When Eisbrecher first unleashed the self-titled debut album in 2004, it was a welcome dose of electronic dance beats coupled with aggressive rock riffs, topped with seductive, gritty baritone vocals. It was an arguably electrifying record that made fans of both the dance floor as well as Rammstein jumping and clawing for more. Indeed, Eisbrecher picked up where Rammstein left off, and all too soon, the group delivered one punch after another with a series of follow-ups that quickly fell into a vertiable aural routine. As the band has built some weighty momentum with a steady stream of releases and constant touring, artistically Eisbrecher has played it safe.
This brings us to this year’s Schock, which debuted on the German charts at #2. A sonically tight and fairly brutal offering, Schock is largely what fans of Eisbrecher yearn for. Fast riffs? Check. Pounding drums? Check. Gravelly German language vocals? Check. There’s even some electronic gadegtry thrown into the mix on a few tracks. From a fan perspective, it would be problematic to be disappointed with this release. Older fans will find precisely what they’re looking for, and newcomers will be introduced to a vigorous and lively release by a band right near the height of its power. There’s an effective balance between the more pop-friendly elements and the ferocious rock & roll side.
Even so, Schock brings nothing new to the table. It likewise begins with what can only be described as a false start. “Volle Kraft Voraus” and “1000 Narben” both strongly exhibit such a generic style and quality that it would be hard to distinguish the tracks from the work of the band’s peers. While not poor songs by any stretch, it simply takes too long for Eisbrecher’s albeit slight but unique attributes to enter the mix. To put it another way, it’s the model of a commercial opening. The fact that “1000 Narben” was released as an official single removes any doubt about that matter. Rather, it isn’t until the title track, “Schock,” that the album begins in earnest. From that moment forward, a more genuine Eisbrecher tends to emerge and deliver a number of tracks brimming with unadulerated Neue Deutsche Härte. “Schock” is followed up with “Zwischen Uns,” an equally well crafted and engaging track. This writer has long felt that Eisbrecher is at its best when the band carefully balances the electronic and organic components, as is done here. The inclusion of gentler vocals courtesy of Mia Aegerter provide a soothing respite from the onslaught of testosterone and masculinity. From there, Schock takes a more steady and plodding approach with such songs as “Rot wie die Liebe” and “Schlachtbank.” It certainly is not the most the captivating portion of the album, but it does serve as a pause and a bridge between the more briskly paced tracks. Regardless, one cannot help but feel that we’re being subjected to filler all the same. Luckily, the record does end on a strong note with the triumphant “So Oder So.”
Ultimately, Schock will appeal to fans of the band’s earlier work – I daresay their entire back catalog. Although Eisbrecher has produced consistently enjoyable, catchy material over the years, the band has an undeniable habit of playing it safe, staying well within the confines of the style initially laid out, and therefore remaining creatively stagnant.