Minenwerfer – Alpenpässe

Band: Minenwerfer
Title: Alpenpässe
Label: Purity Through Fire
Release date: 31 October 2019
Country: United States
Format reviewed: Digital Promo

MINENWERFER, which is german for “Minethrower”, formed in 2007 in Sacramento, California and have since then combined themes of philosophy and history, mainly focusing on World War I, with classic black metal. Their music has always been furious, fast and on the occasion included some compelling solos and minor progressive elements. The band has released two full-length albums in the form of “Volkslieder” and “Nihilistischen” in 2010 & ’12 respectively with some EPs and multiple Splits since then, one of them with fellow WWI-metallers 1914. Two years after their last Split and 7 full years after the last album, they now unleash a new full-length upon the underground: On October 31st, MINENWERFER will present their newest creation, “Alpenpässe” (“Alpine passes”) via Purity Through Fire, written and performed by the two remaining members of the band, Generalfeldmarschall Kriegshammer, and Wachtmeister Verwüstung.

Picking up the promo of the album, I went in with an open mind, yet not previously knowing the band and reading the honestly pretty blunt band-name, I expected “balls to the wall” kind of War/Black Metal, something with a lot of punch but not that much substance… but going into the first track, I was instantly taken off guard! As the opening track went by, I recognized that this deserved attention and was convinced to write a review. Did the rest of “Alpenpässe” hold up to the massive opener? Let’s find out!

MINENWERFER open the record with “Der Blutharsch” (an old german word referring to clotted blood or scab), a 17-minute long track in which they demonstrate excellent musicianship. The intro to the song features a distorted and extremely sad guitar tone while the drums are gentle, the weeping guitars clearly being the main focus for this introduction. A historical sample of a speech is then used to create a transition into the main track, as the drums set in and a long scream fully transforms the song. The main riff setting in after that is probably one of my favourites of all time, still weeping and sad in sound. The bass is driving and enriches the dismal tone, being more complex at certain points and giving the sound a great texture. This first part overall features some brilliantly tragic melodies and cold, wretched screams. Around the 7-minute mark, a more progressive guitar tone takes over and the drumming gets more complex, guitar and bass in unity communicate a feeling of desperation. The 9-minute mark indicates another change, as a quieter part including another voice sample (some kind of militaristic appeal, commanding soldiers to protect the borders of the homeland) leads into a progressive guitar sound that is almost reminiscent of something from a PINK FLOYD track, all in all a very proggy, yet woeful section that is topped off with a guitar solo. The next part offers pounding drums and a sharper guitar-tone that is at points siren-like, after which tragically beautiful guitars and prevalent bass are enriched with more melodic and driving drums, sounding very Post-Black Metal. The last minute of the track presents a misanthropic riff, giving a feeling like all is lost, but as the song then fades out, we are left to draw our own conclusions as to the result of the battle… I really had to dissect this track like that, as it truly is a masterful composition and a contender for best Black Metal track of the year in my opinion, “Alpenpässe” is worth getting for “Der Blutharsch” alone!

“Dragging the Dead Through Mountain Passes” is track 2. It is one of the heavier tracks of the record, offering classic, misanthropic Black Metal riffing and pummelling drums with some very compelling guitar solos. It may not be the most complex track of the album, but it is bluntly brutal and intense. Track 3, titled “Cloaked in Silence” again really convinces! At almost 13 minutes, it includes some really energetic & driving, yet strangely depressing riffs, some great tremolos, as well as diverse & varied drumming, generally reminding me a lot of ELLENDE. A true highlight of the track is an extensive tearful guitar solo, with bass and drumming again further texturizing the sound extremely well! Around the 11-minute mark the screams get embellished with underlaid hymn-like voices “searching for glory”, creating pictures of soldiers singing to each other in times of desperation.

“Kaiserjägerlied” (“Emperor-hunter song”) is probably my second favourite track on the album! It starts with a short sample of some old, german folk / march song before going into the main part of the track, which features some eerily intense tremolos. The true standout and why this became my second favourite track is a later part, around the second third of the track: Here, a beautiful acoustic section commences, being a bit different as it still features screaming vocals, something I don’t see often in Black Metal that include acoustic parts like this. The climax of the track marks another highlight, as a powerful guitar riff, intense drumming and heartfelt, hymn-like vocals make up an epic conclusion!

“Tiroler Edelweiss” (“Tyrolean edelweiss”) is also important to mention, at it wanders of the Black Metal path, instead being s straight up Neofolk track, giving off strong AGALLOCH / DEATH IN JUNE vibes! Beautiful acoustic guitar, excellent and fitting clean vocals as well as some spoken word create a great atmosphere. It is an outstanding track in the best way possible, creating some calmer space before the last, intense track: “Withered Tombs” contains some of the darkest and heaviest riffing and most brutal drumming on the entire album! It also offers harsh vocals and another great guitar solo. Stomping drums and an almost thrashy guitar tone close off the album with the noise of air combat and what is possibly a crashing aircraft in the midst of a battle layered underneath.

“Alpenpässe” is possibly the best release by MINENWERFER to date, offering lots of variety and bringing in new elements that the band hasn’t explored in this fashion before. I feel like the band on this album is the strongest when they diverge from straightforward Black Metal, say when bringing in the aforementioned progressive elements, Post-Black Metal feeling or when exploring some new genres to include in tracks, like Neofolk. While not all tracks are as complex and compelling as the first, it needs to be said that “Der Blutharsch” is a definite 10/10 track. That being said though, the rest of the tracks are also very well crafted! Clocking in at just below an hour, the new MINENWERFER never lost my interest throughout its runtime, which I would attribute to the great structure of the record: Regularly exchanging heavy, yet simple tracks with more complex ones it does at no point become stale! A lower rating than the following would not be doing the album the justice it deserves. 9/10 the trve Medvson

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9/10 Epic Storm
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