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We've got a screamer here... - 73%

gasmask_colostomy, March 20th, 2017

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

A score for tire iron wielders (of varying trades) - 80%

autothrall, September 19th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Bullet are yet another of those Swedish bands, or to be fair, modern day heavy metal throwbacks which advocate absolutely nothing out of the ordinary or unique whatsoever, yet manage success despite themselves because of a genuine love of their material which joyfully remonstrates just about every negative criticism I could possibly level at them. On the surface as below. You've seen this album cover a number of times before, only then it was by a band called Razor or Anvil or Exciter. You've heard the music before too, since it walks the same path Accept once did in borrowing AC/DC's charismatic grating vocals and then applying them to a heavier riff campaign; but Bullet actually manifest that influence through a mix of hard rock and heavier metal compositions which seem to pay careful tribute to both sides, one never alienating the other, with a few flashes of Ram It Down/Painkiller power metal to dial up the excitement value even further.

Vocals are the standout, sharpening Brian Johnson's raving into a vorpal edge by tempering them with traces of Rob Halford's screaming capacity, Udo's air raid belligerence and then painted over with a thin sheen of Ronny James Dio's higher inflection and lyrical meter. I never get tired of these singers who understand that it takes more than a crystalline range to deliver an ass whooping...the personality is instantly realized, the EDGE; even if it's nothing new, and you don't feel distanced from any sense of highbrow attitude...this guy's voice is perfectly fit for the scrapyard, the assembly line so many of us slave away in until our shift's over and we can get a beer. The tunes are divided pretty evenly between savage Teutonic semi-power metal Dio/Priest/Accept ragers like "Hawk Eyes" and the title track, mid paced melodic NWOBHM stuff like "Riding High" which wouldn't have been out of place for a Praying Mantis, Saxon or Def Leppard, and then some bluesier, rock tapping infused pieces like "Tornado" which hearken more directly back to AC/DC but endow it with drooping balls of iron. There isn't a single tune on the whole album that doesn't feature some prominent, catchy hook, even when they feel like they've been partially lifted from obvious classics like "Balls to the Wall", "Dirty Deeds", "Breaking the Law", and so forth.

Production is punchy but appropriate, with guitars in perfect syncopation, but Dag Hell Hofer's throat is just so raw and ugly in nature that it helps contrast the instruments to they never feel too polished. But I'd probably compare the mix most to a band like Saxon during their later 80s-90s period. I did find the bass lines to often lack much of interest, where they clearly could have walked along beneath such a simple riffing palette with some catchy grooves, and the drums obviously aren't meant to create an earthquake, they are mostly just the standard hard rock full court press with solid fills and never any attempt to congest the spaces between those chords. In fact, the whole rhythm section is so taut and compacted that it actually highlights the vocals and blazing, Scorpions-like lead guitars even further than they might have been with a more raw and ripping tone, or more splashy use of cymbals.

Really, though, this is all about the 'spirit' of the medium, which the Swedes do absolutely nothing to mock or belittle, something shit 'comedy' acts like Steel Panther could take a lesson or two from. Heavy metal is not a fucking joke for some of us, not just a convenient stereotype we use to distance ourselves from the rest of civilization. And it never was. I find it so refreshing to have outfits like this one and Enforcer and their ilk doing no disservice to the style they celebrate, which for a more jaded audience has long since been trampled on by increasing aggression and disaffection in both lyrical themes and musical timbre/technicality. To an extent, a record like Storm of Blades can never be perfect...it knows that, it knows it is 30+ years late to the party and for much of the world there is just no turning back. Even the band's name is retread from a relatively unknown German act active from about 1978-84. But it proudly flashes the middle finger anyway with a well written, archetypal effort that I just can't imagine anyone couldn't have a good time with this. Simplicity for the sake of craft. I haven't delved heavily into all of their older records but this is certainly the most fun I've had listening to them to date. Even my nine month old smiles and bounces around to this one when it hits the speakers.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com