This Is Beautiful, This Is Art
Rammstein with Apocalyptica @ The Brixton Academy, England, February 3, 2005
by: Jackie Smit
It's a telling combination of bemusement, amazement and bewilderment that greets Finnish cello-metallers, Apocalyptica -- chosen almost, it seems, to accommodate the fact that the colossal Rammstein stage-set leaves very little room to host anything or anyone else. Predictably, neo-classical covers of "Master of Puppets" and "Seek & Destroy" draw huge roars of approval from the punters, and one certainly can't help but marvel at the phenomenal talent that these cultural renegades share between them. That said, there's only so long before the novelty begins to wear off, and while Apocalyptica by no means ends their opening slot on a bum note, it's also no great shame to see them take their final bows.

It's amazing to see how far Rammstein have come since their days as a group of impoverished East German factory workers turned musicians. The Brixton Academy is packed, as it will be for the next two consecutive nights, with a heavily eclectic audience spanning everything from make-up caked goths to death metal fans to middle-aged business types. And all this to see a band who have since their inception remained staunchly German and whose music, despite achieving unprecedented commercial success, has never been overtly targeted toward the mainstream.

There are some who would argue that the band's drawing power lies in the fact that their live shows border on performance art, but at the same time, the rapturous sing-along that breaks out when the band arrive and open with the title track off their latest _Reise, Reise_ opus certainly provides powerful evidence to the contrary.

That said, it is hard to take your eyes off the spectacle, especially when it comes in the shape of a two-level custom-built stage, complete with retractable risers on either side of the drum set and a lighting rig that would make some of the biggest arena rock bands in the world look positively lame -- and lest we forget the pyrotechnics, which are carted out in full force to the tune of belters like "Rein Raus", "Feuer Frei", "Keine Lust" and "Morgensteren". Of course, fancy fireworks and explosions are nothing new for those who have experienced the Rammstein stage show, but tonight the band go the extra mile -- even going as far as to stage a mock "boiling" of keyboardist / resident gimp Flake in an oversized cauldron to the tune of "Mein Teil".

But it's the music that ultimately accentuates the impact of the on-stage theatrics, and on a performance level the band do a sterling job all-round, pounding out the likes of "Sonne", "Ich Will", "Du Hast", "Links 234" and "Du Richt So Gut" to the sheer elation of the crowd -- and really, when you add those two components together in this sort of environment, Rammstein present an experience that makes the question of how many albums you actually own by the band an inconsequential notion.

(article submitted 21/2/2005)

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