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Final argument of kings, all Earth transformed... - 100%

SadisticGratification, May 19th, 2013

In the year 2081 when the world is recovering from thermonuclear war which ravaged Earth and razed all of civilizations grandest monumental cities to the ground, humanity will be salvaging the remnants and artifacts of pre WWIII Earth. Among the rubble and desolation will lie the pinnacle of humanity's achievements. Scientific achievements, the greatest literature, surviving architecture and music among others. Humanity will be faced with stitching back together the puzzles of the old world by using remnants of the past and of course will cater to the strengths of our achievements. In science DNA and the theory of relativity will stand shoulders above other scientific advancements. In literature Shakespeare, Dickens and Tolkien will be read aloud on a pulpit to the denizens of the new world. The great skyscrapers of New York and the pyramids of Giza will be seen as the pinnacle of architecture. When pre war music is discovered, Mozart, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin will be among a host of music to be consumed as relics of a time gone by. Among these records, one band will stand tall among the giants. With consistency, strong song writing, intelligent lyrics and musical integrity at their core. That band is Bolt Thrower and this is their masterpiece, their magnum opus. Hyperbole? maybe but I mean every word.

"Those Once Loyal" is the defining moment in Bolt Thrower's career, the ultimate maturity of one of death metals most enduring acts. "Those Once Loyal" isn't just any old record, it eclipses anything released in the 2000s by a long shot and stands tall with the genre defining records of yesteryear. The album oozes class from start to finish, backing up this is the incredible song writing. No filler here only quality from the start. Lets talk about the start for a moment. "At First Light" the opening track sets the tone for what is to come, the first 50 odd seconds are taken up by a slow melancholic atmospheric section before kicking straight into what is one of metals great intros, slow in comparison of what is to come but it is without a doubt a Bolt Thrower riff and features a ridiculously cool lead guitar lick. The riff is used appropriately throughout the song without being abused. Yes this is an excellent Bolt Thrower song starting off an excellent Bolt Thrower album.

One thing that really stands out on this album more so than on previous Bolt Thrower albums is Martin Kearns drumming. While he did the drumming on "Honour, Valour, Pride" he really hit his stride with this album. Don't expect Derek Roddy or George Kollias style relentless precision and speed but take nothing away, the drumming is tastefully done and fast when it needs to be. Throughout the whole album the drumming is intense but groovy when it needs to be. "The Killchain" is possibly the slowest song on the album barring the intro which is that running theme intro heard on "Powder Burns" or "Embers". I feel out of all the times this iconic riff was used "The Killchain" is by far the best use of it. It builds up and then forcefully stalls and seats itself into the main body of the song really naturally. This song is groovy and features my favourite drumming of the whole album. Slow, methodical but bloody hard hitting. "Anti-Tank (Dead Armour)" is another song that features genius drumming, not for it's technical prowess but how it fits into the overall song. During the outro of the song Kearns does a triplet on the bass drum and fitting with the theme of the song it sounds like a brief burst of gunfire. These are the little details that Andy Whale could not do that really helps sell this record as Bolt Thrower's best.

This album like all other that preceded it features those chunky, bass ridden, heavy hitting riffs that Bolt Thrower are known for and should really patent. "Granite Wall", "Those Once Loyal", "Salvo" are just some of the songs where the heavy hitting riffs are the centerpiece of the song, it just proves that to be mercilessly heavy one does not have to resort to speed and blast beats. Throughout there is beautiful melodic interludes that give a brief pause from the relentless war that is this record, there is no point really picking one song to show. They all feature some melody throughout.

"When Cannons Fade" is the climax of this album, wow what an outro. Intense speedy riffing, brilliant leads, tasteful drumming, incredible lyrics. This is Bolt Thrower and this is why we love them. This song is an example of Karl Willets lyric writing at its best. He actually went out of his way to research his lyrics at various war museums dotted around the United Kingdom such was his dedication. In no way are the lyrics background to the music; music alone this album is great but the lyrics just help top off the experience and are forcefully delivered by the decipherable growls of Karl Willets;

As the silence grows
Steadily replacing
The resonance of thunder
Deep in the soul

Conscience still remains
Horror - amongst the flames
Ashes keep on falling

I close my eyes
And even now
The distant memory remains
Of the last laments
To be played

I dare you to listen to this piece of music and lyric genius and not get goosebumps, it's not obligatory it's mandatory. To top it all off it's the finishing of the album and when it finishes you'll instantly think "wow what an experience". This song features incredible melodic interludes between versus and a brilliant solo before the epic ending, it just has everything you want in a metal song.

Music writing aside this album sounds superb, the production values are really well done. The guitar retains that career defining Bolt Thrower sound but packaged in a 21st century production job while not diminishing the aesthetic value that Bolt Thrower's sound is. Everything is perfectly mixed, the leads whether it be a full blown solo or melodic interlude lick stand out when they need to. The bass guitar is never hidden behind the guitars but never sticks out either, it's all blended excellently. Martin Kearns has stated his dislike of triggers on drums and it really shows on this record, the drums sound natural not like an endless barrage of clicking.

What else can be really said about this album? As long as I'll write reviews for this site you will never see another 100% by me (well unless Bolt Thrower themselves top this) such is the ferocity and brilliance of this amazing death metal record. I may seem like I partake in too much hyperbole when talking about Bolt Thrower but their music speaks for itself, I have gotten many non death metal fans to listen to this record and each one of them loved it. That doesn't mean this isn't a death metal record or that it isn't heavy, trust me it is on both counts. It just shows the maturity in the song writing and symbiotic relationship between the band members that can only come from consistent lineups and a love for writing good music. I do have one problem with this record, it's just too good that Bolt Thrower themselves will not release a new record unless it tops this, which lets be honest is nigh on impossible.