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A quarter-century of war scythes a generation's worth of lives. Perpetual conflict and perpetual suffering are the legacy of human activity, sowing bloodshed upon the earth until all life has been thoroughly trampled and extinguished. Music has struggled to come to grips with this reality since our early ancestors first pulled animal skins across a drum head. Across all genres and eras though, only a handful of musicians have ever fully expressed the contrarian (always horrific, often dismal, occasionally heroic) state of warlike human affairs better than Bolt Thrower and no Bolt Thrower album more vividly and vigorously encapsulates the grim onslaught of battle better than Realm Of Chaos (Slaves To Darkness).
Released twenty-five years ago last month, Realm Of Chaos is impressive for how little it has aged. It is a recording that is every bit as extreme now as it was upon release. Nothing sounded like this then and little sounds like it now. Inspired by both real-life war accounts and the sci-fi Warhammer RPG, Bolt Thrower distilled the essence of fantasy and reality, conflating the two into a brutal extrapolation of just how dark human imagination can become. Essentially a concept album, Bolt Thrower's first full foray into death metal and away from crust and grindcore finds the band straddling many musical lines. The music is down-tuned, grimy, and lumbering. The rotten guitar tone swamps and overwhelms you, the bass plods beneath, barely heard but propulsive. The drumming is the engine, running in fits and starts, a bumpy ride over a mountain of skulls. Everything is bloody, sooty, soaked in gore and covered in grime. Cleanliness is death to metal and that is most evidenced by guttural, militaristic cadence of the vocals -- the emphasis on being understood less important than the force of the delivery. This is a record that overwhelms, accentuating your fear while denying your hope. It is heavy in the true sense of being difficult to take in.
Yet despite this unrelenting atmosphere of horror, this complete sensory overload, Bolt Thrower know that you can only drill troops if they believe in the message and Bolt Thrower makes listeners believe. They temper their songs with deep, flesh-ripping hooks, surprisingly catchy riffs and choruses that arise out of the murky bog of their sound. This is a true accomplishment and why so many of us still fly the flag for Bolt Thrower. There are so many hits on this record that it almost isn't worth counting. Every track flays and each brings a new wrinkle, a new nuance to a style that seems simple at first but resonates on a deeper level with each listen. There are hints of grind, crust, and doom bubbling in the mix. There's crazy blasting and slow grooves. There's wild atonal soloing, sometimes just melodic enough to give you a sense of a soldier's valor (just before being shot down). There is death metal like there has never really been death metal before or since, in that what Bolt Thrower created here was simply unique, forged from their own independent vision, with little-to-no thrash influence (one of the few 80's death metal recordings with no through-line back to Slayer). It is at once utterly compelling, utterly magnificent, a masterpiece of the kind that only comes around once every generation -- should that generation survive long enough to create it.
This isn't a normal, run of the mill death metal album. I've discovered that while it is a death metal album, there are a lot of grindcore tendencies found here, and depending on who you are, this is ether a positive or a negative. I personally found myself quite enjoying these grindcore like moments, but I know many who don't, so take a listen and determine which camp you're a part of. It takes the usual death metal sound, and spiced is up with a solid chunk of grindcore, and the result is better than I would have expected. The album also has a "wall of sound" which can be attributed to both the album's above average production as much as to the actual instrumentation.
Bolt Thrower isn't exactly a technical band, but the performances here are great. I am a huge fan of Andy Whale's drumming as it, while not super technical, always has character to it. However, people seem divided on him, so I'd just make my own opinion on him and more or less not take other people opinions on him as that important. Karl Willetts' vocals are awesome as well, among his best. The rest of the band preforms well, although there isn't much to really talk about there, still the band has a solid line up technically and artistically.
As I talked about earlier, the cover art here shows a platoon of Crimson Fist Space Marines forming a hill of bodies fighting off unknown adversaries. Just like the cover art, the lyrics on this album revolve around the mini-figure game Warhammer 40K, the counterpart to Warhammer Fantasy. If you play the game, you'll love the lyrics here, as they are super nerdy (I don't think I ever thought I would describe a death metal album as nerdy, there's a time for everything I guess) If you don't play the game, most of the lyrics seem just about war in general and work fine. But if you're a player, you'll love all the little references, such as in"Through the Eye of Terror" where it refers to the Chaos Gods. This is probably my favorite thing about this album, and that's even when compared to the great music.
I never found myself to be a huge fan of Bolt Thrower, but this is an album any death metal fan can love and appreciate. From the great music to the awesome cover art, this is a quality album. I recommend it highly to those who've been into death metal for a while, and it really isn't a terrible way to enter the death metal world, as the lyrics aren't gross out and and the songs aren't THAT brutal.
Oh... my... god... No words would ever be able to fully describe how amazing this album is. Everything about it is just perfection. I remember specifically the day I first listened to this album. I had been just getting into death metal. I only knew bands like Cannibal Corpse, Death, and Possessed. I remember going to the record store and looking at the metal section when this album caught my eye. A person saw me staring at it next to me. He told me that I would not regret buying this album. He washing fucking right.
First off. this has some of the most killer artwork that I've ever seen. It's actually one of the things that got me into Warhammer 40K. You just think of pure warfare and destruction every time you look at it. It's just so epic. It fits the music of this album perfectly because that's what this album. Pure fucking warfare!
Secondly, another notable feature about this album is just the speed. It's brutally fast. The drums just never let up. The way it accompanies the guitar is just perfect. In most death metal albums that I've heard it would have small parts of the song where it just goes crazy fast and stops after only like 5-10 seconds. Not this. It just goes crazy fast for almost the whole song. Notable examples of this can be found on Lost Souls Domain, Eternal War, and World Eater. Every time you would hear it you would just want to head bang until your entire skull gets ripped off. Probably one of my favorite parts of this album.
