To call RAMMSTEIN avant garde is taking the easy way out. It's enough they've managed to usher KRAFTWERK, KFMDM and LAIBACH into a louder spectrum for a louder generation. Labeling them Krautrock 2.0 is likewise sliding with a cheat, but this band has pushed so many envelopes in sound and moreover, in their video presentations, you're best to just label them by their moniker.
The "Reservoir Dogs" feel of their breakout video for "Du Hast" seems almost like child's play next to its S&M club-hubbed predecessor, "Engel". Both of those combined are downright polite when measured against RAMMSTEIN's more recent clips for "Rosenrot", "Mein Land", "Mann Gegen Mann" and, of course, "Pussy".
Along the way, RAMMSTEIN has been as much about stamping down upon the button against conservatism with their dark theatricality and blunt titillation, the latter of which has grown full-on pornographic in recent years. "Pussy" might very well have breached the final frontier in music video. The last taboo for them, really, is on-camera penetration. Seriously, that video is hotter than any by-the-numbers softcore flick on Skinemax and it just so happens to throb on the verve of a wicked cool dance metal kick. To think these guys started their foray into the visual medium with a DEPECHE MODE-esque, BAUHAUS-flavored still life of the band mingled with flowers and a Doberman.
"Videos 1995-2012" collects the entire videography of RAMMSTEIN's career to this point over three discs, all uncensored, which means your pause button will likely get a workout through "Pussy" and the second half of "Mein Land", or if you swing in the other direction sexually, "Mann Gegen Mann", which also sports the band playing in the raw, save for Till Lindemann.
But it's not just about T&A to RAMMSTEIN's work, albeit they've set a bar very few outside of LORDS OF ACID or the GENITORTURERS are willing to measure up to. "Seeman" from 1996's "Herzeleid" album seems nearly tame with its Boschian overtones when sized up against future fractured reflections of nihilism in "Ich Will", "Haifisch" and "Mein Herz Brennt". Even "Sonne" knocks the Snow White ethos in the teeth by making the figurative lead a punked-out dom who pleasures her dirty dwarfs after a hard day's work in the mines by spanking them. Funny that the poisoned apple is her salvation in this case.
RAMMSTEIN finds other ways to make their points outside of extremism. No one will argue that the mock schlager swimming through "Amerika" is one of the group's most scathing projects, audibly and in video form. The headbanging ants in "Links 2 3 4" may came off as cheesy on the front, but look beneath the digital grit and realize RAMMSTEIN is commenting on the droning colony-mindedness of contemporary society. The main drive of "Links 2 3 4" is so simplistic and while derivative of the band's calling card jam "Du Hast", the intended message is that people are led to the kill by informal, nearly mindless tones.
On the humorous side, RAMMSTEIN turning themselves into gelatinous globs for the crushing "Keine Lust" is a total scream, and "Mein Land"'s torching of sixties American beach movies is not to be missed, in particular when they sweep the scene into the modern age and turn the genre on an ugly dime.
While RAMMSTEIN's caught hell more than once for their videos, their jackhammering cover of DEPECHE MODE's "Stripped" probably hits the top of many outsiders' shit lists. It's your call whether or not RAMMSTEIN was within bounds by streaming scenes of Leni Riefenstahl's "Olympia", a film about the Third Reich-staged Olympics of 1936. RAMMSTEIN makes the stand they had no political overtures to their "Stripped" video, that the images chosen were for aesthetics and beauty. If you keep an open mind, you'll find that Herr Adolf or any swastikas are nowhere to be found in the video and indeed, the "Stripped" video has a fluid continuity evolving out of the nudity opening the clip and then celebrating the aeronautics of the athletes in motion. Condemn or acquit them as you will.
Perhaps the most disturbing video on "Videos 1995-2012" is "Rosenrot" and its disparaging of lust-filled clergy set in a throwback period of early Germany. Suffice it to say, the insinuation of Till Lindemann's depraved priest will leave you squirming as he makes eye contact with the youthful object of his desire, much less her uncomfortable seduction and betrayal of him.
The videos alone are worth this pickup, however, the bigger picture to "Videos 1995-2012" is all the "Making Of" featurettes that accompany them. Breezing through the video clips will be the quick task, but the commitment to this collection is to pull up the mini-documentaries and dive deeper into RAMMSTEIN's mentalities as artisans. It's enough to marvel at the glaring cyber era eye candy on "Ich Tu Dir Weh", but more compelling to learn what went into the visuals that brought it to life. Moreover, the documentaries give insight into the band you might not've suspected. The most notable has to be that keyboardist Flake is more than a bit skittish about certain things his band has subjected him to onscreen. The man is game, in particular when sucking on the toes of the snake dancer in "Engel" and taking the whiskey down her leg, but it is hilarious to know that the guy would much rather be on his way to bed that pretend to be a transvestite slamming tail in the "Pussy" video.
Your judgment of RAMMSTEIN may or may not be confirmed in either direction after spending time with "Videos 1995-2012", but you will be challenged in more than one way by their promotional clips. These guys seldom waste their opportunities, whether it be the self-flagellation scenes in "Rosenrot" or the sucker punch ending of "Ohne Dich". You will be affected by what you see here, that's a guarantee.