Review Summary: Back to the front.
It is always refreshing for me when I come around a black metal album that deals with a subject matter other than old Mr. D, even though "refreshing" might be misleading, considering that Kanonenfieber focuses on World War I. However these guys play the World War card so well, that for a good 50 minutes, you feel like you're stuck in a muddy trench a century ago. The cover art brought to my mind Pink Floyd's the mincer from The Wall
and illustrates perfectly how innocent lives are being treated cynically like commodities by those who gain from war. Additionally, there are samples scattered throughout that fit seamlessly into the songs and do a great job of painting that bleak WWI picture.
One thing, though, that prevents me from taking in everything that this album has to offer, is the use of German lyrics. However, the use of the German language suits the subject perfectly, so this is by no means a drawback of Menschenmühle
, but rather a limitation of mine. Actually, the vocals play a vital role in conveying a variety of emotions such as anger, desperation, hatred, and pain, among others. For the most part, the vocalist uses a death growl which, combined with the guitars and the drumming, creates a sense of urgency. Nonetheless, what might draw a non-black metal enthusiast's attention, is the use of other elements from post-rock and doom metal. For example, "Grabenkampf" starts off with a death metal riff and has a post-rock section in the middle with a sound sample, allowing the listener to take a breather. Essentially, most songs are varied, which helps in making this one an engaging experience that lets you discover more with each listen, such as rock guitar lick on "Unterstandsangst".
The production on Menschenmühle
is spotless and creates a big sound that suits the grim/violent atmosphere on here. In fact, it augments the band's great sense of melody and the emotional rollercoaster that this LP is. Finally, I love how the closer is purely acoustic - which is something that I had hoped - but as a song, it doesn't do much, apart from ending this one in an anticlimactic manner; just imagine Motorhead's "1916" in its place. However, don't let this minor downside prevent you from checking what is an extremely solid WWI-themed black metal album.