With six albums, twenty-three singles, and hundreds of jaw dropping pyrotechnic laden arena shows under their belt, Rammstiein, Germany’s most broadly adopted musical export, are more than due a greatest hits compilation. In many respects it’s bizarre that Universal have waited so long to bring the German industrial giants’ greatest work together, after all few manage, entirely incidentally, to remain so monolithic in scale and yet so shrouded in mystery.
The language barrier is an obvious issue, but outside of central Europe, even at the height of their fame, Rammstein have never been regular fixtures on music television. The band’s few mainstream breakthroughs have come in the form of idiosyncratic satirical jibes (“Amerika”, “Pussy”) which, while crucial to the Rammstein character, stand apart from the band’s core sonic progression. Alongside this inherent blockade lies the sheer scale of Rammstein; they arrive, they charge huge fees, and they deliver a jaw dropping spectacle so full of eye catching gimmickry (exploding babies, travelators, rocket powered dildos, flame throwers, dinghies, giant vats of molten metal) that Rammstein the musicians appear indistinguishable from Rammstein the artists, showmen and purveyors of shock.
Taken as a whole Germany’s finest export are a dizzying proposition, and after sixteen long years, it’s about time someone sat down and attempted to codify the imperious outfit’s oeuvre. Thankfully, despite relying almost solely on singles, Made In Germany 1995-2011 successfully captures everything that makes Rammstein such an undeniable force of terse mechanical might. Rather than lazily opting for a choppy chronological selection (the type that rendered the last Dylan boxset unlistenable) or front-loading (putting all the big singles in a row), Rammstein have followed the path of Pavement’s excellent career retrospective Quarantine The Past; masterfully crafting the band’s greatest hits into a start to finish work in its own right.
Made In Germany… could only have been the product of a judicious editor as mammoth singles and some of the band’s live staples have been dramatically kicked to the kerb. “Rammlied” the band’s theatrical set opener is wisely cut; it would appear flabby and indulgent to new listeners. The crushingly heavy “Benzin”, the lead single from Rosenot and a centrepiece of the band’s live shows, has also been expunged alongside its album mate “Mann gegen Mann” in favour of softer, but infinitely more affecting, standouts “Rosenot” and “Ohne Dich”.
The sixteen tracks that do make the cut flow sublimely. The opening is raw, driven, and bleak as “Engel” and “Links 2-3-4” are oppressively persistent in their unshakable Spartan march. The album soon explodes into life, as a series of portentous vocal overdubs, swooning string lines, and German club keys are slowly folded into the mix. Across the opening ten tracks Rammstein capriciously evolve from the monotonous march of the downtrodden proletariat to the untempered lust of a German S&M club, through the ecstasy of arena rock, and into the sardonic smirk of band intent on subverting western values.
It’s all there, presented as one conceptually diffuse but sonically homogeneous journey, that shows a band growing through their love of Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails; emerging as an eccentric entity in their own right that could never be mistaken for anyone or anything other than Rammstein. The moments of stark juxtaposition that do emerge, the sudden drop from the pointed and beautiful “Rosenot” into the daffy waltz of “Haifisch”, for example, prove just as rewarding as those of relative coherence (the back to back run of Mutter staples “Ich Will”, “Mein Herz Brennt” and “Mutter”). Creating an album full of unexpected tangents without losing its fundamental sense identity and purpose.
Via a series of suitably melodramatic peaks and valleys the entire album arrives at a fittingly gargantuan finale, as the relentless operatic grind of “Sonne” gives way to the serene “Ohne Dich”. It’s a truly sublime, and surprisingly tender conclusion, or it least it would have been, had “Mein Land” not been shoehorned in at the death; surely a campy concession to a record label desperate for a new single to promote an album in need of no assistance. Still Made In Germany: 1995-2011 cannot be undermined, and it stands as a worthy rival to Mutter as Rammstein’s finest LP, a rare example of a greatest hits compilation done right.
The special edition of Made In Germany… comes complete with a Best Of The Remixes CD, which feels entirely arbitrary. Most of the mixes are made by unskilled guest producers (rock stars pretending to be DJs) or are jokes in their own right (see Devin Townsend’s insipid and unfunny take on “Rammlied”). Still if you can stomach 17 tracks worth of limp European dance parodies there are some gems. Jacob Hellner’s Prodigy meets Gristle in the Balearics take on “Du Hast” is engaging, The Pet Shop Boys do a serviceable job of transferring “Mein Teil” onto the club scene, Olsen Involtini brings colour and a staggered acoustic beat to “Amerika” while Laibach’s “Ohne Dich” is a worthy reinterpretation that doesn’t tarnish an already excellent track.
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