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All hail the new Bolt Thrower? - 80%

tcgjarhead, February 6th, 2011

Hail of Bullets will never be described as trying to reinvent the wheel. In fact you could say they are de-constructing it down to its bare bones! The band mixes the tried and true formula and style of Bolt Thrower with a tinge of doom (a la Asphyx) and a dash of old school Swedish death metal.

The production is great I have to give them props. While the album is sort of a throw back to old school death metal it does have that gritty feel but its still sounds clean at the same time. The guitar tone especially should be taken note of. Just listen as Before the Storm transitions into Ordered Eastward. The guitars sound like a tank is rolling up on you!

There is also a lot of atmosphere on OFaW. Pay special attention to Berlin when looking at this aspect of the album. The song is laden with doom riffs but they help underscore the feeling of defeat the Germans must have experienced. The last couple of minutes of the song especially give off this feeling with a massively catchy riff that’s played over a doom one as they eventually fade into silence ending the album.

As much as I love this album I have to admit there are a few problems. For one it seems to me to be just a song or two too long. Perhaps it’s because some of the songs actually sound quite alike. The biggest factor in them sounding the same is probably the fact that the riffs mainly lack differentiation.

But there are still a lot of good riffs here. Tracks like Ordered Eastward, Advancing Once More, Insanity Commands, and Berlin all have really catchy guitar parts. In The Red Wolves of Stalin there is probably my favorite part of the album where the music is going without any vocals and out of no where van Drunen comes in with his tortured vocals screaming “slit their fucking throats”.

Speaking of van Drunen he does a really good job on the album. His voice fits the music and lyrical topic(s) perfectly since he comes off sounding like some dying soldier in their death throes screaming their lungs out. I get a kick out of when he just randomly throws a death growl out there into the song for no specific reason (the intro to Ordered Eastward for example) which happens often. In Ordered Eastward Mr. Dan Swano provides guest vocals and they sound really good, in fact I wouldn’t have minded seeing him a little more on the album.

The album is a solid mix of death/doom leaning a bit more on the death side of things which is very pleasing. Though I don’t think the band did enough to differentiate themselves from Asphyx (Martin’s other band) they would fix this with their next album. But …Of Frost and War is still a very good album that switches up the tempo quite often between slower doom and thrashing death metal. While this album does have its flaws the good far outweighs the bad.

Originally reviewed at http://abaddonsmetalshop.blogspot.com/

Fucking Destroys - 99%

Themadisraeli, September 22nd, 2010

This album is like being run over with a panzer tank and having your corpse shit on by a couple of SS officers armed with Flammenwerfer 35's afterward. At it's most basic, what we have here is a combination of old school death metal combined with some very tastefully inserted doom sensibilities. If I had to come up with a list of names to give you a good idea, think of the best aspects of Grave, Asphyx, and Scream Bloody Gore era Death thrown into a blender. The production of this album is pretty superb, sporting an ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE sound, especially the guitars which sound less like distorted guitars and more like tank shells and machine gun fire destroying everything in their wake. The bass is massive and the drums are produced just right, up front in the mix enough with just enough breathing room but not overwhelming. To seal the deal we have Martin Van Drunen from Pestilence on vocals, which fits the music perfectly as he has just the right amount of Rabies and control for the job.

There is thrashing on this album, grooving, droning, you pretty much got it all within a very nice old school package that still manages to sound relevant. The songwriting present here is smart, having just enough order to sound organized but bringing in just the right amount of surprises to hit you where it hurts, some things you don't see coming at all like the thrashing break in "General Winter". If you had to ask me what I figured the best songs on here would be, try "Before The Storm (Barbarossa)/Ordered Eastward", "General Winter", "Advancing Once More", and "Stalingrad".

This is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL! The proficiency and perfect measure this album is carried out with is pretty rare in this day and age.

