Minenwerfer, a band from from Sacramento, Calfornia have been around for quite some time now. They released several demo’s, 2 albums (“Volkslieder” in 2010 & “Nihilistischen” in 2012) as well as a couple EP and split releases. Main theme throughout their musical career has always been the historical event of World War I, aka The Great War. A conceptual choice which has lead to some form of controversy in this ever increasing worldwide trend of political correctness.
But let us focus on the music. This is their third album, “Alpenpässe”, or ‘passages through the Alps’ and dedicated to the German and Austrian mountain armed forces that fought so bravely. The album opens with “Der Blutharsch”, ‘the leech’, a 17-minutes long masterpiece that starts with grim rhythm guitars and beautiful melodic, epic but somewhat melancholic solo guitars, painting a desolate soundscape and with a German announcer calling out to defend the country, before erupting in full force.
The vocals are raw, savage and screeching, emerging through the dense guitar sound. Every song seems to be thought out with great care. Drums are heavy and potent in the mix, ranging from blastbeats to midpaced and slower parts, flexible and fulling up every hole in the dense sound. And the music is melodic, yes. Full of shredding cathedral wide atmospheric guitars and power tremolo picking. However: melodic doesn’t mean they sound soft or mainstream. Oh no, Minenwerfer are far from that stage. A song like “Cloaked In Darkness” is heavy and merciless as hell with its martial rhythm and heroic chorus.
“Kaiserjägerlied” is/was a traditional marching song of the German, Austrian and Tyrolean mountain soldiers. Officially added to the German army collection of military music. The song is a gritty and gnarling beast with an amazing acoustic part and rising up towards Wagnerian proportions at the end. It reminds me of the more epic albums from Bathory. “Tiroler Edelweiss” is another glorious hymn dedicated to the bravery of soldiers with narrative parts and even flutes. Exceptional greatness. Last track, “Whithered Tombs” is a storm full of martial drumming, blastbeats, Immortal like riffs and the rabid vocal style of Generalfeldmarschall Kriegshammer. Culminating in a barrage of war metal bashing and ending n menacing march-like hammering. “Alpenpässe” is not only a BRILLIANT Black Metal album full of surprises and musical variations. It’s also epic, very deep regarding conceptual themes and historical facts, carefully crafted and flawlessly executed and produced with great skill. Minenwerfer manage to avoid commercialism, polished sounds, selling out and mainstream tendencies. They don’t glorify war, nationalism nor violence, Minenwerfer merely evoke the historical facts of European events that changed the very foundations of it.
This is an album that grows on you. Each time you listen to it, you’ll discover something new. And me? I’m going to treat myself to a sturdy drink of Schnapps. (LV)