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Throwing one more devastating bolt! - 88%

quacktheripper, November 18th, 2007

I thought of various ways to open what in all probability will end up being a blithering, inadequate expression of the undying adulation I have for this band and nothing seemed good enough. At one point, I even considered laying down a simple, self-explanatory “It’s a Bolt Thrower album” and closing this review. However, I persisted and now you will have to endure a verbose rant on why Bolt Thrower are the best fucking death metal band on the planet this side of the initial Morrisound fecundity (and err, that side of the Swedish proliferation too.)

If they were to be described in their very own lyrical style, Bolt Thrower would be “The raging Panzer Leopard 2 that zeroed in on the enemy stronghold and conquered the hostiles.” Of course, that’s a metaphor for “death metal so intense and heavy that you headbang till all energy is drained from you and your neck is a boneless mess.”

Bolt Thrower’s musical direction is quite simple really. They only aim to annihilate everything that stands in the way of the mighty, towering colossus that is Bolt Thrower. And the way they accomplish it is so effortless it is almost ridiculous. Bolt Thrower’s music is never overly ambitious. Bolt Thrower know where their forte lies and endeavor to create music within such constraints.

I believe that the reason Bolt Thrower have endeared themselves to hordes of metalheads worldwide is that like the most iconic heavy metal bands of our time such as Motorhead or Iron Maiden, their approach to the way they handle their musical arsenal hasn’t changed over a career spanning the better part of 2 whole decades. In fact, I consider Bolt Thrower the Iron Maiden of the death metal world. Really, the similarities are startling.

The most glaring similarity is in the way these bands write music. If you walk randomly into a room where music was playing, you would recognize immediately if that song is by Iron Maiden because they have a trademark style of songwriting. In that aspect, Bolt Thrower too have established a certain style, a particular trademark method of songwriting which is unique to them. There is an established framework, like the E-D-C-D Iron Maiden progression. Bolt Thrower’s emphasis through the years have been on riff-driven chug-a-thons combined with some of the most DEVASTATING mid-song breakdowns in metal history backed with reliably pounding mid to up-tempo double bass and grooving mid-section beats. This ability to create a multitude of ALBUMS, let alone songs, within this blueprint is what sets a great band apart from the also-rans. This also is the reason why you can never go wrong with a Bolt Thrower release. It’s because you know that they’re going to be sticking to the plan and just delivering another solid death metal release.

Oh, not to mention the fact that both of them are British as well.

Let it not be said that I did not warn you about how wordy that rant was going to be.
Now that we have a few facts established, let us delve into the album

Pre-release, there was quite a buzz going on about this owing to Karl Willetts’ return to the band. Willetts will always remain the definitive voice of Bolt Thrower for me. It’s not that Ingram did a bad job in any way, it’s just that Karl Willetts delivered the thunder on ostensibly one of the greatest death metal albums of all time and everytime I pit someone against something like that, it just doesn’t work in the contenders’ favour. So what did Bolt Thrower do to celebrate? They wrote the best goddamn death metal album of 2005, that’s what they did.

Bolt Thrower’s no-nonsense approach to death metal is a treat unto itself. Bolt Thrower just step up and put that fist right in your face from the word go. Those Once Loyal starts off with a short, ominous war-knell and bursts into At First Light. The hauntingly melodic slow intro followed by Willetts’ full throated roar of “AT FURST LAAAIIIT” as the band switches into “destroy” mode is pure death metal orgasm. Entrenched is a typical Bolt Thrower crusher, staring off with all-out intense riffing with a catchy (in the death metal way) riff over the chorus. Next is arguably the song of the album, The Killchain. Interesting observation: The intro is the same riff as on Embers from The IVth Crusade The intro flows through into a MAGNIFICENT riff, so beautifully simple, yet something only Bolt Thrower could possibly pull off. This song combines some of the finest Bolt Thrower elements: a chugging monster of a mid-tempo riff with a catchy chorus and a positively neck-snapping mid-section breakdown. It’s impossible to stay still to something like this! The title track flaunts a style wonderfully reminiscent of the title track on Bolt Thrower’s magnum opus, The IVth Crusade, with a slow, sledgehammer of an intro giving way to a chugging riff-fest over mid-tempo double bass. There is absolutely NO filler material on this record, every track is fucking brilliant. Jo Bench’s rich, gain soaked bass sound complements the guitars perfectly and there are some pretty impressive basslines in segments if you listen closely enough.

While the overall reliable Bolt Thrower sound has not changed in any way, there are notable improvements in certain areas. This is the best production job that any Bolt Thrower album till date has had. Not in a clinical, Andy Sneap way but in the sense that everything sounds grander, with all instruments getting their space. Another thing is the heightened sense of melody that the band seems to be acquiring. The slower parts are getting some serious melodic harmonization action and the solos are top notch.

If you’re a self-respecting metalhead, this needs to be in your CD collection. NOW.

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