One of the best death metal concept albums - 95%

dismember_marcin, February 16th, 2010

If there’s anything I hate most when it comes to the music it is the waiting for the new album from one of my favourite bands. I am not patient, so sometimes I swear a lot if the band let us wait too long for their recordings. Luckily for me HAIL OF BULLETS carried on their bloody crusade in cold Eastern Front soon after the release of their mighty debut MLP. METAL BLADE has taken the band under their carrying wings and released this wonderfully looking digipack in 2008.

The booklet looks totally awesome and all those who’re into the history – World War II especially – will love it. Old photos taken from some archives – of the soldiers dying in the freezing Soviet winter, ruined cities, tanks – give an extra feeling. And the lyrics – based on the German / Soviet war and the most important events of it like the battle of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin or about the so called Nachthexen (Russian women-only Bomber combat regiment) are absolutely fantastic. They’re very detailed, showing great knowledge and interest of its author and be awared you’ll lose much if you skip digging into them. What about the music then…

Shit, don’t even dare to think that it may be a weak album. No doubt HAIL OF BULLETS managed to put out one of the greatest materials in the recent years and only ASPHYX and BOLT THROWER (hopefully they’ll do new album soon, remember I’m very inpatient!) can rival it. Look at it as a concept album, starting with the sound of the engines of squadron of tanks (and finishing with “…the war is over / Germany cries…”)… These are the German troops heading towards the Soviet territory, ready to start the war with Stalin’s wolves. With every next track you’ll participate in this war and end up in Berlin, crushing the Nazi’s seed. The music is very old school based, composed by rather simple, mostly mid paced riffing, which is very groovy and totally heavy and aggressive, but which at the same time is damn catchy and invites to the maniacal headbanging. Occasionally you’ll hear more melodic parts (like in “The Crucial Offensive” or the wonderful melodic part in the middle of “Inferno at the Carpathian Mountains”, not to mention a solo in “Berlin”, which is a great anthem to those who died in a war), but mostly the songs are massively heavy and monumental, almost barbaric, like “General Winter” for example.

It is quite hard to pick up one single song as a favourite one, as most of the album is equally great, but surely “Ordered Eastward” and epic “Stalingrad” are those, which stuck in my mind more than anything else. And again I have to underline my great sympathy for Martin van Drunen. This man is just god for me, I’m serious. I know that there are many great growlers, like David Vincent, Mike van Mastrigt, Karl Willets, Matti Karki, LG Petrov or Jeff Walker. I love them all. But van Drunen was always my favourite guy. He participated in recording of “The Rack”, which is one of my top three of favourite LPs of all times! He did also “Consuming Impulse”, which isn’t far behind. His rough, crispy voice gives the music a special feeling and I think no one growls like him (although Wannes Gubbels is quite close).

So, with such a line up of well experienced and brilliant musicians “…Of Frost and War” just couldn’t fail. It must be a victory of old school death metal, an album, which is almost complete, as I can find anything I wouldn’t like in it. Perfect, fantastic and totally interesting, ticking all the boxes of what I like in this music. Classic. Give me more HAIL OF BULLETS!

New elephant trampling everything in the room - 90%

autothrall, April 28th, 2009

2008 was a year sadly lacking in Bolt Thrower. So why not a Dutch super-band, featuring the vocals of former Pestilence/Asphyx frontman Martin van Drunen (who actually handled frontman duties for Bolt Thrower for a few years), who successfully celebrate the brand of simplistic, groove laden yet brutal death metal that those UK war machines created so many years ago?

Well, the debut from Hail of Bullets is that and more. Take the influence of the aforementioned, some Celtic Frost, Massacre and Death, refine it with a modern, crushing production, and then proceed to elephant up, trampling everything in the room. This is Hail of Bullets. This is war. It doesn't end with van Drunen though, the rest of the Bullets have quite a resume of their own. Guitars and bass come courtesy of Paul Baayens, Stephan Gebedi, and Theo van Eekelen of Dutch veterans Thanatos. Drummer Ed Warby hails from bands and projects as varied as Gorefest, Demiurg, Ayreon, Elegy, and After Forever.

