Sunday, 1 November 2009

Rammlied - Wer wartet ...


Rammleid is the opening track of German industrial heavy rock band Rammstein's latest and sixth album 'Liebe ist für alle da'.

We've been waiting a long time for this album; four years since their last (and not their best) album Rosenrot. It is a prelude to their tour starting on 8th November in Portugal, and as we already have tickets for three of their Berlin dates in December, the album had better be good!

Here's my assessment and translation of Rammlied, with the usual disclaimer that it isn't an official translation and hasn't been endorsed by Rammstein's management Pilgrim. Nor am I especially qualified to give a proper translation, though I have just completed an intensive 'Deutsch als Fremdsprache' at the VHS (Volkshochschule - which are like adult education classes); I can at least now post a package at die Post :¬D

Actually, having to translate Rammstein's lyrics adds an extra enjoyment to understanding them. Rammstein have (usually) lyrically served up an exceptional experience. Unlike many other, pop-orientated, bands, the text of their songs have a deep, dark and rich meaning interwoven into them beyond the usual 'Boy falls in love. Girl doesn't feel the same. Boy feels sorry for himself and plays extended guitar riff solo to make up for his depression.' etc. Instead Rammstein sing about 'the German Cannibal' Armin Meiwes ('Mein Teil'), and on this album about the Austrian Josef Fritzl, who incarcerated his daughter in the cellar and had seven children by her ('Wiener Blut').

The words of Rammstein's songs are often poetic fragments in their own right,and indeed lead singer and lyricist Till Lindemann published a book of poems, 'Messer' (Knives), in 2002. So, like any good poem the words are meant to invoke images and associations in the reader from his/her own experience of life. And when the Deutsch-Englisch dictionary serves up quite a few subtle variations for the translation of any word, the interpretation ends up being both personal and imperfect - all very romantisch in the style of the Germanic literary style of that name. So that's my excuse if my translation doesn't match someone else's on the net: I might be wrong, but I am creatively expressing an inner subjective authenticity. Or something.

By the way, the spelling is Rammlied and not Rammleid. 'Leid' means 'sorrow', 'woe', 'distress' etc. in German. The correct spelling gets 714,000 hits on Google, whereas Rammleid gets 723,000 hits, including on sites like HMV.com.



Rammlied
Rammsong
Sort of. The 'Lied' isn't just any old song ('der Song'), but more a ballad or folk song that people get together and communally sing along to.
The Lied tradition in German music and poetry began with the sung tales of the Mediaeval troubadour and runs through folk songs and church hymns to protest songs and work songs and marching songs and drinking songs in the Twentieth Century. 'Die Lieder' perhaps found their greatest expression with the Romantischen aesthetics of composers such as Schubert (e.g. his 'Der Tod und Das Mädchen'). So try and keep all this in mind when you listen to the first track: it's not just a 'song' but carries with it a whole baggage of folk-tales and romantic themes of love and tragic death and marching with your comrades to battle. Now let's get on with the album!

[The track begins quietly. Low ominous rumblings in the distance, getting louder and closer. As if emerging out of the mists of time, a chorus of monks with synthesized voices become clearer to sing a pair of rhyming couplets in strophic plainsong ...]

Wer wartet mit Besonnenheit,
Der wird belohnt zur rechten Zeit.
Nun das warten hat ein Ende,
Leiht euer Ohr einer Legende.

[this is all a bit Corvus Corax. Hmm, hope they don't start with the Dudelsäcke next]

Whoever waits calmly and patiently
Will be rewarded at the right time.
Now the waiting has an end,
Lend your ears to a legend.

[There is a sudden loud burst of guitar chords and drums and the loud chant of ...]

RAMM [beat beat beat] STEIN!

[Oh yes! This is more the Rammstein sound! Snare drums start up a rallying tattoo which march beats through most of the rest of the song]

RAMM --- STEIN!
[electronic keyboard plays a simple looped rising and falling progression of four notes]

[to the marching rhythm of drums and cymbal clashes, Till barks out almost in monotone:]

Manche führen, manche folgen
Herz und Seele Hand in Hand.
[plainsong chant: 'Hand in Hand']

Vorwärts, vorwärts, bleibt nicht stehen
Sinn und Form bekommt Verstand.
[chant:'komm Vertsand']

Some lead, whilst others follow
(but we're) bosom buddies (i.e. soulmates), side by side.

Forwards, forwards, never halting (as in the commands 'Forwards March!' and 'Halt!')
Form and function are given meaning.

(btw 'Sinn & Form' was the title of a DDR literary review and poetry magazine that Bertold Brecht wrote for in Berlin, and which reviewed works banned by the DDR such as by Sartre and Kafka. I don't think that is significant here, but what the lyrics are getting at is unclear).

