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Music / Kaizers Orchestra

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From left to right: Janove Ottesen, Terje Winterstø Røthing, Helge Risa (and The Mask), Geir Zahl, Rune Solheim, and Øyvind Storesund

"You wake up... you grab the morning paper... and although it seems like any ordinary day... it isn't. For one extraordinary reason: One band; two oil barrels; three chords; four dreams, five lies, six ties, seven deadly sins, and eight ways to stay alive...! They know who you are... they know where you live... they're the Kaizers Orchestra!"
— Concert introduction, circa 2008

Kaizers Orchestra is a Norwegian alternative rock band who have attained significant international popularity owing to their unique and energetic live act, notably featuring oil barrels and crowbars being used as instruments of percussion, a mysterious gas-masked man playing an antique pump organ, and a charismatic Large Ham lead vocalist. And what's more, they insist on singing in their native Norwegian dialect, making their international renown all the more impressive.

Their extensive catalog of quirky Genre Roulette songs prevalently features cryptic, surrealistic "storytelling" lyrics in the vein of Tom Waits, that are often part of an interconnected, cross-album Myth Arc. Their lyrical subject matter includes World War II, The Mafia, parapsychology, (and its often resultant) insanity, and cocktail drinks. Most songs are composed by frontman and multi-instrumentalist Janove Ottesen, with a lesser share of compositions credited (or co-credited to) to second guitarist Geir Zahl.


After over a decade of playing together as a group (though many of the members go further back than even that), having reached the pinnacle of success in Norway eight times over, as well as achieving unforeseen international success that goes far beyond the European continent, they held their final concert in the fall of 2013. It has been specifically cited that this is not a "break-up", but whether or not the band will ever get together again is not known at this point, though a rest period of a good number of years is to be expected regardless of the outcome.


Band members:

  • Janove Ottesen: Vocals, percussion
  • Geir Zahl: Lead guitar, vocals, percussion
  • Terje Winterstø Røthing: Rhythm guitar, percussion
  • Helge Risa: Organ, percussion
  • Øyvind Storesund: Bass
  • Rune Solheim: Drums, percussion


  • Kaizers Orchestra EP/Gull EP (Yellow EP)
  • Ompa til du dør (Oompah 'Till You Die) (2001)
  • Evig pint (Eternally Tourmented) (2003)
  • Maestro (2005)
  • Live at Vega (2005)
  • Maskineri (Machinery) (2008)
  • 250 prosent (250 percent) [live] (2008)
  • Våre demoner (Our Demons) (2009)
  • Violeta Violeta Volume I (Violeta Violeta Volume I) (2011)
  • Live i Oslo Spektrum (Live at Oslo Spektrum) (2011)
  • Violeta Violeta Volume II (Violeta Violeta Volume II) (2011)
  • Violeta Violeta Volume III (Violeta Violeta Volume III) (2012)
  • En Aften i Operaen (An Evening at the Opera) (2013) [live]

Tropes Associated with Kaizers Orchestra:

