Deutschland – Rammstein

In depth analysis of Rammstein’s first single in 10 years. Extract from my Master’s Degree Thesis.

As first part of the analysis, I would like to go deeper into the music of Deutschland. The instrumentation is that of a typical Rammstein song. 2 guitars, bass guitar, synthesizer, drums and Till Lindemann’s trademark vocals with harsh consonants.

The song begins with the synthesizer playing what we would call the main melody. It’s a distorted sound, played in a dark timbre. There seems to be some frequency masking of the notes, the melody rises and falls with one steady note being played in between, making it sound as if there was a steady note over which the rest plays. It’s a very electronic sound, very fast, which could be best described to resemble flashing lights in a club.

Then the first guitar riff breaks in, played by both guitars and the bass. The drums beat in the same rhythm as the guitar riffs are strung, interjecting with hi hat beats as the riff’s sounds out. Back to the guitars that play in 2 different registers, before the guitar begins to imitate the synthesizer’s main melody and progressively the drums enter, first in double rhythm on the Tom-toms, later becoming louder, and the attack clearer. Before the verse, the entire ensemble plays together, in what we would usually describe as “heavy” music. All but the drums fall silent when Till Lindemann begins to sing, giving a far greater prominence to the voice and the German lyrics. Also, another voice repeats certain parts, or new parts of the previous lyrics, as if a voice from the background. So far the song has kept up with a dark theme, heavily distorted guitars and steady, “heavy” drums and Till Lindemann’s is typically raspy and with strong consonants. This breaks up in the pre-chorus. Here a filtered, highly reverberated piano sound can be heard. The sound is far away but present above the dark timbric quality. It plays but a few single notes, that also appear in the synthesizer’s melody, but much slower. It gives the song an almost nostalgic feel. The piano seems a call from another room, another place, and the melody itself gives a sad feeling and so creates this nostalgia. During the chorus the word “Deutschland” is repeatedly screamed by a choir, made up of the rest of the band. It feels aggressive apart from determined. The guitar plays only in occasional riff while the voice is present, the felt speed of the song is created by the synthesizer’s wave movement and the steady drums. Before the verse begins, the guitars gain more presence, playing again the synthesizer’s melody.

The idea of the piano in the background and the second voice keeps going during the second verse. The guitar changes to a faster, power-chord riff during the next pre-chorus, which has a rhyme with the word “über”. Just before the chorus itself, and the last time this melodic word “über” is repeated, it is all we hear, as the band stays silent. It makes the next chorus’ attack become stronger, even though being almost the same as the first, but highlighting the new lyrics and new vocal melody. The bridge has just the synthesizer and some droning ambient sounds, in a similar timbre, but also the piano. Here it sounds more like bells even. It has a very final and very gloomy effect. The chorus of male voices continues crying out. Till Lindemann’s voice breaks this part, returning to the rhyme with “über” accompanied only by the drums bass drum and hi-hat. 

And in the last chorus there are some rather wailing vocals added, repeating the same melody as the piano before did. The song ends abruptly, with just the piano remaining, playing its simple notes. Overall, it is a song that expresses strength, but also a darkness and certain nostalgia. It doesn’t lead with a positive feeling, or empowerment in the strength, but acknowledges the dark side of power, given to us by the menacing male chorus, wailing voice and dark timbre of piano and ostinating synthesizers. 

Together with the lyrics the musical elements become more obvious as to their function. The first phrase we heard sung, accompanied by an almost-silence is: 

Du (du hast, du hast, du hast, du hast) 

Hast viel geweint (geweint, geweint, geweint, geweint)

You (You have…) Have cried a lot (cried…)

The first sentiment is sadness, but also a look to the past, thanks to past tense. It’s a sad past, as we’re talking of tears. If we tie this in with the title, it might be an allusion to Germany’s sad past, one riddled with wars and negativity.