Another thing worth mentioning is those vocals. Man they are some of the most brutal growls that I have ever heard. They are the definition of just anger. You can't find any vocals angrier than these. What's even greater is that you can actually tell perfectly what he's saying. It always maintains that crunchy and murky tone to it while at the same time being clear. It's something that Chris Barnes could have never done. He has that crunch feel but you can't tell shit what he's saying.
So if you ever feel like you want to listen to more death metal and you don't know Bolt Thrower, give this album a listen. This, in my opinion, is the greatest death metal album ever made. Nothing beats it. Not Altars of Madness, Tomb of the Mutilated, not even any album by Death. This is the real deal. This is the epitome of what death metal is meant to be.
Best Tracks: Eternal War, All That Remains, World Eater, Drowned In Torment.
It was the early 90's and I was deep into thrash and wargaming. Games Workshop had recently opened up a shop a bike ride away from my parents house. It was there among the fellow Warhammer players that I discovered a gate fold vinyl album featuring cover art from my 40k space marine box set, a band named after a Warhammer Fantasy Battle siege weapon: Bolt Thrower. I immediately purchased it expecting it to just be something along the lines of the punk, crust, and oi-punk that they usually played in store. I got home that night and was blown away by what I heard. This was metal, maybe with a touch of punk but definitely with a metallic sound and presentation. What came from the speakers was a huge (for that day) wall of sound even faster than most of the thrash I had known and with a sound so thick and brutal I immediately understood why Games Workshop was associated with them. The sound represented utter chaos and war and the aural assault of distorted guitars and bass, bomb blasts and guttural vocals forever changed my life! In the liner notes they called themselves death metal and from then on I was hooked, something had succeeded thrash.
Reminiscing aside, this album was a masterpiece for it's time. The intro starts the album off with a sense of desolation, sounding as if you are in an abandoned, war torn spaceship adrift in some galaxy. 'Eternal War' kicks in and sets the stage for what is to come: massive sounding (but not overly bottom heavy) distorted guitars by Gavin and Barry. The music is a mix of thrashy Slayerish parts for the slow and mid paced sections and early death/grind for the faster sections, usually accompanied by Whale's bomb blasts (one of the first bomb blasts that I know of) and rolling double kick beats melded together by Jo's crunchy, over-driven/distorted bass that makes the guitars sound even more massive and viscous creating a 'wall of sound'. When there are leads they are more of a chaotic nature like Kerry King but pushed further. While I certainly wouldn't call this melodic death metal Gavin and Barry do make use of harmony and different guitar lines, not always playing the same part which is definite factor in their wall of sound and something they expand on more on future albums. Karl's vocals fit perfectly and are still some of my favorite as they avoid the trend of other early death metal bands and keep the vocals low, guttural but articulate and not just muffled grunts that might as well be another kick drum track.The production is raw and crusty and it works well for them. In hindsight the playing is sometimes sloppy compared to today's standards but the pure energy and savagery are definitely captured and very clear considering how low they were tuned in an era before extended range instruments came around. On later releases they would tune up to D to tighten and thicken up their massive wall of sound.
Standout tracks: Well, all of them but if I had to pick a few they would be 'World Eater' which to date is still a favorite song of mine. The riffs comprising the first two minutes of the song are just fantastic with a thrashy harmonized feel that resolves to a union pulse. Other great tracks: 'All That Remains', 'Lost Souls Domain', 'Realm Of Chaos', and 'Eternal War'
Realm Of Chaos shows a huge leap forward for Bolt Thrower. Although released a mere year after their debut full length In Battle There Is No Law!, the sophomore shows improvement on just about all fronts. Here, they have found their signature imagery, refined their songwriting and put forward an all around more cohesive effort. Although somewhat less prominent, the grindcore and crust influences are still evident. The sound is aggressive and raw enough to capture the aura of war, but the songwriting and composition are coherent enough to make this a highly successful all around listen.
In Battle There Is No Law! represented a more free floating chaos; it featured heavy doses of grind and crust and while the aggression and sonic disarray were enough to carry it, the songwriting was not at all a prominent force. It was more an amalgamation of riffs, aggression, crazed solos and overall anarchy. For their second coming, Bolt Thrower has distilled their songwriting chops without sacrificing the raw energy of their sound. These songs feel less abstract in their chaos; while the pandemonium has not subsided, the band's tumultuous nature has been given a more focused direction.
The somewhat dissipating nature of their grindcore and crust influence has not left a void in Bolt Thrower's sound; the band has become significantly more doomy. The tempo is often slowed down, creating an effect of creeping menace. While their more doomy work would see its highest success in The IVth Crusade, it sure as hell works here. The grindcore and crust leanings are still somewhat a force in their music, they just manifest themselves in more subtle ways. The crust influence is most notable in the coarse production, and a vague Amebix influence can be detected in the occasional riff. The grindcore aspect can be noticed in some of the faster sections, especially in the blast-heavy drum work.
The riffs are much improved. Not that they were bad by any means on the debut, but they are more consistently of high quality this time around. The opening riff of the album on "Eternal War" and the riffing on "World Eater" are instantly classic. The frenzied leads are nothing new from the debut, and definitely not their finest lead guitar work. However, they are certainly adequate. The drumming, although flawed and unrefined, is very effective in the context of the release. The faster sections sometimes slightly lag behind, but this does not matter. Some may call it sloppy, but it goes a long way to compliment the raw warlike atmosphere the band is going for. The production on the drums feels dry - not as in boring, but in a way that evokes images of eroding bones scattered amongst the seared, barren remanence of a battlefield.
I didn't notice the bass until I actively tried to seek it out. Although not all that important on a casual listen, its worth lies beneath the surface. Very distorted and downtuned, Jo said that while playing bass when recording, it was tuned so low the strings felt like spaghetti. Without the bass, this would sound thin and lose part of it's vigour and all encompassing effect. Karl's vocals work perfectly in this situation, they are simultaneously vicious and restrained. While they are powerful and hard-hitting, you can make out a fair amount of the lyrics and they are more accessible than a good deal of death metal vocals.