  • Aerith and Bob: Dominique, Violeta, Marcello and... Kenneth. (Bear in mind that "Kenneth" is still a relatively unusual given name in Norway.)
  • Album Title Drop:
    • Sometimes it even gets dropped as a song title!
    • The title of Ompa til du dør is featured both in the lyrics for the title song and the last chorus of "Resistansen".
  • All Drummers Are Animals: Quite literally: Rune's Stage Name is "Mink".
  • Alternative Rock: Though they seem to dislike being labeled as such, adhering to the old adage "alternative to what?".
  • Anachronic Order: Hooboy. Always present, but the Violeta trilogy really takes it Up to Eleven. Songs set early in the chronology are as likely to be found on the first album as they are the second or third.
  • Animated Music Video: "Mann mot mann" (NSFW).
  • Arc Words: If you don't know about the mafia-based backstory (and sometimes, even if you do), just about any proper noun can become one.
  • Audience Participation: At one special event for a hundred fans, they invited one fan to play drums on "Knekker deg til sist".
  • Audience Participation Song:
    • Go to most Kaizers concerts (at least domestically) and you figure out pretty quickly that the band could probably do without their vocalist half of the time. The band tends to leave most refrains and call-and-response parts to the audience, at least on songs that are relatively well-known: Some songs will have the audience singing along on the entire song, prompted or no.
    • The all-time greatest occurrence of this was at their special anniversary concert in Oslo Spektrum in 2011. The crowd kept singing the chorus of "Die Polizei", the very last song of the set, for damn near ten minutes after the band walked off the stage.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: "En for orgelet, en for meg", of which there are no less than four variations, each with the bridge performed by a different internationally known rap artist (though "rap artist" may not be the best descriptor for the little girl performing on the album version).
  • Bedlam House: The story of Maestro is centered around one of these.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The relatives of one Violeta. And in another sense of the word, the mafia family of Ompa til du dør/Evig pint.
  • Blacksheep Hit: They refrained from including "Prosessen", an up-tempo, relatively straight pop song, from their first album specifically to avoid this. Ironically, when it was eventually released as a single from Våre demoner, it was not much of a hit, even by the band's standards.
  • Careful with That Axe:
    • The Ompa til du dør demo, for some reason, has Janove constantly belting out lyrics in a pained, desperate fashion that makes him seem positively restrained on the album. Chalk it up to Early Installment Weirdness, I guess?
    • "Dieter Meyers Inst." also gradually becomes this, as Janove's voice becomes more and more unhinged as the song goes on.
  • The Cast Show Off: Janove is a multi-instrumentalist (though it's rarely put to use during concerts), was a promising soccer player (which he isn't afraid to show off if challenged), and he can TAP DANCE.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Helge's character is a somewhat Omen-ous example of this, as described in this page's Funny tab. Øyvind too shows signs of this in both live DVD documentaries (especially Veien til Spektrum, in which he imitates the sound of a newly opened bottle of wine being poured, which he does to convince himself it is actually a fresh bottle), but the extent to which he plays it up for entertainment is indecisive at best.
  • Concept Album: Their entire studio discography, but crowning honors go to the Violeta Violeta trilogy.
  • Concept Video: Many of their music videos qualify, however, "Hjerteknuser" might be the one most true to the trope definition, as it depicts characters and events detailed in the lyrical universe of Violeta Violeta, rather than abstract renditions of characters played by the band themselves.
  • Continuity Nod: "D-dagen" makes a lyrical reference to the character of Dominique, four years after the release of Ompa til du dør.
  • Control Freak: Janove's tendencies towards this are well documented in the Kontroll på kontinentet autobiography and a slew of interviews, but appears to have been assuaged to some degree in recent years.
  • Chronological Album Title: The Violeta Violeta trilogy is comprised of volumes 1, 2, and 3.
  • Cover Version:
    • Not really their bag, but exceptions do exist. They recorded a cover of Norwegian rocker Joachim "Jokke" Nielsen's "Action" for a tribute album (but ultimately released on a bonus disc for Maestro); a version of "Røvervise" from the Norwegian play Folk og røvere i Kardemomme by for a tribute album to the song's composer, Thorbjørn Egner; and a version of "Whiskey Rabbi" as a favor to long-time support act Geoff Berner.
    • More subtly, they are known to slip in some rather anachronistic lyrical or musical references to songs by artists such as Michael Jackson, Christina Aguilera, and The Police.
    • Perhaps inevitably, they had to cover the man without whom they might very well not have existed: they performed "Goin' Out West" at a Norwegian all-star celebration show for the sixtieth birthday of reciprocal fan Tom Waits.
