Review Summary: Taking Neue Deutsche Härte to new levels, Eisbrecher expands the role of industrial synth in place of the guitar to create a good collection of catchy songs for the industrial/industrial metal fan.
Rammstein, everyone who has a taste for metal and/or industrial has heard of them. A band looming large over the Neue Deutsche Härte genre, they have almost single-handedly defined it from its vague roots formed by Oomph in their sophomore release Sex. Beneath the Brobdingnagian image of militaristic Germans pounding their collective mechanical heads to powerful, forceful riffs and heavy, throbbing, bass-laced drums lies lesser known acts however, those largely unknown to audiences outside Germany and Europe. One of these lesser acts is Eisbrecher, composed largely of Alexx Wesselsky and Noel Pix and formed in 2003, with their debut self-titled being released in 2004.
Upon first listening Eisbrecher does not differ much from the basic formula nurtured and grown throughout Rammstein's career of pounding drums and distorted guitar riffs played out with almost a mechanical proficiency to loudly barked vocals and weaving, catchy synth lines. Tracks like Angst? and Dornentanz wouldn't be difficult to imagine on such outings as Sehnsucht or Reise, Reise, hardly deviating from these staples in their head moving beats, forceful riffs and deep vocals reminiscent of past albums. It's only on Schwarze Witwe and Fanatica that Eisbrecher begin to separate themselves from the Rammstein image. Synth lines dominate these songs, sacrificing riffs for more fluid melody, taking the headbanging and turning it into dance more associated with industrial clubs. In Schwarze Witwe especially the opening electronics leads into synthetic female vocals, quickly forming around the voice of Alexx Wesselsky to create a piece that will have some part of your body moving before the first chorus ends. Fanatica takes the 'clubbiness' up a notch, almost completely ignoring guitars to create catchy verses based around a ceaseless drum line which lead into an English-spoken chorus climaxing with a simple yet oh so satisfying guitar solo.
Alexx's voice is ultimately what makes this album the success it is, providing the depth and power needed to maintain the NDH image. Without his deep vocals tracks like Mein Blut would lack the teeth needed to stay in one's mind, instead becoming generic industrial fare found on other similar releases. Songs such as Herz steht Still and Zeichen der Venus are almost based entirely around the vocals, using the synth, guitars, and drumbeats only to reinforce the song in the listener's head and give reason to come back for a second listen. While great, Eisbrecher is not without its faults however. The interludes Polarstern, Ruhe, and Hoffnung are superfluous, seemingly misplaced among an album of club-worthy tracks not requiring spacing out. Outings like Sakrileg 11 see Alexx unable to carry the song, leaving a subpar track that wreaks of filler, while moments in Frage leave the listener seeking something more when synth lines and partially sung vocals aren’t enough. Others yet might view the marginalizing of the 'metal' guitar riffs in favour of synth an 'un-metal' move and throw this off another crappy industrial/industrial metal release. Although not perfect to any degree, Eisbrecher is a solid album which shows the softer side of Neue Deutsche Härte (in the words of Till Lindemann, the Tanz-Metall side). By focusing on creating leads, beats and electronic licks that stay in one's head Eisbrecher have produced an album maintaining a newfound catchiness without forgetting its NDH roots. Given time to work out their kinks it is not unreasonable to assume Eisbrecher could reach some level of fame. Any fan of NDH/industrial/industrial metal is recommended to give this one a go.
Herz steht Still