This release shows Bolt Thrower starting to find themselves as a band. Gone is the punk inspired artwork, replaced with their immediately recognizable imagery inspired by Warhammer 40k. This theme also works it's way into the lyrics. In fact, the cover art was produced by Games Workshop, the makers of Warhammer 40k. This whole release shows the band improving their ability as musicians and demonstrates a strong improvement on composition and songwriting. While the debut was certainly a good album, it's successor is a great one.
Here we have what I think is the perfect Bolt Thrower album. Based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40k game, it’s filled with crushing death metal riffage but with an ample amount of the grind elements of earlier material. The initial release had much better cover artwork which was the art from the original Warhammer 40k rules book, but the re-release has the same artist doing his best to put down something similar without getting into IP issues. Still if you can find the original it’s much better looking. Either way get this album which goes from mid paced smothering heaviness to hyperactive blasting and back again. It’s really got everything a Bolt Thrower fan could ask for. Songs are based around elements of the future universe of the 40k game, war and the eternal fight against the evil forces of chaos. However one doesn’t need to have any clue to the background setting of the game to enjoy the songs, the lyrics and themes are great standing on their own. Opening with a mechanical sounding throbbing track that makes one feel as if a great and massive machine is rolling by while Whilletts deep death metal growl lays out the foundation for the entire albums concept. Then as that ends you are launched into the first proper track Eternal War which opens with some mid paced grinding riffage before the blast assault begins and one is forced to bang their head with abandon. What’s perfect about this slab of metal is how the move from more middling speeds to blasts and insane chaotic solos supports the lyrical themes. One moment you have the feel of vast machines of war steadily moving into conflict before the insanity of chaos hits with the grinding hyper riffs and blast beats Andy Whale lays down. You can feel the chaos oozing from your speakers with this one.
As the tracks progress they lay down the basics of the early history of the 40k universe, which is quite cool. From the wars of mankind to the fall of the Space Marine legions to Chaos this album does a nice job of telling an interesting sci-fi story, something I don’t usually look for from devastating grinding death metal albums. Stories of corruption by Chaos Gods, plague, death, and never ending war against the forces seeking to corrupt mankind are laid out and perfectly supported by the music. The standout track is World Eater, which is the name of the one of the Space Marine legions that went to the service of Chaos. It starts out with a near perfect heavy as fuck riff, fairly simple but with a groove that just grabs you, before moving into a total blast attack and back again. This main riff would be used to create a link between later albums as it would appear on several future releases. It’s like a perfect summation of the whole album in one song. Listening to Whilletts growl out WORLD EATER just sends chills down my spine and the lyrics tell a story of despair and final death and lead into the title track which tells the story of the inevitable fall of men to the forces of Chaos. This isn’t a story of hope as you may have guessed by now.
If you like Bolt Thrower’s later material you will find this a bit different with the grind elements still very intact, but the core of later Bolt Thrower is there. In summary this is an oppressively heavy slab of riffs, pounding drums, atonal solos, and some of the best death growls ever laid down. This is totally mandatory for any fan of deathgrind or just death metal in general. ENTER THE REALM OF CHAOS!
Take a look at that album cover. The new logo and awesome "Warhammer" artwork look nothing like the cover of the band's debut album, so one has to wonder if the band even sounds the same. Well, not really. Sometime after "In Battle There Is No Law!" was released, Bolt Thrower must have gone on a doom metal binge, because "Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness)" is way heavier than the band's previous full-length. The sound here is a perfect bridge between the US death metal bands and the Swedish death metal bands (Who would later release their first full-lengths). Bolt Thrower didn't play at 200 mph and riddle their music with blast beats, nor did they possess a chainsaw guitar tone backed by d-beats. They had their own sound, and what a glorious sound it was.
As mentioned earlier, Bolt Thrower decided to slow things down. They went from wicked fast riffs on "In Battle There Is No Law!" to some crushing, mid-paced madness on this record, and the transition was amazing. Every single track on this album has at least one riff or moment that will get the listener's headbanging, with "World Eater" being my choice for maximum whiplash. It isn't just the riffs that make this album though, but the groove that is created from the guitar tone and tempo. The tone isn't as thick as Entombed's, but it's plenty heavy and a lot more doomy. Simply put, if you don't find at least one instance where your head is bobbing uncontrollably, you are a false and may not entry.
Bolt Thrower didn't completely abandon their inner speed junkie, but they effectively mixed the faster riffs with the slower ones and they did so flawlessly. "Through the Eye of Terror" and "Lost Souls Domain" are great examples of this. One minute you're enjoying the mid-paced mayhem and the next, Bolt Thrower decides to channel their inner Slayer and your neck will thank you later.
There aren't any complaints that can really be made about this album. It's one of the heaviest albums ever recorded and has a great mix to please just about everyone. Now quit being a pansy and put on your big boy/gal pants, grab your preferred alcoholic beverage, put the album on and proceed to damage your neck.
"Lost Souls Domain"
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine
Imagine yourself lying in a trench; a dirty, gore filled trench. Bodies lie all around you; your friends, companions, leaders. The constant shelling of enemy super siege weapons fills the horizon with corpse-like smoke. The ominous sun has seen nothing but death. Everyone is dead or dying, their pungent stench filling the air. Screams of agony pierce the sky. There is no hope, no morale, only war. If there was to be a soundtrack to a scene like this, a soundtrack that could recreate the atmosphere that war dictates, it would be none other than Bolt Thrower’s ‘Realm of Chaos.’