The 12 tracks here represent one of the most monumental and excellent death metal releases of this year or any other. Simple yet extremely powerful production, crisp and crushing. Conceptually it loosely follows the German-Soviet conflicts of the 1940s, and it fucking sounds like it. The orchestration of "Before the Storm (Barbarossa)" sets the stage for the raging "Ordered Eastward", recalling a more grinding version of Bolt Thrower with van Drunen doing his best post-Pestilence work. I feel this sort of album is perfectly catered to an old schooler like myself, and every damn track is fantastic. The slow drawl of "General Winter" breaks into some firm death metal pacing. "Red Wolves of Stalin" moves with a D-beat rhythm, completely crushing everything else of that entire genre that I've heard in years. "Insanity Commands" is almost doom-like in its delivery until the inevitable Bolt Thrower beatdown not-so-hidden within.

This is just sick. One of my favorite death metal vocalists of all time, rekindling his earlier fire and fronting a worthy band (I wasn't personally into his Asphyx stuff). The delivery is crude and barbaric. It doesn't need complexity. It's fucking war, in touch with both its roots and the production values of a top tier modern metal album. An essential for anyone who is not a pussy. Don't be a pussy. Listen to Bolt Thrower. And listen to Hail of Bullets.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Concept Album Perfection! - 95%

Werewolf, April 25th, 2009

After releasing a great promo, that was also later released on vinyl through Iron Pegasus, this all-star Death Metal band signed a contract with Metal Blade and turned that promo into a full length concept album, which describes WWII, by adding 8 new songs, one of which is an intro.

After the intro (played by keyboards), which reminds music that’s played in movies about, during the atrocious battle scenes, the keyboards get replaced by shots, sounds of war machines… And then the METAL kicks in, in the shape of the song “Ordered Eastward”, which already appeared in the promo. The drummer goes nuts here and none other than MARTIN VAN DRUNEN leads us into the cruel atmosphere of operation Barbarossa (code name of the invasion to USSR). Martin’s voice changes according to the rhythm. When there are fast riffs played, he sounds like a wounded soldier that desperately screams for help, while during the slower parts it’s a deeper growl, typical to slow Death Metal. For those who heard the promo, I don’t have much to tell about this album, since it’s mostly a kind of massive upgrade of the promo’s stuff, which lasts for around an hour and supplies some of the most angry and cruel Death Metal with a real war atmosphere.

The guitar players definitely know what they are doing here, they convey the bloody message not only through the riffs, but through the solos as well, like in “The Crucial Offensive” for example, and surely in the most important parts of the album, which is the last song’s (“Berlin”) solo, which is a kind of requiem for the once capital city of the third Reich). This solo crawls slowly and makes the listener close his eyes, imagine the ruined city, take a deep breath and say “it’s over!”. For me – this album is a long and both pleasant and horrific trip, which should be played while being alone, relaxed and not busy. It’s much more than a random compilation of songs, under the title of an “album”.

The only weak part of this album (except for Martin’s voice, which fits the atmosphere, but differs from how I hoped it would sound) is the sterile sound. Death Metal needs its dose of dirtiness and rawness. Though still – I prefer such a blood freezing creation over many other, more average (even though not overproduced) albums from the genre.

Fail Of Bullets? - 70%

morbert, March 23rd, 2009

No, not really. But also don’t believe the hype. They’re not a quite supergoup. I mean, Warby and van Drunen have become cult figures obviously and Gebedi’s Thanatos never really got the success they deserved. But who are those others? Ah! A current Thanatos member and an ex-Thanatos member but none of them from the classic Thanatos days. So not really a total super group, wouldn’t you agree. Three men with ideas and some personnel. Guitarist Paul Baayens must be laughing his ass off. Playing in Thanatos, Asphyx and Hail Of Bullets. He must really be good or have ‘cool’ friends. I wouldn’t know. I never heard from the guy.

Hail Of Bullets play Neanderthal death metal the Asphyx and Bolt Thrower way with some Massacre thrown in and lyrically focussing on one subject: WWII eastern front warfare. Be it a Neanderthal style, the performance and production however are ‘modern’: tight, organised and heavy. I would have preferred a neanderthal sound as well but that’s purely a matter of taste. They do manage to give it their own twist instead of just sounding like a tribute act but the album does fail when it comes to delivering some truly classic and memorable songs. Therefore they’re not close to their inspirations and influences.

