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Hail of Bullets > III: The Rommel Chronicles > Reviews
Hail of Bullets - III: The Rommel Chronicles

Stand and Die! I think not. - 77%

autothrall, April 8th, 2014

I've been comfortable for years claiming that Hail of Bullets provides my favorite Asphyx material, because it so ramps up the tension and potential of that seminal death metal entity while also offering the same enormous clusterfuck production which the members' primary act also has capitalized on with their recent releases. That said, this Dutch act plays with such a simplistic, strength-minded sensibility that there is constantly the threat of them burning themselves out, writing a set of riffs too complacent or plain in structure that they can fail to achieve, and I do think to an extent this has happened with the third full-length III: The Rommel Chronicles, only not so much that I didn't still pump the fuck out of this thing on a number of occasions.

No, riff for riff, this is not the equal of either of its predecessors, nor does it start off particularly promising with "Swoop of the Falcon", but there is enough meat on its bones that retro death metal pundits the world over should find some common ground being tread. Van Drunen's vocals have lost nothing with age, but I would not say that his performance here is among his more memorable...that award still belongs to his old Pestilence material, on which he pretty much created every pattern he'd later re-arrange. I am surprised that his voice has held up this long, he's got such a bloodiness in there which seems like it would have cracked a million times over in 30 years, yet the ugliness persists, the desperation and hostility which is almost like Lemmy Kilminster gargling gunpowder while chomping on an unlit cigar...always about to explode! Rhythm guitars maintain that corpulent fleshiness of the other albums, only a few tunes like "To the Last Breath of Man and Beast" contained groove riffs so unfuckably exhausted that part of The Rommel Chronicles feels more like an obligation than an advancement further along enemy lines...

Many of those grooves unfortunately also remind me of stuff you'd hear on an average Six Feet Under disc, not that it's such a bad thing with Van Drunen taking the helm in place of Barnes, but stuff like "DAK" could have used an added sheen of atmosphere or complexity to help raise the roof. Like a lot of acts these years, Hail of Bullets seem to be increasingly relying on the momentum of their production values alone to mask rehashed ideas, and if that's going to be the case they might have just ended with the excellent sophomore album. On the other hand, lyrically I found this fascinating, since Rommel is one of my favorite historical military figures and perhaps the most competent of the Axis strategists, and when listened to in one lump sum in my car, the disc fucking crushed me on a number of occasions that I still consider it a solid success, even though it really lacks the surprise value of the others, and the riffs are a few tiers lesser in quality. It'd be nice now for the Dutchmen to take leave for awhile, come up with some new ideas and perhaps even attempt to dial up the complexity of what they write rather than just do the same shit time in and time out, which is also symptomatic of Asphyx. Just because you can write the same, progressively redundant riffs and stay 'loyal' to a sound does not mean that you should pursue the course indefinitely...Rommel is strong, but like the figure himself, not invincible.


Warlords Supreme - 77%

GuntherTheUndying, February 24th, 2014

“III: The Rommel Chronicles" is, predictably, more of the same from the titanic Hail of Bullets. Advancing once more are the primitive elements of blitzing death metal led by an elite ensemble of veterans who have all lived up to the majesties of their previous bands and efforts with the might of Hail of Bullets‘ assault. The album doesn't match the muscle of "On Divine Winds" or the superb "...of Frost and War," but Hail of Bullets is an adept to the art of death metal, and the squad's attack remains ruthless and cunning. Hail of Bullets has actually aged and evolved quite well, although “III: The Rommel Chronicles" occasionally deploys a tune that sounds like a T-34 but flops like a Schwinn with flat tires.