Bolt Thrower is rather a house hold name in the genre of ‘old school’ death metal. Known for their continuous effort and large influence, these British metalheads have managed to keep a consistent discography, one great release after another. Their overt Warhammer 40k themes are the icing on the cake; BT has somehow managed to fuse my two favorite things into one. The 1989 release of ‘Realms of Chaos’ is as close as one can get to the literal definition of ‘death metal.’ This is a no bullshit, war filled monolith of death and chaos. Simply put, ‘Realms of Chaos’ is the quintessence of brutality. Nowadays, there are bands like Devourment, Disgorge, Ingested, etc, that control ‘brutal death metal.’ Am I going to deny that the aforementioned bands aren’t heavy? Of course not, but Bolt Thrower’s ‘Realm of Chaos’ is a towering juggernaut that razes any competition. Although released over twenty years ago, this album manages to be everything that brutality aspires to be. The snare drum is like the pounding of an artillery siege weapon, while the guitars lay out the horrors and desolation of war. Karl Willet’s vocals are that of a daemon prince; Jo Bench’s bass lines are the finishing touch in creating the heaviest and most crushing album that humanity has ever witnessed.
I was first introduced to Bolt Thrower a couple years ago, when I heard the song ‘World Eater’ on the Games Workshop website. This was something I had never previously heard; I thought it impossible for music to be so heavy. To this day, ‘Realms of Chaos’ remains my favorite Bolt Thrower release. While I adore their later efforts, this album is much different then anything else than they have done. Beginning with ‘War Master,’ BT slowly evolved into a more groove laden beast, concentrating on slower riffs, rarely changing the tempo past mid-pace. ‘Realms of Chaos’ contains the perfect balance of slow grooves and speedy, bomb blasting tremolo riffs. If listening to this doesn’t make you want to smash your head against a wall, then something is wrong with you. For someone checking this out for the first time, do not be put off by the ‘shitty’ production, and seemingly off time riffing. The wall of noise sound created by these songs make this release what it is. I cannot fathom what this album would be like with crystal clear production; the extremely drop tuned guitars, thundering bass, and sloppy drums create such a grimy, disgusting mess that you will envision the atrocities of battle.
The guitars on ‘Realms of Chaos,’ played by Gavin Ward and Barry Thompson, are the filthy underlying to this masterpiece. Let me just say, these guitars have the best tone I've ever had to pleasure of hearing; I think it's impossible for a guitar to sound any lower and sludgier. The riffs stray on the simple side; there is no unnecessary noodling and wankery. In fact, there are no ‘bad’ riffs in the whole thing. Every part played has a purpose, and that purpose is to crush in your skull; I’d say it accomplishes that quite well. The guitars switch between two speeds; slow, slamming doom, and insane tremolo picking. The rare occurring solos are short, though they sound like a daemon screaming from inside the warp; really fits the music well. The aspect that I love most about their playing is that under the inhuman sounds of every riff, there is a fine line of melody; the constant chugging is actually perpetrated by godly notes that create a real sense of ‘beautiful’ melody. Never has such brutality and melody been mixed so well, disguised under the heavy slugging of this guitar assault. Jo Bench’s bass playing is on par with the guitars; while there are only a few notable moments where her playing is apparent, she really helps create the whole ‘wall of noise’ and adds that extra ‘boom’ that makes this music soar to new heights.
Now, the drums: they are off time; the double bass is struggling and squealing to catch up; the fills are as crude and barbaric as can be; the blasting is a savage offense, like an Autocannon being fired to suppress a position. While these factors may come off as negative, in reality, the drumming helps achieve the real sense of war. Andrew Whale does an amazing job in bashing the living hell out of his set, creating the driving force behind the whirlwind of guitars. He follows a set pattern in many of the songs: let the guitars play alone for a bit, cymbal clenches followed by blasting, slowed down groove, etc. In no way is the bad; each time I listen to this album, the drums always impress me with their chosen path. The unrelenting blasting makes me bang my head every time, while the slow beats are like a power fist being driven into my face.
Karl Willetts bellows some of the dirtiest and grotesque growls I have ever heard. Following in the spirit of the other instruments, his vocals complete the puzzle in defining the sound of war. He maintains a very low growl most of the time, but sometimes we are lucky to be graced by a chaotic scream. He does an amazing job with his vocal patterns; they always fit what is being played, and are never an annoyance. The lyrics are mostly to the point: death, warfare, chaos. They are a great read though, and Willetts’ enunciation makes them clear enough to make out without a booklet.
As the battle raged all dead and wounded
Bodies, carnage all you see
The white hot blast - melting flesh
The screaming pain in agony
Bolt Thrower’s Realm of Chaos is flat out the heaviest album created by anyone, and it has held that title for twenty one years. Who knows how long it will take for a rival to create something equal to this? In my opinion, only Bolt Thrower can triumph this release. If only they decided to go back to their roots and create more grindcore influenced death metal; the possibilities! If you like your metal heavy and bone crushing, get this immediately. There are no flaws to be heard or seen. A masterpiece like this is too good to pass up.
Bolt Thrower is one of the biggest names in death metal, and there’s only one to describe them. Heavy. This superb band from Coventry combines growling vocals with their unique style of guitar playing to great effect, making them one of the most recognizable bands in the business.
In 1988 Bolt Thrower released the album “In Battle There Is No Law”. This album is an absolute classic, a must have for any death metal fan. Karl Willets vocals come together with Gavin Ward and Baz Tompson’s guitar to make a superb album, a classic of the genre. “In Battle There Is No Law” really is something special.
In 1989 when Bolt Thrower released their second full-length album “Realm of Chaos” they had a hard job of making this album live up to its expectations as many expected it to exceed its predecessor. They not only succeeded, they made a fantastic job of it. “Realm of Chaos” is a fantastic album and incredibly heavy, containing fantastic metal classics such as: “Eternal War”, (which uses a slow heavy introduction and a fast pounding middle and end) “World Eater” (which has a long low guitar solo at the start and fast high solos towards the end) and Through the Eye of Terror.
One thing that can be said about Bolt Thrower is that they are predictable. They rarely change their style- and it works. This is one of the only bands that this can be said for- in a lot of others the same style in each album can be become boring- this is not the case with Bolt Thrower. The biggest change in their style was the jump between “In Battle There is No Law” and “Realm of Chaos”. There was less of the punk influence in “Realm of Chaos, it contained more of the heavy grindcore influenced riffs and solos.
