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For many, 'Honour Valour Pride' is seen as a grey spot in Bolt Thrower's history. A band that has graced the presence of death metal fans for many years, only getting better over time. However, in the year 2001 Bolt Thrower faced bad times with lowered heads and poor morale. This particular full-length was supposedly the end of this great band. With Karl Willets not on vocals anymore, a vast majority of Bolt Thrower's fans sensed the band were going on a steady slope downwards to the path which would ultimately lead to their demise.
However, with the re-emergence of Karl Willets are the vocalist, Bolt Thrower produced a 'great' shock with his comeback release, 'Those Once Loyal'. Which is ironically tagged to me. It should have come as no great surprise that Bolt Thrower are still the same old war machine they have always been, no matter who is at the helm leading the way. Bolt Thrower can and always have crushed any opposition and left no critic untouched by their punishing sound.
Although Karl Willets wasn't on vocals for this full-length, I still believe Dave Ingram gave a polished performance at the helm. Although his vocals are lacking somewhat, and in no way really compete with that of Karl Willets, he does what his job description tells him to do. Give a competent performance and deliver some unrelenting vocals to match the superb riffing the band has always been capable of. Once again, this element of the music, the guitars and the solos they create, is the saving grace. One riff after another and one solo after another will leave you drained of emotion. Bolt Thrower have never lost the power that is the embodiment of their sound, but they have momentarily misplaced it at times, including on this album. It doesn't generate as much feeling as previous, or latter albums.
Bolt Thrower have always had the ability to cover up any holes that may be found in their performance with some excruciatingly stunning solos. As aforementioned, this element is the saving grace. Ingram's vocals will obviously draw the most attention, which is perhaps a shame, but if he had only stuck to what he does best, the outcome may have been different. It's been stated several times in the past, but it seems as if he is merely trying to emulate what Karl Willets achieved on vocals. Ingram's style is vaguely similar to Willets' immense and immaculate driving vocals, though much more visceral. The deeper and darker sound doesn't necessarily sit well with the open style of riffing, one which allows the terrorising melodies to seep through.
Where Willets vocals acted as a creeping barrage of emotions spilled forth over the top of a number of classy and well executed solos, Ingram's vocals whimper and are just not up to the task. As I said, they are competent and would probably be received in a better light had he been the vocalist first, but he wasn't. Emulating someone isn't an attractive feature in music. You must put your own spin on things and Ingram just doesn't do that. It's unfortunate. Not only this, but the flow of the music just isn't there. The instrumentation doesn't fit the style of vocals, which are much deeper. The production gives the music a much more bombastic feel than albums like 'Mercenary', as heard on songs like 'Inside The Wire', but the vocals don't do a resounding job of fusing the elements together.
Although the production is quite murky and sounds as if the instruments are being covered by a cloud of smoke from the explosions of war, and the vocals are somewhat average, Bolt Thrower have kept a lot of what they do the same. Perhaps an element which isn't pleasing to most. People like to see progression. 'Honour Valour Pride' is perhaps seen as a backwards step in the history of the band. Some of the riffs can become repetitive and this takes away from the edge of the soundscapes Bolt Thrower create. It also feels as if Martin needed some time to feel his way back into the role on the drums. He gives a static performance, which will be overseen by his tremendous efforts on 'Those Once Loyal'. Inside The Wire is my highlight.