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As Crushing as a Baneblade Super-Heavy Tank - 100%

DemonX99, February 8th, 2011

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
-World Eater

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.