My only complaint with “III: The Rommel Chronicles" is that it at times feels like another day at the office. The pacing, riffs, drum patterns, and vocals of some anthems appear almost routine rather than invoking a measure of drama or the essence of war that many of Hail of Bullets' previous efforts had so elegantly captured with their mixes of atmosphere and brutality. It's merely a minor scuff on an otherwise colossal display of punishment; Hail of Bullets again relies on its greatest strength: being Hail of Bullets. Stephan Gebédi and Paul Baayens bring only the purest death metal riffs to the table; their performances are filled with all the groovy slop and sheer malevolence of a herd of tanks rolling through a village with Bolt Thrower blasting in the background. The simple lead ending "DG-7" might be the most brilliant piece of guitar work Hail of Bullets has ever put down on tape; it's absolutely wonderful.

Ed Warby, one of the more underappreciated drummers in death metal, is remarkably consistent and powerful throughout "III: The Rommel Chronicles" as expected, and Theo van Eekelen's bass acts hardy underneath the barrage of heavy stuff leveling the ears of the unfortunate. Martin van Drunen is awesome as usual, though his voice looks more focused and precise when compared to most of his erratic performances back in the days of Asphyx and Pestilence; he's aged nicely as a vocalist, and that refinement definitely shows. The songs are pretty much how anyone familiar with the group would picture them, but they have some really excellent stuff boiling in the trenches. The exterminating, melancholic thumps of “Death of a Field Marshal” are just fantastic, and I frequently snap my neck listening to “Swoop of the Falcon” and “DAK.”

No, not much different from “On Divine Winds” and “...of Frost and War,” and it’s certainly the weakest of the bunch, but “III: The Rommel Chronicles” is often a reasonable continuation of the Hail of Bullets conquest, occasionally a snapshot of the band’s utter brilliance and mastery of death metal. Once more they prove that Hail of Bullets is a well-oiled machine that runs on pure power and strength, not false ideals or a fake veil of authenticity that emphasizes the importance of image over quality. The demolition of Hail of Bullets makes “III: The Rommel Chronicles” a surefire product of noisome, wreckful, annihilative death metal cooked up by the most credible musicians around, and there’s little wrong with the record to call it a stalemate of any kind.

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Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh what - 50%

trollhammer666, December 14th, 2013

Not long ago there was once a band known as Ion Storm. I quickly grew fond of them though they disbanded shortly after the release of their debut album. Hail of Bullets remind me of a steroidal version of Ion Storm; the same mind crushing guitar chugs and similar vocal styles, with a heavier and far more polished sound.

I was pretty lost at first when trying to get a feel for The Rommel Chronicles. It wasn’t until maybe five or more playthroughs that I actually found anything to say. I still felt lost, but at least I had something to say.

There is one definite thing you are going to get from this album: relentless, raw, teeth-clenching guitar chugs paired up with some fabulous Arch Enemy style solo’s. There are a few moments on the album where they play around with mysterious progressive riffs (think Enslaved) but they are scrapped early in each song they are found in, and replaced with the onslaught of guttural guitar madness. The ballistic drumming throughout the album’s entirety was probably one of the biggest selling features for me.

The first track “Swoop of the Falcon” is by far my favourite off the album. It has an absolutely insane hook, followed up with a very complete feeling before the vocals set in. The song then transitions effortlessly into textbook ultra-paced melodic thrashing. “The Desert Fox” is also a great song with extremely catchy mind-melting brutal riffs.

Unfortunately, by the time I got a little over halfway through the album I was bored. Each song quickly turns into the ‘same-old same-old’, everything blended together with the same style of relentless, catchy chugging riffs. There is nothing new by the end of the album. The closer, “Death of a Field Marshal” definitely doesn’t do the trick of saving you from the feeling of an endless daze. It’s probably the slowest song on the album and doesn’t incorporate anything new or exciting to keep you wanting more.

Jumping into this album I felt like a person being freshly introduced to video games, diving headfirst into a game of Battlefield. Having no idea what is really going on, what any of the lyrics mean (except they are clearly war themed), guessing that the song names are either gun names, military procedures or World War X history related, I really had no idea how to connect.

