Review by Felix on February 20, 2023.
Welcome to the Somme. This is the last sentence of the promo text for Feuerwalze. It needs a lot of cynicism to write such a welcome. More than a million soldiers lost their life or were injured in 1916, more than 600.000 on the side of the Entente and more than 400.000 German soldiers. And probably not one of us, not the writer of the promo, not the reader of these lines and definitely not the writer of this review would have survived a day there without shitting and pissing their pants in fear. But come on, welcome to the Somme, why not?
Minenwerfer are back with a vengeance. Feuerwalze is another full-length with a fantastic artwork, even though there was no possibility to choose a picture like the iconic and unique one they took for Alpenpässe. This one was and still is simply second to none. But in terms of music, Minenwerfer have found a way to reflect the inhuman conditions that characterized the battlefields at the Somme. Constant artillery barrage pummels the listener. Honestly speaking, the permanent battle noise is at the expense of some melodic ingredients, although 'Eternal Attrition' houses some less ferocious sections too. Moreover, I have to admit that I would not call the music black metal, because it lacks spirituality, mysticism, occultism and all the other things that give this style its special flavor. By contrast, Minenwerfer revitalize the true horror of the battle. They want to bring back reality (or what we think could come close to the reality 107 years ago). Thus, atmosphere does not play a big part here. The only focus is on deadly violence, just as it was at the first day after the preparatory drum fire. More than 20.000 English soldiers were killed, because the German shelters had remained largely intact – the blackest day of the English army ever. The slogan “lions led by donkeys” was born in view of the courage of the normal soldiers and the blindness of their commanders. Anyway, Minenwerfer deliver 20.000 snare beats per song in continuous fire mode and the guitars rather create a threatening monster of noise than more or less usual melody lines. Perhaps Feuerwalze is no unique work, but surely far away from the standards of black or death metal.
'Nachtschreck' with its great guitar lines at the beginning is less brutal than the first songs. But in general, the inferno goes on and on, only some samples with German voices occur. The soldiers scream in panic or try to find a mental way out of the horror that surrounds them. But most of the time, Minenwerfer behave like a soldier who has gone insane and his last clear thought is to use the machine gun until the last shot of ammunition is used up. Dramaturgical suspense is dispensed with. There was no time for a break at the Somme 1916 and so there is no rest for the listener on Feuerwalze as well, for better or for worse. By the way, this makes it difficult to identify highlights. All songs contribute to the overall impression of mud, bones, blood-soaked ground and total destruction. The artists do not make any compromise, they realize their ambitions in a headstrong and even stubborn way. As a consequence, their fourth regular full-length does not look for new friends. It is directed exclusively to those who want to experience the ultimate horror of war (as far as this is possible) and there seems to be no question more irrelevant whether the audience will like this work or not. And believe me, it needs time to decode the single tracks and to find something like structure on this album. It takes time until the smoke clears and we can overlook the battlefield.
Minenwerfer have created a morbid, terrifying monument to the suffering of the English, French and German soldiers who had to fight at the Somme in 1916. Guess we are well advised to bow down to their legacy. Cynicism is inappropriate.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10459
Review by Fernando on February 9, 2023.
Black metal has always been an excellent place to make songs about the horrors and atrocities of war, some do it great, others, not so much, but a band that has become something of true underground stalwarts while singing about “The Great War” or “The War to End All Wars”, aka WW1, is Minenwerfer off the U.S. who in 2023 will return with their long anticipated fourth album Feuerwalze, to be released through Osmose Productions.
Minenwerfer are indeed a USBM band that has become quite revered in the underground, their style of black metal is a smorgasbord of Marduk and Blasphemy speed, with Immortal-esque epic melodies, that classic USBM sense of brutality, and some martial industrial atmospheres from acts like Arditi or Death In June. The band’s third record Alpenpässe definitely showed those elements and more, but more impressively is how the band with this new record have swerved in a direction that’s simultaneously a lateral step from the previous album, while also staying true to their roots.
For starters and this is what will become quite apparent for everyone hearing, this is the bands darkest and most punishing album yet. The guitars and bass are a constant assault to the senses, even in mid-paced sections of the songs, the band simply does not let up, and even the warlike atmospheres like the stomping of marching boots, explosions, wails of dying soldiers only enhance how utterly relentless the album is. The fact that this music is the work of just two people is also noteworthy.
So, does that mean that the band traded the melodic and atmosphere from the previous record? The answer is no, while this record isn’t as sprawling and enthralling as Alpenpässe, that does not mean that the band have dialed back their more technical leanings, but rather they’re refined and applied on more compact songs (in that 8 minutes is more easily digestible than a 17 minute long epic), this can be heard in the excellent third track ‘Eternal Attrition’ this song opens and closes with mid-paced drumming, and has an extended bridge section where the band still display their knack for wall of noise guitar layers to create ambiance which complement the wailing vocals, and is then followed by guitarist and drummer Wachtmeister Verwüstung bursting out an epic and very melodic and progressive solo. And this constant shifting of paces while keeping the sonic intensity is heard in all the album.
On a technical and instrumental level, Minenwerfer have always been a cut above the rest, as both Generalfeldmarschall Kriegshammer (vocals, bass, rhythm guitars) and Wachtmeister Verwüstung (lead guitars, drums) are outstanding musicians, in fact, their technical proficiency is what makes Minenwerfer such an acclaimed anomaly within USBM and black metal at large, and Feuerwalze is their definitive statement on how proficient they are, as they take all their strengths from previous albums, refined them and still managed to have the same grit and intensity of classic black metal. And finally, because the band are so technically proficient, the production on this record is exquisite, its clean enough to hear the duo flex their chops, but it's not too clean that the music sounds sterile or over polished, it's just right and the sound is thoroughly enhanced, and the solos, bass and vocals benefit the most, the crisp but piercing wailing solos of Wachtmeister Verwüstung will elicit an approving grimace, the bass of Generalfeldmarschall Kriegshammer is groovy and pulsing, not to mention distinct enough that it isn’t lost among the guitars or atmosphere, and his throat searing vocals are as violent as ever. All in all, an excellently produced and extremely well mixed and balanced record that truly displays how good black metal can sound with a proper production that also plays to the strengths of natural performances.
Overall, Minenwerfer triumphed again, and more than proved why they’ve become such an acclaimed USBM act. My only complaint is that they’re not playing live gigs anymore, but that’s besides the point of how good this record is.
Best tracks: 'Eternal Attrition', 'Sturmtruppen III (Sommekämpfer)', 'Shrapnel Exsanguination'
Rating: 9 out of 10459