  • Darker and Edgier: Evig pint (Norwegian for Eternally Tormented) was a deliberate attempt to avoid the accusations that they were purely a gimmicky-party band. So with Evig pint the guitar was pushed into the foreground, less attention was put to the weird percussion and the lyrics got way darker. The funny thing though, is that Ompa was a pretty dark album too. Most of the critics seem to forget that.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Invoked constantly when representatives of the group reply to fan mail. Since said feature was removed from their website some time ago, this has naturally worked its way into their Facebook messages.
  • Downer Ending: In case the song title itself wasn't enough to clue you in, "Drøm hardt (Requiem part I)" is about a man's last night before his execution.
  • Dr. Feelgood: "Dr. Mowinckel".
  • Driven to Suicide: "Min kvite russer". Also "Den romantiske tragedien" (maybe).
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Violeta, so damn much.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The first few minutes of "Medisin & psykiatri", from Våre demoner, qualifies as this.
    • Done again in "Svarte katter & flosshatter" from Violeta Violeta Volume I.
  • Epic Rocking: "Kontroll på kontinentet" and a slight handful of other songs become this when performed live.
    • Very early on in their career, they would often turn some live songs into near-ten minute jam sessions, but these tendencies disappeared rather quickly. They do not consider themselves a good "jam" band.
    • Seven of the ten songs on Violeta Violeta Volume III are over six minutes long, necessitating a double album for the vinyl release.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Oil barrels and crowbars, and for a time, trash can lids. Oh, and there's the inclusion of a distinctive red trash can in Rune's drum kit. Which is not to to mention the wide variety of quirky implements used for studio cuts.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Romantisk salme i F-dur" is exactly that: a romantic psalm in F major.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Container" → "Naade", "Apokalyps meg" → "Den andre er meg", and "Auksjon (i Dieter Meyers hall" → "På ditt skift".
  • Faking the Dead: The mafia boss protagonist of "Kontroll på kontinentet" stages an elaborate fake funeral for himself to ascertain the identity of a family member who has betrayed him.
  • Fanservice: Janove seems to lose his shirt at a lot of live shows...
  • Flaming Devil: The devil in the "Begravelsespolka" music video has some definite camp moments.
  • Foreshadowing: Violeta Violeta Volume I utilizes snippets of Volume III songs as transitions.
  • Grand Finale:
    • Violeta Violeta Volume III serves as this for both their recorded legacy (for now), and the trilogy as a whole. Sekskløver is the song version of this, using musical elements from three songs from the trilogy: Forloveren from Volume III, Drøm videre, Violeta from Volume II, and Sju bøtter tårer er nok, Beatrice from Volume I.
    • A 2006 tour named the "Grand Finale Tour" served as the final tour before their first big sabbatical; namely, a (almost) complete break from playing live until February of 2008.
    • Their final concert for the foreseeable future was held on September 14, 2013. The final show of a two-week stay at a hockey arena near Janove and Geir's hometown, it was the longest set and longest overall concert they ever held.
  • Gratuitous English: Pops up from time to time in their lyrics.
    • Arguably Lampshaded in "Die Polizei", which features English lyrics, albeit spoken in a distinct German accent; this is an explicit reference to dialogue from The Big Lebowski.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Implied with the character Dominique after he fails to keep Tony Fusciante from shooting himself in the head playing Russian Roulette.
  • Iconic Item: The gas mask. How it came to be in the band's possession (or is it the the other way around?), as explained by Helge:
    "The mask... it came to me... and I just took it. And... we were friends."
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Read a Norwegian newspaper. Any Norwegian newspaper. You will get a kipper if an article on the band has anything but something along the lines of "the Kaizer's new clothes", or "control over the [arbitrary performance venue]."
  • Insistent Terminology: Their final concert (for now) is just that... their final concert (for now). They'll be back. Just you wait 'n see.
  • La Résistance: "Resistansen" of Ompa til du dør.
  • Large Ham: Janove is known to slip into this, especially live.
    "The devil made that guitar for him. ...But the LAAAAAWD made him that suit!"
  • Let's Duet: Maskineri has two of them: "Den andre er meg" with Terje's wife Ragnhild, and "Du og meg Lou, og din fru" with Swedish artist Stefan Sundström.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: ...Well, at least they tried. This is what the special embossed-cover version of Violeta Violeta Volume I was intended to be. Originally, the point was for everyone who attended a show during their 2010 Studio Tour to get one in exchange for sending a special mail-in card to a certain address. Turns out they had some to spare after sending them, and sold these at the merch stand at concerts.
    • To a lesser extent, the Våre demoner album. It was printed in a one-run edition, and was to be retracted from stores after the passing of one week. Similar to the above example, it wasn't, and is still sold at merch stands in 2012 (though they have claimed this will truly be the last time they will be available for sale).