All these supergroups throughout the years. Always makes you want to come up with combinations yourself, doesn’t it? Now let’s think about Dutch competition. Mameli (Pestilence) and v/d Brand (Acrostichon) on guitar, Spijker (DeadHead) on drums, Jason Köhnen (Bluuurgh) on vocals? ... Anyway…

Back to Hail Of Bullets. The whole album is written as a theme, musically and lyrically but - as said- there are no real stand-out tracks. All songs have very enjoyable moments. But then again each song has moments which bore the hell out of me with overlong sections or plain dull riffs. It’s a stompin’ death metal trip without pretentiousness but also without the true class which could carve an album in stone. Best listen to it as a whole in the background while enjoying a drink or a silent b/w war movie but not when you’re in a more ‘intelligent’ mood and want to analyse the intrinsic quality of the music.

And another thing. When you really want to make a concept. Apart from the sound of your music, lyrics and album design, you should also try to be more creative concerning band photo’s. As far as the image goes, Hail don’t look very WWII proof to me. At least choose a setting or even fitting clothing. And when you’re bold: put on a god damn helmet! My God, any Stuka or Sturmovik can see the sun reflecting!

What remains is a good enjoyable death metal album which probably will be forgotten by the masses within a few years and get some obscure underground cult status when the hype is over. It also depends if this ‘band’ is going to continue after this. They’ll do a few gigs and then what? We’ll see. Asphyx is slowly getting back on track, Thanatos finally got a new record deal and Gorefest don’t have anything to complain. Hail Of Bullets will probably come to a stop when they’re running out of spare time. But then again I wonder how good Asphyx will do in the near future without main axeman and songwriter Eric Daniels since they’re running on ‘old fame’ at the moment and a new album has yet to see the light of day.

All the boys can play of course but it’s especially Warby and van Drunen who give HoB its own specific sound and character. The other musicians are actually pretty faceless. If Warby or van Drunen would leave, the concept would fall apart. This album is simply ‘good’ and honestly more enjoyable and cohesive than 80% of the new 21st century death metal out there filled with obsolete breakdowns, blast speed and other pretentiousness but I did expect more from this collective. If you’re a die hard old school death metal collector you do have to get this. If you’re not very familiar with - or entirely new to - the old school DM genre, try this album in a year or two after first checking out all the originals.

Soundtrack to the Eastern Front - 90%

DarthVenom, January 21st, 2009

War: accusations fly that metal artists fall back on the subject of war and conflict as a lyrical inspiration too much, but when you really take a look at it, there’s no other genre so well-suited to conveying the dizzying rush, the adrenaline and fury of the battlefield by virtue of its own intrinsic heavier, more intense aspects. From Maiden’s history-class-made-fun storytelling to Sabaton’s drill sergeant-like bellowing, it’s also an entertaining subject in its own right.

But for a long time I’d searched for an album that doesn’t just take the theme and run with it. I’d hoped for an album that realizes the potential that these two things have together, and take it to its natural extreme: that is, an album that is so visceral in its intensity, so palpable in its fear and fury, that it puts you right there in the midst of the battlefield – a great artistic statement.

Death metal supergroup Hail Of Bullets have made that album, and for that I thank them.

If you enjoy the razor-sharp tones of extreme Swedish classic acts like Dismember and Entombed, you’ll love what Gebedi and Baayens have in store here. Their riffs are easily comparable to the OSDM scene, naturally, striking that fine line between brutality and melody, at times crossing into dominance of the former but never losing that fine ear for powerful, brash melody. Ed Warby puts forth a fine display on the drums despite not doing anything of particular wonder.

Martin van Drunen’s vocal performance here can be summed up as such: fitting. This is a performance that truly understands and works with the album concept. It’s not “evil” like the David Vincents of the world, or demonic, possessed, whatever complimentary, otherworldly description people are tagging on to high-quality harsh vocal performances. No, Drunen’s agonized, fear-drenched screams are very, very human. The man channels the mind and emotion of a tormented soldier. There’s next to no melody, no formal guidance to the vocal lines; they just come spontaneously and depart abruptly, like a soldier having to scream over the shells bursting around him. Commendable job.