Bolt Throwers line up is that of a typical death metal- drum, guitars, bass and vocals. However the album opener “Intro” contains no instrumentation, only sound effects and Karl Willets’s growling vocals. This is the perfect opening track to this album, it adds to the atmosphere of the whole world at war theme of the album and sound incredibly effective.
The aforementioned World Eater is the first death metal track I ever heard and is a clear standout on the album. It clearly illustrates that fact that a song does not have to be fast to be brutal. The start of the song is effects similar to the opening track of the album, with Karl Willets growling the song title. A long, slow and heavy introduction then starts that lasts for around two minutes. This is an incredibly well written song and is a classic of the death metal genre.
Bolt Thrower use typical death metal growling vocals in all their music. This, when coupled with Karl Willets lyrics based on the bands common lyrical themes of war and violence create an awesome effect that no other death metal bands has been able to reproduce as well as Bolt Thrower.
Overall this album is a brutal, heavy metal classic. It contains fast elements; slow elements, fantastic lyrics and guitar riffs- Bolt Thrower excelled themselves with this album. It is a personal favourite of mine, and the first death metal album I purchased it- I recommend it on the highest possible terms to any death metal fan.
"You stand alone
The final parody
As you realise - your mortality
For you cannot change your destiny
To die at the hands - of the unknown enemy
Your death - you can't deter
As the silence - returns
By the time 1989 rolled around, the world had already had its first few delicious tastes of the death metal. Chugging away in their English basements, war-gaming fanatics Bolt Thrower were slowly mutating the filthy, thrashing death hybrid of In Battle There is No Law into something more simple yet far more punishing. Slow-paced, down-tuned brutality, yet with occasionally forays into faster tempos and desolate grooves. Stir in the wargaming influence of the Warhammer 40K universe from Games Workshop, and you've got what is perhaps the first 'conceptual' masterpiece of the death metal genre, an album that has only rarely been surpassed, still standing today as one of the pinnacles of this extreme expression.
The vocals of Karl Willets created the perfect guttural helmsman to steer this war machine into its battles across an eternity of corpse littered alien worlds. The guitar onslaught of Thompson and Ward was never complex, it was determined to simply crush all hope, and weighed down by the plodding bass lines of Jo Bench and the drumming of Andy Whale, all hope WAS crushed. The album was the perfect accompaniment to the universe of its subject matter, and in return the sci-fi geek elements crossed this band over past the borders of the standard metal listener. Suddenly you were moshing out with the kid down the street who kept his nose in his books and dice most of the time. And it was cool! It still fucking is.
If I had to record the highlights of this album within the narrow boundaries of this review, it would be impossible. Just trust me that every song is damned unbelievable, whether it's "Plague Bearer" or "Lost Souls Domain". Sure "Eternal War" and "Through the Eye of Terror" may have had some of those famous grooves to them, but there is nigh a moment of imperfection across this bloodied landscape. It's a flawless expression of doom and gloom in a belligerent shell. This album is more doom than most actual doom metal albums. That it came candy coated with artwork from Games Workshop artists themselves was an idea born of brilliance, the two mediums converge in grisly harmony on this album. And while Bolt Thrower later would steer away from this precise subject material into other battlefields, it's not something that really needed repeating. This concept was mastered in 1989. Period.
Are you a poseur or not? There is no time for peace. Only eternal war.
Exaggeration is a key element in many forms of literature, from satire to Sci-Fi fantasy stories. Sometimes, however, the storyteller finds themselves unable to really get far beyond the way things really are with mere words and something extra needs to be added to the mix. One of the most obvious of these cases is the theme of war and religion, because in this area the bounds between reality and fiction are not that far apart. Telling a story of warriors reaping endless tumult and suffering in order to gain favor with evil, human-like deities is something that parallels a number of historical and modern day events, though perhaps with different names and rationales. But where a novel is bound by single dimension of the printed page, musicians have the auditory medium within which to stretch the truth into something that truly becomes inhuman.
Bolt Thrower lay such an assault upon the optimistic of heart and mind, revealing through a clever yet unsubtle parable known to those educated in the realm of old school brutality as “Realm Of Chaos”. Taking the initiative from its predecessor “In Battle There Is No Law”, this collection of unquestioning aggression ratchets up the heaviness while taking a slightly more measured approach to chaotic speed and riffing. An analogy could perhaps be made between this album and its predecessor to the two radically different Slayer albums “Reign In Blood” and “South Of Heaven”, though Bolt Thrower lack that haunting atmospheric aesthetic and grimly melodic character. The production has been cleaned up a bit, particularly in the percussion department, and listens a bit smoother, but is far removed from this modern notion of processed heaviness heard out of modern bands.
This is essentially a purer form of death metal, free from any of the blackened traits of earlier albums from the mid 80s which still retained a heavily thrash character, while also avoiding the comical obsession with descriptive gore that Cannibal Corpse was soon to bring forth. It’s evil to the core, yet the riffs pound like machine guns and artillery rather than mystify the ears with visions of metaphysical horrors threatening to steal one’s soul. There is still a strong thrash remnant in the presentation of the guitars, complete with slower breakdown sections that wander chromatically yet still have a groove quality to them. But the character of the guitar has become so deep and sludgy that it shares more in common with Napalm Death or early 90s Morbid Angel than Slayer. Likewise, Karl Willet’s vocals have become much more guttural and hideous sounding, well beyond what Chuck Schuldiner or Jeff Becerra would have done back at around this time, to the point of sounding more demon than human.
Of all the various early death metal albums out there, this is one of a very select few which really master the concept album approach. The lyrical depictions that come about are absolutely essential to fully appreciating this, and Willet’s barks still retain the quasi-intelligible character of earlier bands. The guitar soloing has been toned down a bit to make room for riff development so that each verse can be properly prefaced, but there’s still some solid lead shredding to be found on a few select songs like the title track and “Dark Millennium”. But most important of all, these is a general sense of unity in theme present in the music, though perhaps muddled by its atonal nature, and each song flows into the next. It’s just simply one of those albums that has to be listened to all the way through, permitting no track skipping or favoritism that would lead one to chop it up and put a few selected gems on a play list.
