Review Summary: And blood covers the snow
The horrors of the First World War are almost beyond imagination to people like us who are 100 years distant from the unabashed carnage and tragedies that led H.G. Wells to so poignantly define it as “the war to end war”. The fact that the conflict now lives in the annals of history books or the black and white stills of war documentaries allows its hideous atrocities to appear muted and distant – but Minenwerfer aren’t so keen on allowing that to be the case. As strange as it is that a couple guys from Sacramento would bring to life the chaos of the Italian Dolomites circa 1915, Alpenpässe
does so with a slew of songs that encompass – as much as a black metal record possibly could – the feeling of being around the exploding limestone, the avalanches, and the chaos of mountain warfare in a time when war itself was changing in a gruesome way.
While that description may lead you to believe that you’re in for an unrelenting raw black metal album, Minenwerfer make a different and decidedly more effective effort in creating massive variances in mood. There are indeed some frantic moments within tracks like “Dragging the Dead Through Mountain Passes”, but no sooner are you hit with the soft acoustic guitar bridge of “Kaiserjägerlied” when you realize this record is more than a one-trick pony. The riffing is varied and brings a sense of melody along for the ride, allowing for a more effective conveyance of mood where the desolation and sadness ring true while the heavy riffing and blast beats contrast the norm enough to themselves become strikingly effective.
The fact that Minenwerfer can so effortlessly place you in this setting makes their missteps a bit more profound. “Tiroler Edelweiss” is an admirable effort at a soft, atmospheric track that misses the mark with poor clean vocals and a tad too much melodrama to fit along with the efficiency of the album’s other tracks, but overall the band strikes at the heart of what an effective, war-themed black metal record should be. This isn’t Panzer Division Marduk
is a much more well-composed, well-envisioned, and well-executed stab at bringing a World War to us in aural form. This record feels more personal, and with riffs aplenty including some surprises like that found in the latter portions of “Withered Tombs” there is a ludicrous amount of replay value to go along with the conceptual allure.
The album art is about as perfect a way to describe this record as anyone could muster – the record sounds more or less as that picture looks. Ignore the cliché German band name, ignore the fact that one of the members kind of looks like GG Allin in a milsurp helmet in their Metal Archives band picture, ignore the fact that this is two American guys who call themselves Generalfeldmarschall Kriegshammer and Wachtmeister Verwüstung – ignore it all. The music speaks for itself, and I can assure you that underneath the satire is an album that is worth your time and may prove itself over time to be an absolute gem of a record.