Black Metal, Death Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Metal

Kanonenfieber – Menschenmühle (Review)

Genre:Black Metal/Death Metal
Release Date:20th of February, 2021
Released viaNoisebringer Records
Cover Artwork ©Noisebringer, 2021

During the first few months of this year, I was bound to my desk due to work which meant that I spent hours browsing through the Black Metal Promotion Youtube playlist. At some day, I started off listening into the releases that were newly published and then I came across this absolute attention getter that got stuck in my head for a damn long time. I instantly recommended this to a lot of my friends because I thought that there’s gonna be a lot of talk about this release and as far as I can tell I’d say that I was not wrong about this. We’re talking about the first ever output of German Black and Death Metal combo Kanonenfieber (roughly translated as cannon fever), who pretty much came out of nowhere and grinded through the Metal scene with their initial release Menschenmühle (human mill, mill for humans). There is not a lot to tell about previous releases of this band, since this debut album did also not proceed any demo recordings or similarly comparable releases, it was the first output by this band.

Taking a look at the cover of Menschenmühle already predicts that the framework of this release is going to be WW I (this is an anti war poster from WW I) – and immediately connects with bands such as 1914, Scalpture or Minenfeld. However, it seems as if the take on this topic is slightly different from the bands mentioned above. First of all, if you are looking for any evidence whether you can listen to this release without an odd feel in your stomach because of the war subject, you might be interested in the fact that according to the band, the main purpose of this project was to make use of former diaries and documents from WW I in order to portray the utter pointless purpose and mere brutality of this war in the first place (read the Zephyrs Odem interview in German for more information). Going the way of following the narrative of misfortunate fates of several individuals definitely channels the use of these memories in an absolutely interesting perspective. Even without arguing with the music on this album, this was already an aspect coming from the songwriting that convinced me.

If you solely follow the tracklist on this album, the perspective can also easily be underlined, because it progresses from rather positive connotations that soliders had during the beginning of the war when going on a “Great Adventure” (take a look at Minenfeld if you’re interested in this term as well), those poor souls were soon to find out that the journey they went on was going to turn out differently, eventually often leading to the fact to end up buried and without honorable notice (“Verscharrt und Ungerühmt”). The tracklist alone already showcases this narrative of facing the cold and bitter reality of this war in the end when being right in the middle of it.

The most salient aspect that predominantly holds your attention on this release is the wide variety of genre styles that are included througout all of the tracks. Ranging from a straightforward Death Metal sound such as on “Dicke Bertha,” there are tracks that make use of a huge influence of classic Black Metal on top of a damn straight Death Metal sound. Additionally, there are also Doom Metal sequences that can be heard as brief element on almost all of the tracks, filling the necessary epic vibe that accompanies the topic of WW I showcasing one perspective towards this war scenario. Apart from that, especially the genre jumps that imply an alteration of the speed also simultaneously convey rise and fall of the tension in the narratives that are told on this album. It feels as if the genres in general were turned into a stylistic device that is made use of in order to properly procure the narratives that find their narration on these tracks.

Especially the drums underline these alterations drastically. Already being played in several rather odd styles when considering the fact that we are moving in between Death and Black Metal, it becomes evident that the drum patterns on this album also consistently switch even within the already mentioned genres thus becoming an aspect that musically upholds your attention while listening to this album. Similarly, the guitars are also musically absolutely brilliant. Not only being able to underline the already mentioned aspects, the melodies as well as riffs are so damn memorable through and through that this album turns out to be one of the releases that gained more of my attention than anything else so far released in 2021. Apart from that, the rather unusual genres that are also included for example when this Blues lick kicks in on “Die Schlacht bei Tannenberg” increase the personality on this album even further.

There is everything you need for a great released included on these 9 tracks – bringing together converging genre elements as well as fresh approaches. The riffs and vocals on tracks such as “Grabenlieder” or “Im Niemandsland” are somewhere between catchy as well as perfectly conveying the mood the narrative of the lyrics expresses. Epic melodies, preferably on top of those Doom sequences, perfectly broadcast the later on erroneous heroic perspectives that the figures finding their spot on this album believed when deciding to find their way into war.

The variation can also be underlined by the vocals on this album that also range from deep and groovy Death Metal growls to classy Black Metal vocals as well as everything that finds its spot somewhere in between these genres. Apart from that, samples from actual speeches during WW I also perfectly construct the necessary mood for this release and position you at the exact spot you need to be at in order to properly experience the vibe of WW I that is aimed at on this album. Nothing feels right that is happening here, throughout the entire release and even when still reporting positively, the listener has a certain odd feel while listening that showcases the probable mood soldiers were in when setting their first steps on opposing land.

The absolute highlight is the track finishing this album that comes along with an acoustic guitar and clean vocals, feeling like the song written by a survivor of WW I who put his thoughts of having experienced this war into words after it had been finished. The raw quality on this track as well as the plain and acoustic style culminates the rising tension and negative perspective that develops during the album.

In the beginning, there was only a CD version of this album released via Noisebringer Records. After having found out about the groundbreaking impact of this album, an instant vinyl release followed with a black and an orange pressing via the same label. Later on, there was even an orange black splatter pressing that followed as well as a tape release – make sure to grab off this album that marks the first release on Noisebringer Records before it’s gone!

Menschenmühle is a release you only get to know once in a while and especially only once in a year. This already explains why this album finds its position as an AOTY contender, since it combines a lot of necessary features for an outstandingly great release. Although you are dealing with a difficult topic in a very considerate way, there still is a broad catchiness taking place right next to the display of smooth playstyles of all the genres you love. If you missed this album in 2021, I can’t come up with a spot at which you must have been living.

9 / 10

Favorite Tracks:
“Verscharrt und Ungerühmt”

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