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JJ's Bizarre Blog #32 - Der Bundesrepubliks Bunte Musik


Hallo und Servus, meine Kerle! The Bizarre One has awakened once more to spice up your summer with grand knowledge. The last blog took us on awesome journeys through imaginary worlds, but now it’s time to snap back to reality. Not too long ago I finally made another country focused entry and since then, I’ve actually had the buzz to do another one. I also flexed some of my linguistic abilities a few entries back, so let’s combine the two! I always love exploring nations with deep and rich musical histories and now I present you one of the best examples of this. For this entry, I have undertaken a Herculean task. Allow me to present to you the vast and influential musical legacy of the engine of Europe. Let us together explore the music of Germany! Los geht’s!


Germany is a country that has left a considerable impression on the entire world in many ways. Legend has it that German almost became the official language of the United States, although the validity of that story is debatable. Wonder how the world would’ve turned out then? In any case, the Federal Republic have been a cultural powerhouse for centuries and their output has gone on to influence the musical direction of the entire globe. Even if you don’t listen to German music directly, you probably listen to music that they are either involved with or that they have influenced, directly or not. Their artistic legacy is insurmountable to handle in a single blog, but I still want to present an engaging sliver from what they have to offer.




Going back hundreds of years, Germany has consistently remained a fertile breeding ground for influential composers. All throughout the Baroque, Classical and later periods, das Bundesland in all of its iterations throughout history has always made its presence known. To this day, some of the most well known and influential composers of all time are German – names you surely know like Beethoven, Bach (all 42 of them), Strauss (and all 6 of those), Wagner, Mendelssohn, Händel, Brahms, Schuman and Weber, just to name a few. If you love classical music, there is no avoiding their contributions.


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Even iconic film composer Hans Zimmer is here today to continue the legacy of the legendary countrymen who preceded him. After all, it’s not just music where German people excel. They have left a significant mark on all forms of art and cinema is no exception.


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Through the centuries and till today, Germany has remained a musical powerhouse. During the 80s, they had a huge resurgence in popularity with the advent of disco, becoming one of the biggest hotbeds for the genre. Countless bands would take the world by storm and achieve massive international success, defining the sound of an entire decade. Even for various bands like Boney M and the like, while the members were from Africa, the Caribbean, etc., the band itself was formed in Germany and had German producers make the magic behind the success. This was disco’s era and it will live forever!


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And to this day, Germans and people coming to the country for opportunities never stay far from the charts for long. Tons of popular artists you’d never think have a connection to this magical place or can otherwise trace their origins back here. The sheer variety of styles they explore is fascinating too – pop, new wave, hip hop, indie, you name it, they’ve got it. 


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Of course, one of the musical movements most commonly associated with Germany is electronic music and none have influenced the trajectory of electro more than the legends from Kraftwerk. Inspiring contemporary music arguably as much or more than even the Beatles, Kraftwerk combined typical German technological innovation with creative songwriting courtesy of their fatherland’s centuries long musical contributions. This birthed a new machine that sounded like nothing up till that point. Alien and artificial, but still deeply human. Kraftwerk are without question one of the most influential music groups of all time.


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Built on the sturdy foundation from Kraftwerk, it would be progressed further by other massively influential bands like Tangerine Dream, a tirelessly innovative group that have gone on to inspire countless other artists all across the musical spectrum. Or Klaus Schulze, who treated electronic music with the same reverence as classical composers treated a symphony orchestra. The final results carry pretty much the same levels of grandiose scale and power.


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With such groundbreaking acts at the forefront, Germany has remained the primary hub for electronic music of all kinds till this day. Techno, house, trance, EDM, industrial and countless microgenres all thrive here and countless iconic artists first found success in the underground clubbing scenes of cities like Berlin or Hamburg. German engineering is the greatest in the world and German electro is likewise in a league of its own!


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As we reise, reise further in, naturally we arrive at rock music! For almost as long as the genre has been around, Germany has been a hotbed for rock culture and one of the main hubs of the world. With a history as turbulent as theirs, the rebellious spirit and countercultural power of rock music fit right in with the Germans and they definitely had a lot to sing about! Since the 60s, many iconic bands such as the immortal Scorpions have transcended into godhood and have defined generations of nonconformists!


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This rebellious spirit would truly come into its own thanks to the influential punk movement to arise slightly after. Standing against the norms of orderly German society, punk rock spoke to a disenfranchised generation and said what their hearts already felt in a way that they’d never heard before. Punk is always a cornerstone of counterculture wherever it goes and it was the perfect medicine for the woes of a wary nation post unification.


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Being a metallurgical powerhouse, it’s only fitting that heavy metal would build a formiddable stronghold here too! After the UK pioneered it, Germany were among the first countries to develop a heavy metal movement of their own, spearheaded by the unstoppable Accept, a band that deserves to be on the same pedestal as titans like Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. Germany was there from the start and to this day is the main support pillar of the European and global metal community. Providing some of the biggest rock and metal labels out there such as Nuclear Blast or InsideOut, as well as hosting the biggest rock and metal festivals in the world such as Wacken, Rock am Ring, Ragnarök, Full Force, Summer Breeze and more, this country really is the might engine that drives this big train forward.


