Kanonenfieber - Menschenmühle
9 songs (50:37)
Release year: 2021
Reviewed by Goat

War may never change but the bands that use it, and slightly less well-examined examples such as the first World War, often do. This German one-man act embraces the Great War, from the art-prop piece used for the cover to the lyrical focus, to even the music. And although World War I is no longer the forgotten child of the early twentieth century thanks to various re-discoveries, from Battlefield 1 (the last good shooter DICE made!) to the work of Ukrainian black metallers 1914, it's still ripe territory for miserable music. Current events, at the time of writing, will push those interested in both war and metal towards flights of fancy (a funeral doom album about the British retreat from Afghanistan in 1842, for instance? You could even make a concept album based around that grim section from the first Flashman novel...) and it's always a slight disappointment to be faced with stone cold reality.

Things change, war sucks, hype is rarely rewarded. And accordingly, the debut album from Kanonenfieber ("cannon fever") is far from bad, but doesn't do quite enough to raise it into the ranks of the excellent. The best moments on Menschenmühle ("human mill") are the most atmospheric, the clanking metallic sounds that open the likes of Dicke Bertha (the German nickname for their 17 inch howitzer cannon) for instance, even as the ensuing doom-tinged trudge infringes a little upon Hail of Bullets territory without quite being memorable enough to stay that way. The clean guitar interlude in Die Schlacht bei Tannenberg ("the Battle at Tannenberg") is decent but the surrounding track is more of the same, and you come away from listening to most of the album wishing that more had been made of the theme than the odd sample, another example being Der letzte Flug ("the Last Flight")'s aeroplanes. The only moment that really stays with you is the brief synchronised gun fire and riffs of Grabenlieder ("Trench Songs") which must have been done before but aside from Fear Factory's synchronised blasts examples aren't coming to mind right now. Suggestions in the mail, dear readers!

Elsewhere, the base black/death gallop is effective enough to keep you nodding along, with the likes of Die Feuertaufe ("the Baptism of Fire") giving a melodic form of underground metal that fits the over-enthusiastic young protagonist's bloodlust for war with France. Grabenkampf ("Trench Warfare") is an unwise dip into groovier territory initially before redeeming itself with a doomier second half, and that slower pace is partially reverted to in Unterstandsangst ("Understanding Fear") which mixes tempos to okay effect. None of these pieces would be especially interesting without the war theme, however, which overall makes this album difficult to recommend to any but the most devoted of war and metal fans. Presumably that includes everyone reading for making it this far? Solid yet very unremarkable, Kanonenfieber fail to translate the horrors of war into compelling music, but have the talent to be worth checking out, at least.

Killing Songs :
Der letzte Flug, Grabenlieder
Goat quoted 60 / 100
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