I like to think that they are alluding to the sentiment:
"Geh nicht vor mir, ich will dir nicht folgen.
Geh nicht hinter mir, ich will dich nicht führen.
Geh neben mir und sei mein Freund!"

i.e. "Don't go in front of me, I will not follow ('folgen'). Don't go behind me, I will not lead ('führen'). Go beside me ('Hand in Hand') and be my friend ('mit Herz und Seele')!"

[Till then barks out this concluding rhyming couplet:]

Wenn die Freude traurig macht
Keine Sterne in der Nacht.
[chant: in der Nacht]
Bist du einsam und allein
Wir sind hier, schalte ein!

If pleasure brings sadness
(And there are) no stars in the night.
Are you lonely and alone?
We are here; tune in (as into a TV or radio broadcast).

[The guitars and drums charge up again to belt out...]

RAMM --- STEIN!

RAMM-STEIN!

[keyboard note progression loop starts again, moving the song rolling inexorably forward]

[snare drum tattoo begins again, calling the troops to muster]

RAMM-STEIN!

Manche führen, manche folgen
Böse Miene gutes Spiel.
[chant: gutes spiel]

Fressen und gefressen werden
Wir nehmen wenig, geben viel.
[chant: geben viel]

Some lead, whilst others follow
Pulling a sour face even when there's nothing wrong
Devouring and being devoured ('fressen', used here, is how animals and babies eat. Humans 'essen').
(whilst) We take only a little, (and) give lots.

[Till concludes with another pair of rhyming couplets...]

Wenn ihr keine Antwort wisst
Richtig ist, was richtig ist.
[chant: richtig ist]
Bist du traurig und allein?
Wir sind zurück, schalte ein!

If you lot don't know the answer
What is correct is what is right (so don't worry about it).
Are you miserable and alone?
We are back, tune into us!

[back to the chorus and drums and guitars]

RAMM --- STEIN!

RAMM-STEIN!

[electronic keyboard loop, which is stating to become something of a Leitmotif]
[snare drum and cymbals]

RAMM-STEIN!

RAMM-STEIN!

[then the snare drums beat out a call to listen up, punctuating each bullet point and accompanied by clashing cymbals, as Till shouts out the Rammstein manifesto...]

Ein Weg!
Ein Ziel!
Ein Motiv!

RAMMSTEIN!

One path!
One destination!
One reason behind it all!

Eine Richtung!
Ein Gefühl!
Aus Fleisch und Blut
ein Kollektiv!

One direction!
One feeling!
Out of flesh and blood- One community!

This part sooo reminds me of Milan Fras's style of delivery on Laibach's 'Geburt einer Nation' (itself a genius reworking of Queen's 'One Vision'), right down to the snare drums. See this YouTube clip for a comparison. 'Ein Mensch, ein Ziel, und eine Weisung. / Ein Herz, ein Geist,
nur eine Loesung. / Ein Brennen der Glut. /Ein Gott, Ein Leitbild.'
Awesome! But ye Goddess, I can just see those who fantasize neo-Nazi sentiments on Rammstein picking up on this. Wrongly of course.

[The tempo and sound level slows right down, replaced by a single guitar. The dramatic tension that has been unrelentingly building up is released, and we have the monk's chorus of plainsong again ...]

Wer wartet mit Besonnenheit,
Der wird belohnt zur rechten Zeit.
Nun das warten hat ein Ende,
Leiht euer Ohr einer Legende.

Whoever waits calmly and patiently
Will be rewarded at the right time.
Now the waiting is at an end,
Lend your ears to a legend.

[finishes with a rising crescendo of keyboards and staccato drums, the chanting of RAMM-STEIN, the keyboard loop again, and finally a guitar chord, drum and cymbal attack that doesn't want to let go. Finally, silence.]



Phew! As an overture to the album Rammlied does a magnificent job. It seems to call the band back from the mists of legend, marching into your lonely bedroom and inviting you to march with them in common comradely purpose to - well not quite sure where but it will involve lots of loud drums and great guitar and electronic sounds.

This track promises a great album (and it is great, as it turns out!), as well as amazing concerts ahead. For the concerts I can just see the guys marching out of the stage-fog along to drummer-boy Schneider. Or maybe not, but it will surely be a new theme tune calling their fans to the flag, if not to arms.

2 comments:

  1. Thankyou Andie !
    What a wonderful piece. I felt the force of this amazing song as I read, I felt it's passion and I can see them playing this onstage and the fans, including myself, going wild :)
    Thanks for the explanations and feelings, love it!
    Schlaggy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! I am from Germany myself and searched for a interpretation and the connections to literature from Brecht etc. But I didn't find a site with good descriptions.
    And now I read your explanations of that song, which are much better and more detailed than anything I read in german!

    My respect! Great job!!

    ReplyDelete

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