In many ways, this was predicting the future of death metal, yet refusing to fully conform to it. Its character is definitely closer to the brutal sound of the 90s that all but completely shed itself of its thrash metal roots, but it refused to present itself in a disorganized fashion in order to but brutality on a pedestal above musicality. It doesn’t come to the point of sounding catchy, but the level of familiarity that grows out of it from the first listen is something sticks with you past the end of the album, which is something that can not really be said for the generation that took the lead afterward. It is probably the best place to start for this band if one comes from an 80s thrash metal persuasion and wants to bridge his/her way into swampier territory. For an album of undeniable horror and violence, it’s in a class by itself.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 16, 2009.
First, a few similes:
- Hearing a thousand atomic bombs detonating in the distance while in a greenhouse during an earthquake
- Being buttraped with a chainsaw while an angry giant wearing fuzzy mittens hammers you with his fists
- Unicron taking a shit
Heavy. What does heavy mean, exactly, in reference to music? Well, in short it's the feeling of kinetic force conveyed through, often, the use of pounding drums, down-tuned riffs, and of course rumbling sub-bass. Emphasis on rhythm, as opposed to melody. Why? Well, for the same reasons neanderthals banged on rocks and logs; the joy of making a ruckus, coupled of course with those strange yet powerful responses good rhythms evoke in us. What metalhead had to be taught to headbang? It's a natural response.
Bolt Thrower here put on a clinic on heaviness; the production, the insanely down-tuned instruments, pitch-shifted vocals (I'm sure you've all heard the stories a million times), everything combines to create intense feelings of violent destructive power as implacable and pitiless as the death of a planet. Seriously, the production on Realm of Chaos is the thing I immediately miss whenever I listen to any other Bolt Thrower album, songwriting considerations aside. There's nothing jagged or piercing about it, even the guitar solos are like dim lights seen through grimy glass, barely glimpsed in the face of a wall of sound that makes the ones in Berlin and China look like Legos in Hadrian's playroom. If you smoothed the rough edges of the Sunlight sound out and made it ten times bigger and bassier, you'd have an idea of what this is like. I find myself turning it up to painful levels and praising Khorne as the blood pours from my ears.
The drumming is sloppy. It sounds like Andy Whale (what a heavy name!) is playing his kit with guns. Still, would mechanical precision sound appropriate here? IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FAR FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WAR. Whale doesn't just "play" the drums, he wages all-out fucking war on them, and if a few missed beats and some sloppy blasts are collateral damage, well, those are acceptable casualties. The riffs are amazing; simple and repetitive as an artillery bombardment, but so too with a calculated strategy behind them. Parts occasionally betray the thought that went into their forging. Listen to that monster that opens "World Eaters", and that perfect subtle harmonization on the repetition. They also have a tendency to switch gears at just the right time, before you grow used to the current one; they start beating your left kidney with a new riff or tempo just as your right grows numb to the pain. Sweet Tzeentch, listen to "Through the Eye of Terror"!
Influences? Fuck that, Bolt Thrower are influencers, not influencees! They are a death metal war machine that grinds out to battle, promising doom to all those they visit. Sweden definitely span this record, and I bet Autopsy and Bolt Thrower slapped each other on the back when they met in 1989.
The subject matter only heightens the effect of this release; endless war, ancient warriors striving for the favor of the evil gods of chaos through battle to attain the ultimate goal: daemonhood and true immortality. I think Bolt Thrower deserve it.
Bolt Thrower is one of the most easily recognizable acts in death metal. England’s leading death metal band has been there since the birth of it; they’ve never changed their style and they refuse to release anything that they don’t think tops their last effort. It’s a great attitude to have, and has resulted in their sound not necessarily evolving, rather it simply gets better; it is fine-tuned with each new album. Not one second of one of their songs is boring, repetitive or redundant, making Bolt Thrower something of an anomaly, in that any other band who never changes their sound fails miserably (see Deicide, Cannibal Corpse).
After the filthy grinding death metal onslaught that was In Battle There is No Law, Bolt Thrower already had a hard job on their hands, if they were to stay true to their vow of always topping their previous effort. The change of style between In Battle… and Realm of Chaos is probably the most noticeable change between any two albums in their catalogue. Lessening the hardcore punk influence that was prominent on In Battle…, here Bolt Thrower lay the foundations of their style to come, a heavy, doomy, grindcore-influenced and loosely played brand of death metal that was unique at the time but has been done to death (and to a poorer standard) by many other bands since. Of course, this does not detract from the power of the album. Guitars are down-tuned as far as anyone before them, and the tone is dirty, sounding very loose. The guitar is a bit repetitive but that adds to the hypnotic effect that the album has. There are some great riffs, like the one at 3:20 in All That Remains, and the music really does sound like going to war.
Bolt Thrower must really love Warhammer, as they haven’t changed what they sing about at all since they formed in the late 80s. It’s a bit geeky at times, as are their album covers and logo, but it adds to their uniqueness. The vocals are monotonous low-pitched growls that work well with the music to create the war-like atmosphere, and are a far better way of singing these lyrics to the only other way I could imagine, which would be homo-erotic power metal ala Iced Earth.
This is a really great album, and though I must say it is the one I’ve paid the most attention to of Bolt Thrower’s discography, it seems to be the best. Of course, this isn’t to defy Bolt Thrower’s idea of bettering themselves with each offering, as each album is great and it’s hard to choose between them. Grindcore influences are still prominent, but with Realm of Chaos Bolt Thrower manage to depart from the sound of In Battle… by incorporating more doom metal elements. Their riffage style would come to be almost definitive of death metal and it is an absolute, unmissable classic that probably doesn’t quite get the recognition it deserves.