I’m on both sides of the coin for The Rommel Chronicles. I enjoyed the repetitive ear beating but I also grew tired the more and more I tried to find something I truly appreciated.

written for

Basic, yet highly enjoyable - 79%

stefan86, December 6th, 2013

Do you occasionally enjoy a menu consisting of metallic guitars as menacing as a panzer vehicle, topped off with vocals best described as rabidly possessed? Then Hail of Bullets is for you.

This is simple, Bolt Thrower styled death metal that plows along with no mercy or regard for human life. Riffs are often simple and heavy with well timed and tasteful tempo shifts when needed. The faster ones tend to sound Swedish due to the meaty guitar tone employed, while the slower ones usually are heavily muted grooves or slow tremolos. The best part about the guitars are when the heavy rhythm guitars are accompanied by semi melodic leads to bring out the atmosphere of war that the band are obviously aiming for.

The production is, just as for the other two albums, a massive wall of sound accentuating the meaty guitar tone. Dan Swanö is involved in the sound job, simple as that. The lyrics once again depicts world war events with historical precision, something that connects the band to Bolt Thrower even beyond the guitars. Vocalist Martin van Drunen is one of the people in the death metal genre that doesn't need an introduction. He sounds as he usually does, which isn't a bad thing. The hoarse thrash fueled vocals that has been here since early Pestilence are as intact and relevant as ever.

Hail of Bullets will never be a very original band, nor a genre pinnacle. However, listening to their albums and songs is always a great example of how enjoyable some solid, old school death metal can be. It is a slab of extremely heavy music delivered by people who surely know how to write good songs. I'd rate "III: The Rommel Chronicles" as equal to predecessor "On Divine Winds" and the recent couple of Asphyx albums. It's a fun listen and, while I don't find myself furiously headbanging, I'm definitely bobbing my head in enjoyment through the entire experience.

Track of choice: "DG-7" for bringing heaviness in the guitar department that just left me with a grim smile on my face.

Smashing - 80%

Andromeda_Unchained, December 2nd, 2013

Ideal. I was in the market for a face ripping and look who happens to have a new album out. Hail Of Bullets kill, and with some of my favorite death metal characters like the inimitable Martin Van Drunen, Ed Warby and the guys from the oft overlooked Thanatos, you just can't go wrong. For the uninitiated, Hail Of Bullets sound exactly like you would expect judging from their name and clientele; skull splintering Dutch death metal.

III: The Rommel Chronicles is packed to the brim with killing DM, with Van Drunen leading the war charge as proud as ever. He's one of those singers who evoke a rise in energy, with his bile-drenched howls giving just as much as the rest of the instruments do towards heaviness and intensity. Of course the instrumentation here is spot on, with massive riffs, thundering bass, and pummeling drums. Tracks like "DG-7" tower over you, avalanching into chaotic bursts of furious energy, and more focused, groovy tempo shifts: In other words, tracks like "DG-7" crush the life out of you.

Like I said, musically this is spot on, and the riffs across the board here, are fucking ace. Paul and Stephan have a cracking approach to the instrument, serving up a wide array of varied riffs and chilling lead lines. Throughout the album Hail Of Bullets are unrelenting, with plenty of variation between the slower death metal you could identify with Van Drunen's other band, Asphyx, as well as the propulsive, Swedish approach of cauterizing riffs and maniacal drumming. If I haven't already stressed this enough: this album is seriously heavy as fuck.

The production is ideal too, certainly modern in the context of being well recorded, and having a good mix – although there's thankfully none of that clinical drivel to be found. The guitar tone drips absolute filth, with the bass catching it drip tray style, and smearing it across your speakers. Ed Warby's drums sound excellent and professional, and are probably the cleanest aspect of the sound. What I'm getting at here, is that the production really works for the band's sound, and helps III: The Rommel Chronicles come off as one of the stronger releases in the genre in 2013.

You just can't go wrong with Hail Of Bullets. History/war buffs will get a kick from the theme, and death metal fans who just want to smash their head in any direction to dirty riffs, will find plenty of head-smashing material here. Just fucking buy it already!

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