Trying to finish up these drafts that have been sitting around...
World War I was obviously devastating for all parties involved. What interests me so much about that period of history was the technological advances made prior to the war, the effect it had on the conflict, and all the odd experimentation that inventors and manufacturers did during the conflict to help improve the odds of their side winning. Sure experimentation and invention happens during every major period of war, but during World War I some of the ideas seemed humorously out of touch with reality and thus resulted in spectacular failures. Knight-like plate armor, horse cavalry charging tanks...
Australian duo Sacriphyx's The Western Front is a romantic take on that era, filled with the horrors of what is arguably the most dismal and oppressive conflict of the last century.
Nuclear War Now! is known for catering to bestial black and war metal fans. The Western Front doesn't really fit into either category and is instead far more melodic in nature. There are elements of death and black metal, but certainly more of the former. While the atmosphere lends itself more to doom or black metal, the instrumentation is pretty strictly death metal. Harmonized guitars with plenty of melodies dominate the soundscape, all plodding along at a Mark V tanks' pace.
The melodic nature of the music combined with the pacing of The Western Front is what gives it such a strong atmosphere. Romantic in the painfully nostalgic sense, the instrumental intro title track sets the scene perfectly before parading into "Buried Behind the Lines," a rallying track guided by a bouncing rhythm. There's not a single bad track on The Western Front - although I'm sure "Damn Passchendaele Ridge" might be a bit of a shocker. It's an acoustic track with spoken word lyrics that I quite enjoyed. Anthony Till's voice may not be perfectly suited for it, but at least the lyrics keep to the theme. The acoustic melody is appropriately somber too. Actually most of the melodies on The Western Front are to some degree bar "The Crawling Horror" and "Buried Behind the Lines" I guess.
Guitar really dominates the mix on The Western Front, and some distant mid-range vocals drenched in reverb aren't too far behind. There's a distinct feeling of emptiness to the music, and instead of feeling claustrophobic like one would imagine trench warfare, it sounds like there's plenty of room for the music (in particular the melody) to explore the soundscape. This only adds to the romantic, nostalgic feel of The Western Front. It's like exploring the tormented flashbacks of an old veteran.
Sacriphyx's The Western Front is a high quality release with a war aesthetic and a nostalgic atmosphere - probably the best album I've heard from NWN! in 2013.
8.5 out of 10
1. The Western Front2. Buried Behind the Lines
3. Fatal Fromelies
4. Without a Trace
5. The Crawling Horror
6. Damn Passchendaele Ridge
7. Food for the Front
8. Wells of Beersheba