Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ja. Ich höre deutschen Musikgruppen...

...and sometimes I play their music during my D&D sessions.

Something magical happened to me back in 1997 as I rode in the backseat of my friend's car to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The car speakers started singing a deep and robust German. I became enthralled.

"What is this?" I asked my friends. "This is awesome."

"Du Hast," my friends told me. "By Rammstein."

 I knew, at that point, a new age of my music-listening had dawned.


Rammstein would be the cure to America's heavy metal doldrums of the late 1990s, when hip hop and rap had dominated the airwaves and MTV pretty much abandoned rock (and music videos). Yeah, you had Nine Inch Nails, Tool, and even Metallica. Rob Zombie/White Zombie  And Marilyn Manson had some good hits--but sometimes it seemed like he was just trying to hard. I can't blame MTV and mainstream culture from abandoning rock. I think most us got pretty tired of the whiners from the grunge era. The Millennium was coming; we either wanted to drown ourselves with the "bling" that hip hop offered or get enraptured by the apocalyptic dark side of metal/industrial rock. Well, most of that wasn't "clean" enough for mainstream American culture. Rammstein was like a breathe of fresh air. As badass a Marilyn Manson, Tool, or whomever wanted to sound, there's nothing quite like Till Lindemann's voice booming German ("the language of anger", as Rammstein's bassist Oliver Reidel put it) over your speakers.

Even though I liked the album Sehnsucht better, songs from Herzeleid got quite bit of play at my gaming table, especially during fight scenes. Nothing quite spices up fighting an orc raid like "Wollt ihr das bett en flammen sehen" followed by "Der Meister". The beginning of "Heirate Mich" is perfect when your player-characters come across an evil ritual. I would play "Rammstein" just as the PCs would come upon something horrifying, like a wight emerging from a tomb, or discovering a body killed by a maniac.

Once, I came up with a Ravenloft scenario on the fly based on the music video for Du Riechst So Gut.

Then, of course, there's "Sonne." The visions I received from listening to this song formed the basis of an entire D&D Campaign: The War for the City of Peace.   You might see its influence in my upcoming short story: "Murder on the Hot Flats."

Rammstein is my favorite band, even after all of these years. Still, I have listened to other German bands like Eisebrecher. But one of my favorites is Corvus Corax. They've probably had more play-time at my gaming table than Rammstein (I know, this could be construed as sacrilege--sorry). If you, as a DM, haven't heard of them, you need to check them out, especially if you need some epic battle music. They sing in Latin.

Finally, how the heck did I miss out on Schwarzer Engel? Apparently they've been around since 2007 or so. But I just heard their music for the first time just yesterday. The lead singer, Dave Jason looks like a character out of an anime, or Final Fantasy. And, apparently, Jason founded the band after having a dream of an angel flying over a deserted battlefield (at least, according to the band's German Wikipedia page, translated by Google Translate. (Ich verstehe Deutsch, aber nur ein bisschen.)

I can see Rammstein's influence given the sinister content of their music and songs, but they have their own distinct sound. This is good, because I'd think it'd be tough for any German band to step out of Rammstein's shadow on the world stage. Yet, from what I've listened to, Schwarzer Engel has been successful in coming up with their own voice and image.

At this point, I'm not sure how I'm going to incorporate their music at the gaming table. A lot of it's epic and fast paced and might be distracting for the players. I could see using it for a Dark Heresy game or during a World-Ender D&D game like the Apocalypse Stone.

Finally, in case you are wondering:

No. I have not used pyrotechnics at the gaming table.


  1. Great to see that Rammstein has international fans - especially at the gaming table - weiter so!

    Have you ever translated their lyrics or is your german good enough? Some songs are really not for the feeble minded :-)

    Viele Grüße aus Deuschland.

  2. Viele Grüße aus Amerika!

    Yes, the lyrics are often very sinister and not for the faint of heart. I have looked at English translations online, but they often fail to capture the double meanings that are often behind Rammstein's lyrics.

    Thus, what little German I know is self-taught, so I can understand those different meanings.

  3. Ja! I too became a huge fan of Rammstein after my first hearing of Du Hast. Moskau, Adios, Los, Feuer Frei, Haifisch, and so much more. They bumped Nightwish of Finland off my number one spot (but I'm still a fan of theirs too). I just wish I could get my group to go with music at the table. They say it's distracting and makes it hard to hear sometimes. Sigh.


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