The two biggest improvements compared to their earlier ‘In Battle There Is No Law’ album were the production and the dynamics. The sound was still very ‘foggy’ yet twice as heavy this time and the guitars were so fuzzy and deep at first you’d think they’d have three bassplayers! The overall sound, though extreme, was far more transparent than before. Karl Willets vocals had improved at lot in terms of heaviness and drummer Andy Whale, though still sloppy at times, brought more dynamics to the songs and more diversity.
The album still had some hardcorepunk attitude hovering over it in terms of aggressiveness, speed and looseness. At times the albums had some grindcorish blastspeed elements. Which wasn’t so uncommon in the early English DM-scene. Remember, these were still the days of Prophecy of Doom and Deviated Instinct where hardcore and early DM stylewise borrowed intensely from eachother.
Apart from the improved drumming, the riffs were also slightly improving towards the later defined semi-melodic Bolt Thrower style. This also included the addition of some doom elements to their compositions. ‘World Eater’ is a pretty good example of a song that shows their future crystalised sound. Other highlights include ‘Through The Eye Of Terror’, ‘All That Remains’, ‘Lost Souls Domain’ and ‘Drowned In Torment’. Also worth mentioning is the very short opening track ‘Eternal War’. Quite some unequalled heaviness here from these Brits.
Whereas ‘In Batlle…’ was their filthiest album, ‘Realm Of Chaos’ is without doubt their most brutal one.
This 1989 album is probably my favorite released by this British death metal act. It's just one notch above "War Master" in my book, simply due to the brutal sound they achieved on this one. As far as the quality of music written and the vocals delivered, I would give this album a 100, but I took off ten points for the sloppy way in which it was played. However, taking that into account, it's also to be understood that with "tight" execution this record may not have been nearly as heavy. This is one of the heaviest (if not THE heaviest) records I've ever heard, and I believe I've heard some whoppers. Now I'll show you why...
01) Intro: Very short, sounds like some keyboard work. They even manage to get thundering basswork out of the keys. There's something being said in a low growl, and then we move on.
02) Eternal War: Another short track, but this one contains all the instrumentation that makes Bolt Thower...well, Bolt Thrower. The double bass is very good throughout, and the riffs are very fast and solid. The vocals could have been better, and I'm not a big fan of short tracks myself. They do throw down a good solo around the 1:35 mark, though.
03) Through The Eye Of Terror: Maybe the best song on the whole album. You get a 20 second guitar intro and then a mid-tempo skullcrusher. There's definitly some thrashy stuff from the guitarist in this one, and another great performance by the drummer. The vocals are much improved from the last track, and toward the end of the song they actually give Jo Bench a standout moment on the bass.
04) Dark Millennium: This is another song that is made through brutal drumming and some thrashy riffs. The vocals are still solid as well. You get a simple ten second solo around the 2:20 mark, and then a blast -fest to the end.
05) All That Remains: Nice doomy? Intro. Sounds like something that woud fit perfectly on an Evoken album for the first minute of the track. Then, thrash meets evil once more to create that sound we call "death metal". The drums are less noticeable here, it's more about the bass and guitar, which is cool. Around the the 3:40 mark there's a solo in backing some brutal vocals. Not very often at all is a guitar solo a background layer in the music, but it works out quite nicely.
06) Lost Souls Domain: This is your basic old school death metal track. Thrashy riffs, lightning fast drumming, brutal growls all combine for a sonic boom of epic porportions. If you have subwoofers in your car I'd ve very careful on this track.
07) Plague Bearer: This opens with about a five second solo, then a solid, crunchy rhythm section complimented nicely with pitch-harmonics and great vocals. The pace changes around the 1:20 mark, the double bass is prevelant once more. This lacks a great lead, but I think the rhythm section makes up for it.
08) World Eater: This is right up there with "Through The Eye Of Terror" for best song on the album. The opening vocal is quite sinister, and after that...the best riffing in a death metal track, ever. Once the track speeds up, there's a fair amount of solo work on the guitar. Moreso, I'd say, than other tracks on the album. The drums are great once again, and the production on this song just sounds better than anything else on the record.
09) Drowned In Torment: We're making a theme of this! Very heavy very fast song, great riffing, great double bass, good vocals. There's a shrieking solo at around the 2:00 mark that I could live without, but again the rhythm section makes up for a not-so-impressive short solo.
10) Realm Of Chaos: The title track is very mid-paced, which gives the pitch harmonics and the drums a chance to stand out. And, they don't disappoint. The vocalist again delivers a convincing growl throughout, and the speedy parts are less thrashy than previous songs. This song actually has a very excellent solo at the 2:00 mark, and in addition I believe, begins to define Bolt Thrower's individual sound for times to come.
11) Prophet Of Hatred: Nothing special here really, just solid instrumentation, songwriting and vocal work. The production is average. This is a forgettable track, but it's by no means a terrible song or one that you're likely to skip.
12) Outro: Same as the intro, just without vocals this time.
They don't make 'em like this anymore, they really don't. Considering the comparatively restrained and measured approach of Bolt Thrower's brand of death metal nowadays, Realm of Chaos is a uniquely untamed expression of sheer ferocity that stands alo
HOLY SHIT THIS IS A HEAVY ALBUM!
ne in their back catalogue. Yes, the guitars were disgustingly downtuned. Yes, the bass strings were as flappy as an old granny's snatch. Yes, the drumming was technically crap, and yes, the production was so non-existent as to make Scott Burns' work sound punchy and slick in comparison. What did it result in? Not crap, not at all; rather something that, to this day, is still unrivalled and laughs condescendingly in the face of modern brutality.
To put it simply, anyone who thinks Brodequin, Saprogenic or Devourment et al hold the throne to the dog's bollocks of sick, crunchy-ass breakdowns and chugs would be advised to listen to this album, because until they do, they're wrong. Hell, Bolt Thrower don't even need a heavy production; if this was produced by Andy Sneap (god forbid), the riffs alone would have carried this album into history. Songs such as Through the Eye of Terror, Drowned In Torment and All That Remains open-up with such stomach-churningly heavy, malevolent, fat
HOLY CRAPBALLS THIS IS TOO HEAVY!
