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Live review: Rammstein at the Forum

May 22, 2011 |  5:29 pm

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Rammstein is not a band built for subtlety. It is tribal metal for your midnight ride to the Euro disco, a precise construction of Teutonic grunts, computers and electric guitars led by singer Till Lindemann, an ex-Olympics-level swimmer with the voice of Nosferatu. For non-German speakers, he might as well be singing of daisies and unicorns, except you know he isn’t.

Tours of the U.S. are rare for the Berlin industrial-metal act, so the Forum in Inglewood was packed Friday with fans ready for a brutal, action-packed pummeling. They were rewarded with thundering beats and guitars and pillars of fire right at the front of the stage — close enough to nearly scorch the first rows of fans surging forward.

Explosions and fireballs weren’t reserved only for peak moments but used for virtually every song. A growling “Wiener Blut” delivered exploding plastic babies with laser-beam eyes, and “Feuer Frei!” erupted with shouts of “bang, bang!” before band members put on facemasks with built-in flamethrowers.

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Dressed something like Gothic foundry workers and standing on a stage resembling an industrial torture chamber, Rammstein blended Fritz Lang and “Saw IV,” with lots of moving parts and billowing fog. The commitment to excessive pyromania was epic stagecraft on a Wagnerian scale, several notches up from most arena rock.

More important was that the six-piece band — in addition to Lindemann, guitarists Richard Z. Kruspe and Paul H. Landers, keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz, bassist Ollie Riedel and drummer Christoph Schneider – wasn’t dependent on those fireworks but could have easily punished and soothed the senses to nearly the same effect with music alone.

From the band’s earliest albums, beginning with 1995’s “Herzeleid” (a.k.a. “Suffering”) and 1997’s “Sehnsucht” (“Longing”), Rammstein has been as satisfying to metalheads as to the urges of modern electronic dance music, comfortably blending worlds without compromise. At times, the songs swung between the blips and beeps and slabs of industrial buzzsaw guitars as Lindemann grunted and wept of sadomasochistic woe. “Du Hast” was a raging, swirling anthem on love and hate, genuinely melodic amid the heavy riffing and operatic self-loathing.

From the band’s newest album, 2009’s “Liebe Ist für Alle Da,” came the wistful, lustful ballad “Frühling in Paris,” which still inspired some sharp elbows in the mosh pits, spinning slowly to the urgent plucking of acoustic guitar. Lindemann’s vocals burned of anger and real vulnerability, something too rare in modern hard rock, making Rammstein a band of metal doomsayers with a tough, tender touch.

For nearly two hours at the Forum, the effect was so serious and driven that the result could be as funny as it was unsettling. And yet the sextet was also less rigid than one might expect, finding melody amid the morbid and melodramatic, fueling the rage and morose sing-alongs.

One notorious song from the last album urged immediate fornication (with a title unprintable here), and climaxed with Lindemann saddling himself onto a cannon that sprayed fans with foam. Maybe it was fire-retardant.

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-- Steve Appleford

Top photo: Rammstein frontman, Till Lindemann, performs with his metal band at the Forum, in Inglewood, May 20, 2011. Credit: Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Rammstein at the Forum, May 20, 2011. Credit: Barbara Davidson/Los Angeles Times

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