Last night, a dream came true: I saw Rammstein play the Oracle Arena in Oakland. For the uninitiated, Rammstein is a German industrial/metal band, named after the location of an infamous air-show disaster. While their lyrics are almost exclusively German, the band explores themes of cannibalism, sadism, death, and deranged sexuality. In addition to their hard as nails music, Rammstein is famous for their live shows, full of pyrotechnics, strobes, lasers, explosions and much additional madness.
I first heard Rammstein when I saw the David Lynch movie, Lost Highway; Til Linderman’s low creepy voice introducing a relentless onslaught of beats and guitars as our minds twist and turn. I had an idea about using this as a segway to an article about David Lynch movies (and I still might, at a later date). Briefly, I intend to ask whether David Lynch films can be classified as Horror, and by asking, discuss the way Horror is a vast and complex spectrum. What is Horror to me might not be Horror to you (just as what is horrible to you might not be horrible to me). The same is true about Horror music (if such a sub genre of music actually exists).
There are some truly horrific elements of a Rammstein concert (besides eyebrow singing pyrotechnics). At last nights show, Til first took the stage in a blood-colored leather butcher’s apron, his eyes smeared with black, his face white, and his lips: Joker-red. At one point, the entire back-drop of the stage crumbles. We saw hanging baby dolls with green laser eyes that exploded, leaving a dozen tiny plastic bodies littering the stage. And in the most concrete violation of the audience, those closest to the stage were doused in X-Rated foam and ticker-tape. And, of course, keyboard player “Flake” was “murdered”.
A Rammstein concert truly is a visual representation of Horror, just as their music was perfect for that particular scene in Lost Highway. But just as the Horror genre has many different aspects, the soundtrack of Horror is likewise complex. While perfect for scenes of dread and mayhem, Rammstein (or any industrial metal music) might not fit a different movie (or even a different scene in the same movie). Just as you can’t pigeon-hole the Horror genre, we can not classify one band or style of music as Horror music. Let’s not forget how haunting a child’s singing voice is in an English ghost story, or how intensely an orchestra can summon suspense and terror. From screaming guitars and relentless drums to the slow sobbing of a solitary violin, Horror music is extensively diverse.
And just as Rammstein can’t be classified as a metal band or an industrial band, Horror can’t simply be classified as “Horror” anymore. Because Horror is so much more than blood and guts (and exploding babies); Horror is drama, mystery, tragedy and comedy. Horror is chaotic mayhem and slow controlled suspense all at once. A great Horror soundtrack knows all about the power of sounds and music, and can stand alone. The Lost Highway soundtrack (produced by Trent Reznor) is a perfect example. So is the completely instrumental, orchestral soundtrack of The Exorcist. And just as Horror can sneak up on you with a shock, the right music can send anyone’s senses reeling.
After the concert, I went back and reviewed the dozens of pictures I took on my Smart Phone. Even though my phone camera is only so-so, I got some great shots and was really able to capture the emotion of the show. One photo, however, gave me a moment of incredible pause. Center stage in a cloud of smoke (clear as day) is a huge screaming ghost face. Some sort of spirit photography perhaps, or the presence of Santa on stage? It’s fun to think so (even if my rational, grown-up mind tells me otherwise).
What are some of your favorite Horror songs and soundtracks?