  • List Song: A bridge in "Din kjole lukter bensin, mor" lists, in bullet points, the process of Violeta and Beatrice's hypothetical reconciliation. What's more, the final stanza incorporates both last points by way of a pun.
  • Lost Love Montage: "Hjerteknuser" from Violeta Violeta Volume I and "Fanden hakk i hel" from Våre demoner both have elements of this.
  • Loudness War: Their CD album mixes are often accused of this, which makes the scarcity of vinyl copies all the worse...
  • Lyrical Dissonance: And how. "Tokyo Ice til Clementine" is perhaps their most shining example of this trope, as the song is overly cheerful and bouncy...but the matter surely ain't.
  • Medley: During the 250 Prosent tour, concerts began with abridged versions of "Medisin & psykiatri", "Fra sjåfør til passasjer" and "På ditt skift" performed as if it were one whole song.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The Kaizers Orchestra EP (better known as the Gul EP) has a plain yellow cover, adorned only by a barcode.
  • Motor Mouth: "Bak et halleluja" might as well be marketed as a professional elocution lesson at times. Also, when performing the band introductions during live performances of "Kontroll på kontinentet", Janove is prone to segue into this.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Fallback in case their musical career failed.
  • Multiple Endings: Maskineri comes in three varieties: the CD version, which closes with "Ond sirkel"; the digital version, which adds "Du og meg Lou, og din fru" after the former; and the vinyl version, which moves "Ond sirkel" to the first side and makes "Romantisk salme i F-dur" (available only on this format) the album closer.
  • Music at Sporting Events: Surprisingly invoked when the group became the sponsors for the Norwegian soccer team Bryne.
  • The Musical: Sonny has shades of this, featuring Kaizers Orchestra songs re-recorded for the occasion. The play itself is based on the interconnected lyrical universe of the band's first three albums.
  • Myth Arc: The lyrics form an interconnected story arc that follows a Mafia familiy throughout and after WWI and II.
  • Never Learned to Read Sheet Music: They've admitted as much.
  • New Sound Album: Every album they make is presented as this, most notably Maskineri.
  • Nice Hat: Øyvind has adopted a nice bowler look over time. Viva La Vega also shows Janove and Rune sharing the same sweet top hat.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Ompa + gas masks + a pump organ + oil barrels + Large Ham = these guys.
    • Add a dash of Tom Waits in for good measure...
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Rullett", "Katastrofen", "Hevnervals", "Moment", "Kaizers 115. drøm", "Romantisk salme i F-dur", and "Christiania". The latter was given an outro refrain of "Bevar Christiania" ("Preserve Christiania") during live performances, however; fittingly, one such performance was recorded for the Viva La Vega DVD recorded in Copenhagen, Denmark.note 
    • And aside from these, there are a bunch of songs whose titles aren't sung in Exact Words.
  • Numerical Theme Naming: A conspicuous amount of songs on the Violeta Violeta albums have these: "Sju bøtter tårer er nok, Beatrice", "Sekskløver", "Femtakt filosofi", "En for orgelet, en for meg", and "Tusen dråper regn".
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Kaizers 115. drøm" maybe
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Min kvite russer", in which the Real Life drink White Russian (a favorite of Janove's) plays a significant role.
    • The chorus of the B-side "Markveien" becomes a Tear Jerker example of this.
  • Penal Colony: "Gruvene på 16", a common subject in early material, is a colony to which Marcello Conradas, an unwitting sailor, is sent to mine precious stones for the slavedriver Henry.
  • Performance Video: "Blitzregn baby", "9 mm", and "Prosessen"; the latter two actually consist of concert footage recorded by fans.
  • Power Ballad: "Med en gong eg når bånn", "Min kvite russer", and "Jævel av en tango" have all been referred to, in-concert, as power ballads.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Sometimes during performances, Helge will incorporate melodies from psalms and hymns.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: The climax of "Dieter Meyers Inst." builds up to this.
  • The Quiet One / The Stoic: Helge, wearer of the iconic Gas Mask, has one hell of a poker face even without the mask on. And when he speaks, you listen.
  • Rearrange the Song: Often invoked with songs that are performed live long before they are ever released; most radically, "Di grind" was originally presented as a slower number, with a prominent guitar riff rather than a piano part acting as the primary "hook".
  • Record Producer: Janove has co-produced all of their studio albums. His most common collaborator has been Jørgen "Duperman" Træen.
  • Revenge: An all-too-common theme throughout their work; the most famous example is the song "Ompa til du dør", which tells of a man who takes revenge on his wife's murderer by forcing him to "dance ompa" until he dies from exhaustion. A Less subtle example is "Hevnervals", whose title literally means "avenger's waltz".
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: "Begravelsespolka".
