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Anyone familiar with the recent popularity of Swedish bands reviving the classic heavy metal and rock sounds of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s owes it to themselves to get acquainted with Bullet. Not quite as cut-throat and speed happy as Enforcer, Wolf, or Steelwing, though also not quite as retro as Witchcraft or Graveyard, Bullet have been committed to the cause of drinking beer, banging heads, and (according to their press release) killing grunge since 2001. They haven’t attracted the same attention as those aforementioned Swedish peers, yet their music doesn’t fall behind by comparison, tending to stay on the inspiring side of solid more than often than it slips over into copycat worship.
Surely the defining feature of the band must be vocalist Hell Hofer, whose knickers-in-a-twist shrillness strikes a precarious balance between being the driving force of the music and a comedic presence. There are a few moments where he gargles the microphone a little too heartily (see the opening of ‘Crossfire’), but for the most part his energy is a big plus for a mostly mid-paced bunch of rockers. Despite the band’s promise that the title track of Storm of Blades was intended to be “the toughest Bullet song ever”, much of the material on the album would fit just as well into a stadium rock setlist as it would a heavy metal one. The stomping, chord-based riffage of ‘Tornado’ and ‘Hammer Down’ makes a stark contrast with the pacier likes of ‘It’s On’ and ‘Run With the Hunted’, keeping the album upbeat through most of its length, never letting one particular style become tedious.
There are not any obviously naff cuts on the album, as one would hope for a sub-40 minute effort, although one does get the same kind of sinking feeling as Running Wild have been known to inspire as the raw aggression of the title track and earworm melodies of ‘Riding High’ devolve into the steadier beat of ‘Tornado’ and Hofer’s screeching voice. Whether it be personal taste or the overall effect of the styles, I put myself firmly in support of the speedier material, where the hearty riffing causes excitement to escalate along with a few nice leads from Hampus Klang and Alexander Lyrbo. The greatest instances of this go to the gutsy 'This One's for You' and 'Storm of Blades' itself, both of which contain elephant-sized doses of adrenaline. The quicker pace also suits the simplistic rhythm section, since there isn’t really the variety and chops on show to win over listeners at medium pace.
The first half of the album flies past before you know it, then the song lengths become more capacious and allow ‘Hammer Down’ and ‘Crossfire’ to breathe just a bit, which is probably to their advantage. However, everything is kept tight and controlled, without any time for deviation from the song’s basic structure or experimentation with its parts. This means that the writing leaves little room for error, of which there is fortunately none, but the simple style can appear plain and predictable. I always feel with bands that play in this throwback style that they either need to do something new or something incredible with their influences, so it’s to the credit of Bullet that they usually get away with it, including enough strong moments and adrenaline-fueled songs to make you get caught up in the excitement instead of wondering whether that last riff was from Accept or Judas Priest. That said, this doesn't fire me up quite as much as the more creative efforts from Wolf or the explosive likes of Enforcer's Death by Fire.
Bullet are not a thoroughly outstanding band, nor is Storm of Blades an exceptional album, but the Swedes do a good job so far as their aims are concerned - beers are downed, heads are banged, and (presumably) grunge is rolling in its grave. If you’re going to a heavy metal party or want that arena feel in your living room, give these guys a try.
Originally written in edited form for Metalegion magazine #2 - www.metalegion.com