-ass riffs that I just want to grab my bolter, charge into the street, make mountains of shredded dead, and stomp defiantly...challengingly...through the remains. Thank goodness I don't have a bolter or power armour; this CD would have long ago landed me in prison. Of course, it isn't all about the chug; what separates it from the other BT albums is that these stomping battle marches are simply the calm before the storm, and what a fucking storm it is. Every single song without fail, at some glorious point, explodes messily into straight-up insane grind like a priest unloading into a boy's vulnerable bottom. Andy Whale couldn't really keep up on the drums, but it's all part of the charm...were this as clinical and mechanised as the later albums, it would have lost its air of rough savagery. The messy drumming really fits perfectly into the overall rawness endorsed by the static barrage that is the production.
Oh what a production. Jesus. The artwork and lyrics are all about Warhammer 40000. Eternal war. Mechanized carnage. Psychological terror. Deep, black space. Daemonic creatures and energies that make the word 'evil' too inadequate. Beautiful fiction. But still, this album sounds like all that. It oozes violence and bleak death from every strained pore. The guitars wail and squeal at random points; the screams of warp energies and tearing psyches. Their gritty, abrasive texture sounds like thick armour plating grinding on thick armour plating, it sounds like the titanic metal hulls of a city-sized spacecraft buckling and breaking with battle stress, it sounds like our reality is being torn apart at the ragged edges, letting-in hordes of roaring daemons, one of which is Karl Willet's iron-wrought and hoarse vocal delivery; chanting out all these premonitions with a rhythmic dexterity that complements and enhances both chug and grind sections alike. The drums tell the same story; their ill-fitting grind pounding betraying a structure falling apart at the foundations, and the tasteful accompaniment to the chugs just loose enough to inebriate that calm with a nervous energy that is so satisfyingly expunged when the storms begin.
There really are n OH MY GOD THIS IS HEAVIER THAN MY FAT HAIRY ASS
o words to convey the full impression this album smashes mercilessly onto its attentive listeners. From the groovy Through the Eye of Terror to the epic and foreboding introduction to the famous World Eater, Realm of Chaos continually builds with the best chugs ever written only to destroy everything in sight with Bolt Thrower's singular true (and successful) attempt at pure grind calamity, all in a fittingly dark theme and unified by a classically pertinent, if technically naff, sound job.
It's a great thing that they never tried to write another album similar to this one, because there could really only ever be one Realm of Chaos. Anyone remotely interested in pure death metal or grind needs to own this piece of history.
This is one of the heaviest albums ever recorded. The bottom end on this album is bigger than the arse of your average elephant. The guitars are tuned down to bass frequencies. In the recording of this album, the bass was actually tuned down so far at one point; the strings would not vibrate. Even Karl Willett's vocals have been electronically lowered by a harmonizer.
Despite the enormous sound Bolt Thrower produce, their riffs always remain clear, and the drums snappy. There is double kick bass abuse throughout the album, one of Blot Thrower's trademarks. The songs are catchy, and have an almost sing–a–long quality, unusual for the grindcore genre. World Eater and the title track standing out as classic tracks from the album, and it is not unusual to find yourself growling along, Willett–style, hours after hearing these songs.
The subject matter is the Bolt Thrower staple– war, well embellished by amazing artwork from the Games Workshop. This was Bolt Thrower's last true grind release before they strayed toward the death metal stylings of their subsequent albums. This album is a landmark for extreme music. At a time when Carcass, Napalm Death, Righteous Pigs, Terrorizer, and Extreme Noise Terror were thrashing away noisily trying to break the speed of sound, only Bolt Thrower and Godflesh were truly exploring the sonic possibilities of creating massive walls of sound, rather than being noisy.
There should be a picture of this album under the definition of "heavy" in the dictionary.
OK, this is not a very tight album at all, I'll get that right outta the way. Andy Whale was the weakest link in this band, no two ways about it, with his sloppy double bass technique. And the production is not one of Colin Richardson's best works (that would go to Carcass' "Necroticism" and "Heartwork" opuses). So why do I give this album such high marks anyway? The fact that it is still one of the heaviest slabs of metal you will ever hear in your life; as a buddy of mine once put it, "This is the sound of the fist of God coming down on your turntable!" (heh, turntable reference--am I dating myself here or what?)
The feel of this album is unbelievably dark, bleak, dirty, dreary, and FUCKIN' HEAVY--the intro riffs for "World Eater" and "Through The Eye Of Terror" (especially the latter) alone will send chills down your spine. Their severely downtuned guitars (down to A, the first time I had ever heard a band tune down that low) were the sound of impending doom personified, and lack of definition aside, they work. Ohh, do they work. And Jo Bench's hideous fuzz bass tone will give you nightmares--it's as loud as the guitars and in fact dominates them pretty often in the mix. Just the way it ought to be--as the one and only Gene Simmons once said, "Without the bass, you ain't got heavy!", and I'm inclined to believe him.
"Through The Eye Of Terror" especially is my favorite song on this whole album, with its eerie and ominous opening riff and its churning bulldozer verses alternating with blast beat choruses that will tear you a new one in seconds. The other songs on display (especially opener "Eternal War", "Lost Souls Domain", and the aforementioned "World Eater") carry the same feel of pure war, with their chaotic and urgent feel. Karl Willetts' vocals are the epitome of ugly, guttural rasping as he intones his lyrics of war, destruction, and despair, and I can't imagine anybody else doing the job as well as he did when he was in the band--neither Martin van Drunen (who was only on one album anyway) or current vocalist Dave Ingram even come close to this level of unreal vocal torture.
Everything after "Warmaster" started sounding the same to me as Bolt Thrower settled into a midtempo rut, but that and this album both define the classic BT sound for me. It hasn't been the same ever since.