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I’ve already talked to you many times about power metal and one thing I always mentioned is the three biggest breeding grounds for the genre – Germany, Sweden and Finland. Coincidentally, my first three country blogs, ha! Well, now the trifecta is complete with this entry on the mystical land that started it all! Created by the masters from Helloween and thriving to this very day, power metal is an institution in Germany! Thanks to their rich history, vibrant folklore and vast legacy in classical music, das Bundesland is the perfect place for this fast and melodic style rooted in fantasy to spread its wings! 


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Going off of that, this evolution would lead to the birth of countless bands in the realms of folk and symphonic metal that would likewise fascinate the world with their fantastic Teutonic tales. Germany has a very rich array of traditional instruments and musical styles for folk metal to draw from. And, well, I already told you at the start about the magnitude of classical composers to come from here. The symphonic metal of today allows those traditions to live on and prosper forth!


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Germans would often take their heritage to the fullest, such as the multitude of folk revival projects recreating ancient tales for the modern man. There also exist medieval revival projects that perform metal and rock style songs with just medieval instruments. Hell, there’s even Van Canto who do all of it A Capella using only their voices!


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But it’s not just melodic elevated stuff that can be found here. In the land of beer and festivals, it’s only natural for heavier stuff to grow and Germany would bless us with one of the most influential movements in all of metal – Teutonic Thrash Metal! Taking strong influence from their predecessors in both heavy metal and punk rock, the bands from this clique didn’t just break down every wall they came across and become massively successful, but they were also key inspirations behind the birth of every genre to follow. The long lasting influence of these guys cannot be understated.


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And it would only make sense for this seed of extreme metal to start growing on their own soil, as plenty of high quality death metal would come into existence here and bring a more technical and sophisticated approach to this usually abrasive genre.


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During lots of the year, the weather here can also be less than stellar. A lot of the land is also dominated by forests and mountains. You know what that means, right? The perfect environment for black metal to prosper! Thanks to the large and always creative metal community here and the abundance of clubs and events keeping the underground scene alive, German black metal is a force to be reckoned with, always ready to give their genetic cousins up north a run for Deutschmarks (or kroner).


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As time went on, Germany would not just contribute to every genre imaginable, but strive to create sounds that are uniquely their own. No genre epitomizes this better than the aptly titled Neue Deutsche Härte (New German Hardness/Heaviness). A spin-off from industrial metal, this style combines the classic tenets of that genre - the simplistic but punchy and aggressive riffage, mechanical sound, frequent use of keyboards and samples and esoteric lyrics about technology and humanty – with a uniquely German marching sound and very angry lyrics in their native tongue. If all that sounds familiar, that’s because this sound was pioneered by arguably the most successful band from continental Europe and the most influential German language band ever – Rammstein! I already did a full blog on them recently and I’m sure you’ve already at least heard of them, so just know that no other band epitomizes the spirit of this aggressive new German sound. Also no other band keeps it alive to this day quite like them.


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Naturally though a lone bird does not make a flock and Rammstein were far from the only band in the style. Taking the metal scene by storm in the 90s, these extravagant and bombastic bands were here to take names and give no quarter. Unapollogetically aggressive and tailor made to capture the woes of their fatherland during this era, it’s no shocker these bands became as successful as they did. Their fascinating sound also captured the attention of a worldwide audience and popularized German-language music like nothing before!


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These monumental bands would go on to inspire generations of young musicians to pursue ultimate self-expression and brutal honesty in a variety of genres. Whether it be Japanese-tinged stylish rock from Tokyo Hotel, the bombastic NDH-revivalists of Hämatom or the story-driven industrial bangers of Cypecore (or so many many more), there is always more to explore in the Germanic musical realms.


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Despite their reputation as being somewhat quiet and conservative, Germans have never been shy about  artistic freedom and putting all of their eccentricities on full display. Just one gander at some of their unique and genre-ambiguous bands will tell you enough. Such as the Balkan and Latino tinged alternative rap metal posse Guano Apes. Or the envelope-pushing experimental collective Einstürzende Neubauten. Or the rebellious industrial beats of KMFDM. Even the satirical party rock tunes of Knorkator. There is no end to the variety that this country can offer to the open minded and adventurous listener.


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In Zusammenfassung, I think I proved my point, don’t you think? It seems that through millennia, some kind of mystical arcane spell has been cast upon the lands from the Danube to the Rhine, blessing them to be a fertile breeding ground for musical excellence for so long. And seemingly with no intent on slowing down. From this enviable musical legacy, Germany has also become the biggest musical market in Europe and one of the biggest in the world, making it a hotbed of some of the most well known music festivals, venues, underground movements and music labels around the globe. 




This for me is one of the most intriguing things, among many others, about the Federal Republic. Those who know me, know that I’ve gone through the bold adventure of learning German and through this, I’ve thoroughly immersed myself in German culture and particularly the music that I’m so passionate about. You can imagine how this blog was a very special full circle moment for me. This land is defined by far more than just Rammstein and marching schlagers. I hope I’ve managed to prove this to you here and that now you too are inspired to dive deeper into this breadth of history. As always, my playlist is below to serve as your Ansatzpunkt. Auf Wiedersehen and see you again very soon!