Dein Atem kalt (so kalt, so kalt, so kalt, so kalt) 

Das Herz in Flammen (so heiß, so heiß, so heiß, so heiß)

Your breath cold (so cold…) the heart in flames (so hot…)

As the verse progresses, the lyrics allude to cold breath. In common German language, a cold breath means cruelty, often used in criminal writing, or feeling someone’s cold breath down your neck. It is always a characteristic of a cruel, cold-blooded person. This would mean, if we believe they are talking about Germany, it would mean that she, the country, is cruel and cold. History would show that this could be true statement. The heart in flames stands in contrast to this. Usually in German culture a heart in flames is always a passionate lover. This would mean that while Germany is cruel, there is also passionate love. Again history would give truth to this contrast, as Germany has received much “love” and had a prominent nationalist movement. However, she did receive love, maybe for being as cruel as her nationalist movement was.

Deutschland, mein Herz in Flammen. Will dich lieben und verdammen. Deutschland, dein Atem kalt. So jung, und doch so alt. Deutschland!

Germany, my heart in flames, want to love you and condemn you, Germany, your breath cold. So young and yet so old. Germany!

Again, a contrast between the flaming heart, the passionate love, and the cold breath, the cruelty of the nation is made. However, this time in the heart of the lyrical I. It’s highlighted again in the phrase “want to love you and condemn you”. There is a duality between loving Germany, while hating it. The reason for that is not yet clear.

Überheblich, überlegen, Übernehmen, übergeben, Überraschen, überfallen. Deutschland, Deutschland über allen

Pretentious, outclass, take over, hand over, surprise, assault, Germany, Germany, above all

These phrases bear significant importance to the message of the song. For one, it is remarkably musical, and so ties in with the musical messages we explained before, especially as its last words are marked with silence. The repetition of the word “über” makes the listener pay attention to this part. There is an evolution inside these words. First, they use the word Pretentious, then “outclassing”, maybe believing that Germany is as pretentious to believe they are outclassing others. The words “übernehmen, übergeben” have 2 meanings. One is reflected in the translation. It would mean that Germany in its pretentious belief of being better, they take over and have things handed to them. Here we can find maybe another reference to Germany’s history, and the wars where they occupied countries. But the other meaning is not to be ignored as well. It could also be translated as “take too much, throw up”. We can also interpret this to mean that Germany is taking too much, because they pretentiously believe to be better – and throw up; it is too much.

Both interpretations leave one thing clear: out of a belief to be superior Germany “takes” too much and this is proven in the last phrase: “Deutschland, Deutschland über allen”. This is a daunting phrase for anyone who is aware that this is a phrase is derived from the first verse of the poem on which the national anthem was based. Its most famous use, however, was under the Nazi rule as national anthem, where they actually defended this same belief of superiority. We can interpret, however, that the band disagrees with this. Because the moment when Germany has most taken too much, or been to proud has been during this time. That would explain why allude to this phrase just before the chorus, that states they want to curse Germany. The music is dark, gloomy, negative. The piano mentioned before already foreshadows a mournful melody. The lyrics of the bridge begin with the word “überheblich”, which is used in a negative context in the German language. And just after this phrase of “Deutschland, Deutschland über allen”, they repeat the chorus which includes this duality of wanting to love but also hating Germany – they are unable to ignore the cold breath and will to condemn Germany for exactly this reason. 

As such, the song Deutschland shows maybe the errors of Germany, in its belief of superiority and in its pride. And while we may love Germany, because it is our home. We have to condemn it for its cold breath and condemn our historically dangerous pride. This song touches on a sensitive nerve of Germany in 2019. Germany as many European countries have seen a rise in the far right movements. Political parties like the German AfD, Spain’s Vox, the French Front Nationale are gaining more votes. Rammstein’s song seems to remind where we came from as country, and that “[we’ve] cried a lot”. Concerning the criticism to the images of the music video, already by the lyrics of the song we can see that there is no highlight, or marketing use made of the images of the members as concentration camp inmates. The song is concerned about Germany and its past, of which the Holocaust in inseparable. The phrases “Meine Liebe kann ich dir nicht geben” and “Wer hoch steigt der wird tief fallen” show that it is not to praise Germany. While it doesn’t deny that there is love to the country – there is also no way one can love Germany.

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