Lyrically the album doesn’t disappoint, with vivid yet tasteful depictions of soldiers on that frigid Eastern front in World War II. The lyricism tactfully balances the editorials of soldiers’ tense emotions with cold historical fact. Drunen’s all-so-human vocals allow you to make out many of the lyrics, which in this case is a welcome element to the experience.

The album’s dynamic is what really drives its quality home. While there are plenty of riffs that come at lightning speed and smash all in their path with their intensity, you’ll find a plethora of mid-paced sections that are integrated wonderfully with the blazing guitar attacks – much like soldiers waiting in tension for the next barrage. Partly thanks to the heavy-as-hell production and partly thanks to the razor-sharp guitar tone, these mid-paced sections are some of the most devastating and crushing I’ve ever heard in the subgenre.

Hail Of Bullets have created an engaging piece of extreme art with …Of Frost And War. The aforementioned Maiden and Sabaton, excellent as they are, can be likened to fine-tuned historical documentaries: they lay out the facts, and they do it in an interesting and entertaining way. Hail Of Bullets, meanwhile, is comparable to the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan: absolutely devastating in its focus and direction, and truly comprehending – and respecting – the true face of total war. Check this out if you like OSDM, or if you want to see a concept album that honestly comprehends and takes advantage of its concept to the fullest.

So snap up this album, crank your stereo, close your eyes and picture the battlefield. Savor the few moments of uneasy peace as the strains of Before The Storm (Barbarossa) waft gently along. When the storm hits and the percussive marching intro of Ordered Eastward begins – you’re right there with the soldiers.

Welcome to the war.

Ordered Eastward! - 90%

Dark_Mewtwo1, November 15th, 2008

Like a battallion marching down the roads to wage battle, these Dutch warriors return to the battlefield with this opus, Of Frost and War. Ok, so my intro is a little hokey, but that's about all the hoke you're gonna get out of this album. Let me spell this out for anyone out there interested in this album: Of Frost and War = Entombed + Bolt Thrower + Dutch death/doom. If any of this doesn't appeal to you, I recommend you stop reading this review and search for something else to listen to. Actually no, sit down and listen, and learn something.

Hail of Bullets is 1) yes, a supergroup, 2) a Dan Swano related project, and 3) a throwback to a simpler time in death metal. After a good intro, setting the grainy black-and-white scenes from World War II in your mind, the band jumps out with an uber-thick guitar tone and powerful drumming. This feels like a march to war, until all of the sudden, something snaps, and waves of gun-wielding soldiers surge forward at full-speed, while Martin Van Drunen's horrifying shrieks detail every last atrocity he's witnessed. There's some great riffs here, a nice blend of those doomy and delicious Dutch riffs, some of those pounding Bolt Throweresque monoliths, and even some punkier, upbeat sections more reminiscent of the Entombeds and Wombbaths of the world. The drumming is nothing spectacular, but I liken it to Fred Estby, who will never blow you away with what he does, but he does it with such clinical precision that you can't help but feel it. There's nothing truly stand-out here in terms of technicality, nor should you expect it. Every band member cut their teeth on the old Dutch style of death/doom metal, raw and abrasive like Autopsy. Instead, you get bludgeoned by mid-paced-to-slow riffs, along with Van Drunen's signature frantic vocals.

Unfortunately, for those who seriously believe that death metal should be hyperspeed all the time, this will probably bore the hell out of those listeners. I can count the fast tempo sections on one hand. This will also disappoint those who enjoy infinite amounts of riffs with their death metal, for this album aims at capturing the atmosphere - the sheer terror of war - with its heavier-than-a-tank guitar sound and massive grooves. This is probably too simplistic an album for many, and at times, it gets to be too simplistic for its own good. A few of the songs toward the end of the album lack an identity, becoming a massive blob of riffs and vocals. And of course, for a guy with Fred Estby Syndrome, we shouldn't expect much more than the beat and the occassional fill here and there. Some variety woulda been great; case in point, the punkish beat at the beginning of Red Wolves of Stalin is one of the best parts of the album. And if you're one of those wimps that can't take a little high pitched shrieks from a master, then forget about liking Van Drunen's instantly recognizable rasp.

