Friday 6 December 2013

Hail Of Bullets - III :The Rommel Chronicles (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released :  29/10/2013
Label : Metal Blade Records

III The Rommel Chronicles, album track  listing :

1). Swoop of the Falcon 05:20
2). Pour Le Merite 04:14
3). DG-7 06:26
4). To the Last Breath of Man and Beast 03:11
5). DAK 03:46
6). The Desert Fox 05:21
7). Tobruk 04:26
8). Farewell to Africa 02:52
9). The Final Front 04:46
10). Death of a Field Marshall 05:32

Bio :

HAIL OF BULLETS were formed at the end of 2006 when guitarist Stephan Gebédi approached singer Martin van Drunen, drummer Ed Warby, bass player Theo van Eekelen and guitarist Paul Baayens with the idea to join forces in an old school death metal band. The band members already knew each other from their previous and present bands like Asphyx, Gorefest, Thanatos and Houwitser.  From the start it was crystal clear there was a mutual love for true death metal bands like Autopsy, Massacre, Bolt Thrower, early Death as well as Celtic Frost.

The Band :

Martin Van Drunen - Vocals
Paul Baayens - Guitar
Stephan Gebédi - Guitar
Theo Van Eekelen - Bass
Ed Warby - Drums

Review :

Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx, Pestilence, Bolt Thrower et al) joins forces with other denizens of the Dutch death scene again to create this Bolt Thrower-esque monster. The album, naturally, has a concept or running thread; that of the Desert Fox himself Filed Marshal Erwin Rommel. There is no time for a history lesson here (sadly), but Rommel led the German forces in the WW2 campaign in Africa as well as distinguishing himself in France and elsewhere. For a light hearted account I refer you to the Spike Milligan book, “Rommel, Gunner Who?” For a more serious account just get any book about the Nazis/WW2. By all accounts, he was ethically far ahead of other famous German leaders of the time (not difficult, admittedly, but worth noting nonetheless).  Rommel's story is told in some detail through the album and takes in success and failure- Rommel's end was as bizarre as any of the top ranking Nazis.

Van Drunen's throat is shredded from the outset; Swoop of the Falcon is a superb opener. Pour Le Merite (a military medal/honour, I think) follows up very solidly. What is on offer here is death metal crossed with doom- the sound is indeed that of a rolling tank firing off machine gun rounds along with more destructive shells. Bolt Thrower loom large (an ex-member, an album wholly about war... I am not being disingenuous!) as does Scandinavian death metal and grind elements. The band is super solid and the production superb. The sound is rough and raw with a real bite to it. DG-7 plods forth with doom/death menace- a slow grinder of a track with very ominous riffs. Superb stuff.

To The Last Breath of Man and Beast picks up the pace, but keeps the ominous tone for the opening and thus see-saws back and forth between mournful and ferocious. DAK is slow in the extreme to start but a killer riff opens things up and your head WILL bang, guaranteed. The Desert Fox again combines doom pacing with mid paced death metal traits. Van Drunen's vocals are gloriously rasping and rough- one of the most original extreme vocalists in my humble opinion- you know it’s him straight away. Ed Warby turns in an excellent performance behind the kit too- not showy but precise and brutal. He also mixed this opus, earning him extra kudos as he has done an excellent job. 

Tobruk employs out and out thrash pacing to tear away at your ears while Farewell to Africa tells a tale of Rommel's African exit and has an excellent solo amongst the grinding riffs and lightning fast fills. The Final Front offers up a very old school death metal start with the kind of pacing you don't hear very much any more- a shame as it is at this pace that you can nod along at half time- it is an excellent groove to hit. The tempo is pushed later in the track, but not to blast beat excess. The record, perhaps inevitably, ends with Death of a Field Marshal which explores Rommel's odd fall from grace (forced suicide).

The lyrics on the record are literal- they tell the story unequivocally in an observational way. Rest assured, the Nazis are not glorified and neither is war- this is an objective portrayal. The spoken word passage (auf Deutsche, naturlich) by Van Drunen closes his performance and soon afterwards the record concludes there is more doom than death in the closing track and this highlights one of the album's strengths: it offers both neck snapping aggression and mournful musical excursions too. The track list is just right with breaks offered from the intensity and aggression replacing the more lamenting tracks and passages when needed. 

If you enjoy Asphyx. Hooded Menace, Bolt Thrower and the more aggressive end of the doom spectrum then this album is for you. If you are an old school death metal head then getting this album is essential.

Words by : Richard Maw

You can buy it here

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