With any Hail of Bullets album you can be guaranteed two things: brutality and war. Wars, especially World War II, HoB’s specialty, are brutal and there is no better backdrop for tales of military campaigns and world-altering death than old school death metal. With their third full length, III: The Rommel Chronicles, Martin van Drunen and company bring the fight back from Japan for a searing album based on Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.
From start to finish Hail of Bullets do what they do best and drag the listener through the battlefield. Fear-driven malice bears down from the oppressive tone and riffs ranging from dogfight quickness to mud-dragging march of guitarist Paul Baayens and Stephan Gebedi and bassist Theo Van Eekelen.
Drummer (and producer) Ed Warby propels the band into the fury with precision. Commanding the unit is the inimitable Van Drunen. His desperate growl demands obedience and respect. As with his work in Asphyx, his rasp is unmistakable and can be considered one of the best vocalists in all of death metal.
As has come to be expected, Hail of Bullets’ strategy is to pound the listener into submission under the weight of their unstoppable death metal riffage. Employing a cadence that is always pushing forward, the songs emulate the fevered pitch of battle. But as battles ebb and flow, so does III.
In most cases the constant barrage is broken up by passages which are much slower. Doomy and grand in scale, they lend added weight to the tracks. Case in point, “Pour le Merite” has a zero compromise, a rumbling onslaught that eases into a hard chugging bit while the officers survey the damage and regroup the troops for the next assault.
Hail of Bullets are a band formed to be old school and III: The Rommel Chronicles has an old school aesthetic. It’s fast without being hell-bent on pure speed when it needs to be and opens up when called for. More subtle dynamics are at play as well, and the solos wreak absolute havoc, slaying ears like it’s an order.
From the sweeping tone of arrogance and power on “DG-7” to the ferocity of “Farewell to Africa” with its blistering solo to the mournful feel of closer “The Death of a Field Marshal,” III fires away and hits the target. It’s a multi-faceted attack with all members contributing to its success.
It feels how death metal should feel and strikes with all the thudding impact of heavy artillery, bombing raids and snipers all rolled into one. As the winds blow the remnants of the album away, one can rest assured that Hail of Bullets have once again unleashed the full extent of their power and very few can stand up to it.
(released October 29, 2013 on Metal Blade Records)