing finale of “Engel.” The theatricality of the show is incredible, and it looks amazing in HD.