  • Rockumentary: The "Tour Tull" (Tour Nonsense) documentary featured on the Viva La Vega DVD, infamous for its less-than-serious subtitles, is an example of this.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Prosessen" is definitely this, being a thinly veiled depiction of Kaizers Orchestra's rise to fame. And it was written before they had even achieved much of any kind of success...
  • Rooftop Concert: Kaizers Orchestra played an unnanounced concert the rooftop of Universal Germany headquarters in Berlin in 2005.
  • Russian Roulette: A recurring theme in their work.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: There are quite a few. Actually, Maestro is pretty much a Sanity Slippage Album.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!: "Mr. Kaizer, hans Constanze og meg".
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Janove often performs his own backup vocals along with those of the other bandmates.
  • Sequel Song: Inevitable what with their lyrical approach and all, but averted with "Drøm hardt (Requiem part I)". There is still no "Requiem part II".
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The character in the song "Bris".
  • Shirtless Scene: More like Shirtless Concert.
  • Single Stanza Song: "Faen i båten".
  • Spoken Word in Music: The outro of "Auksjon (i Dieter Meyers hall)" has Janove repeatedly uttering the words "Come to daddy, daddy is cool."
    • "Satan i halsen"... wait, what do you mean it's not Leonard Cohen?
  • Stage Names: All the members have stage names: Janove is "The Jackal", Geir is "Hellraizer", Terje is "Killmaster", Rune is "Mink", Øyvind is "Thunder", and Helge is "Omen". Past member Jon Sjøen was interchangeably referred to as "Lion King" and "Rasmus", among others. Additionally, Janove was initially called "Rat". The origin of these names are uncertain, however, the band have remarked that Rune is so named due to his excessive amount of body hair.
  • Stealth Pun: Violeta Violeta is often typeset (on the official site, even) with a seemingly anachronistic comma between two two instances of "Violeta." It's well-known that Violeta's parents "named her twice" on account of her beauty. But, come Volume III, and the reveal of Violeta's stillborn twin...
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Terje was given a half a verse of "D-Dagen", which he performs in the raucous vocal style he uses when acting as lead singer for Skambankt, his other band.
    • In a hilarious instance, all the band members switched instruments for a performance of "Bøn fra helvete"; Helge performed lead vocals. In recent times, he has also performed the spoken word verses of "Svarte katter & flosshatter" (by yelling into a megaphone, no less) during live performances.
    • A borderline case is Geir. He used to perform lead vocals on a number of songs early on in their career, but this has since been phased out somewhat. Geir performing lead vocals, both live and on record, has become a rare occurrence over time; when he does so, however, at least the trope is executed in the most literal manner possible. He has returned to lead vocal duties on two songs on Violeta Violeta Volume II, however.
  • Surreal Music Video: "Knekker deg til sist". Let's see here, we have inexplicable clones of the band members whose facial expressions range from "happy on crack" to a complete lack of emotion, Janove (or is it a clone?) pretending to be a dead body in order to check out a woman's cleavage, and Helge channeling Samara Morgan. Yep.
  • Studio Chatter: Snippets of dialogue in studio recordings have been heard occasionally, the most famous example being "Bris", which ends with a fit of laughter from the band due to Helge ending his organ part in the completely wrong key. Another is "Under månen", a bonus track from the Våre demoner album: at the end of the song, Janove says to the others that they need to "work on the solo", as his improvisational instrumental break eventually ended up out of key and out of sync with the others.
  • The Beatles: One consistently name-dropped source of inspiration. They may even be more of an influence than previously thought, as the distinctive oil barrel section in "Bastard" was directly inspired by Ringo Starr's drumming on "Drive My Car".
  • The Devil: Alluded to in numerous songs, but finally makes an appearance in the flesh in "Begravelsespolka".
  • Title-Only Chorus: "Apokalyps meg".
  • Train Song: "Damplokomotiv", an obscure demo song.
  • Trope Codifier: Gypsy Punk, when it had been an Unbuilt Trope, that's why they were considered a novelty act.
  • Uncommon Time: "Femtakt filosofi" - Its title literally means "Philosophy in 5/4".
  • Unplugged Version: Happens every once in a blue moon whenever only a few of the members embark on a promotional tour. Most notably, to promote Violeta Violeta Volume I, Janove performed songs, both new and old, on the piano, with only Øyvind on bass as his accompaniment; this duo came to be known as "The Jackal & Thunder Combo".
  • Visual Gag: Their final concert (for now) was punctuated by the appearance of a large broad singing opera music... "it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings."
  • Vocal Tag Team: Janove/Geir on "Kalifornia", Janove/Terje on "D-Dagen".
  • War Is Hell: "170"
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Maskineri. But the Violeta trilogy isn't far behind.