Of Frost and War is a powerful album, steamrolling listeners with a beast guitar section and pounding rhythms. This is a great slab of death metal for all listeners, especially those fond of the old Dutch and Swedish scenes. The negatives of this album hardly damages the stellar work and production. Definitely recommended, this is one of the best albums to come out this year.

Hail of Bullets - ...Of Frost and War - 80%

AnInsidiousMind, June 23rd, 2008

Hail of Bullets is a new death metal band from Holland, and the band has members from Thanatos and Asphyx. Of Frost and War is all about the German-Soviet from 1941 to 1945 and the Soviet offensive after Stalingrad, and it’s trying to have a mechanical/war atmosphere to it.

The album starts off with a nice instrumental that sets the war-like atmosphere, and it’s tastefully done; the album continues with varying types of death metal riffs, but it all comes back to a mechanical sound. The riffs have some nice tremolo parts, and they usually flow nicely into an old school doom/death style riffing. The album is a bit of a grower, but has a nice atmosphere that can obviously hook people. 'Nachthexen' and 'Berlin' are the highlights of the album, because they hold the atmosphere together, and the riffs and songwriting flow perfectly. Most songs on ...Of Frost and Fire hold a nice atmosphere, but just don’t pack the punch. The only beef I really have is with the album is the riffs is in the song Stalingrad, because it has annoying riffs and doesn't come together at all. The vocals are superbly done though; it seems like anything Martin gets his hands, he will do his best to make it great. His vocals are still strained and deep, just like in Asphyx, and they fit perfectly.

All in all this album is solid, but I don’t find anything that I can latch onto. The production on the album is standard for a modern death metal band; the riffs could be a bit more in the mix, and the vocals down a bit though. The album is just lacking a bit of punch to put it just over the edge. Some better riffing would do that trick in a few song, but definitely something to listen to, and perhaps they grow for their next album.

-written for ultimatemetal.com-

War Never Sounded this Good - 85%

karma_sleeper, May 15th, 2008

Shiny debut from recent death metal band Hail of Bullets, "...Of Frost And War" might just be what it feels like to be run over by a Tiger tank as drummer Ed Warby claims. A crushing atmosphere of hopelessness and despair permeates every track on this album while faithfully invoking the classic sounds of Bolt Thrower, Death, and Celtic Frost.

A nice interplay of the furiously fast and the morbidly slow is what makes this album so great. Imperialistic percussions order you to march. Their orders are soon cut down by slower sections emblematic of the ultimate futility of war. It's a strange harmony of opposites that blends and transitions beautifully.

Guitar sections are superb overall. Excellent leads tie things together in most songs. Simple riffs do their job well. Few bands can play the same chords over and over again without making them sound repetitious. Your attention never drifts.

One thing that took some getting used to was van Drunen's vocal style. In most songs, it's a very harsh, agonizing, and terrified sounding wail. I've never heard anything quite like it before. Thankfully, the guitars usually overpower these sections so his unusual style doesn't feel as though it's cramping the music. At times this works, and at others it's just plain annoying. In songs like Stalingrad or Red Wolves of Stalin, his voice really captures the horror of war and the hopelessness that tends to accompany it. He has the tendency to sound like one of the panicking soldiers at the front, and it really helps capture you in the moment. On other tracks, he intones a more traditional guttural shout that makes the classic death metal sound stand out even more.

Despite the minor vocal abnormalities which demand some getting used to, "...Of Frost and War" is a superb debut from some very talented guys. Give it a listen before you decide to pick it up to see what I mean about the vocals. I have the feeling I will be enjoying this one for a very long time.

Originally posted on my blog: http://metalexnihilo.blogspot.com