By Richard Broome (@richbroome_tog)
I am sat in a rather intimate, underground screening room at the British Film Institution. Drinks are flowing, the atmosphere is positive. The head of Spinefarm records stands up and makes a short introductory speech to get the eager audience whipped up for what is sure to be a special screening. This is Rammstein, after all. Expect the unexpected (and singed eyebrows).
He sits down, the lights dim and the screen turns black. A single red light appears and travels horizontally across the screen, left to right, with the unmistakable industrial strains of Rammstein ringing out with it. This is Rammstein: In Amerika.
We travel back in time to mid-eighties East Germany; Rammstein as we know it is yet to be born, while half of its future members play in punk band Feeling B. It’s a real insight into the East German music scene before the Berlin Wall came down. The film does a great job of capturing the feel of the times, taking in the troubles of the average citizen of Berlin as well as bands looking to travel the world.
Next, we’re transported to the caustic, chaotic early gigs as Rammstein find their feet in Germany, Europe and America. The cultural demi-gods that are David Lynch and Trent Reznor play a key role, helping to catapult the band into American homes and venues, which lead to more than their fair share of issues with US State laws (they’re still not allowed to play shows with pyrotechnics in Chicago because of a fire in the 1900’s!).
The US was also the scene of one of their greatest feats: headlining at Madison Square Garden. The night took three years to organize and sold 18,200 tickets in twenty minutes, a fact that surely cements them as Germany’s biggest cult band. This achievement is made all the more impressive when you consider that they had not played a show on American soil in the ten years prior.
In Amerika lets us see behind the walls of sound and flame to give a glimpse of the family at Rammstein’s core. All original members remain despite near-collapse and countless trials. They eat together, sleep together, even expose themselves and get arrested together (“the land of the free” indeed). Through all this they did what many thought to be impossible: broke America.
The documentary features interviews with many stalwarts of heavy music, with Scott Ian of Anthrax putting in a particularly memorable turn, as well as figures you wouldn’t immediately associate with the band, such as Kiefer Sutherland.
Whether you’re a fan of Rammstein or even heavy music, In Amerika is a fascinating journey in its own right. Make no doubt, this brilliantly made and insightful documentary is a worthy addition to your collection.