Wednesday, 27 June 2012

HAIL OF BULLETS - On Divine Winds (2010)

01  The Eve of Battle                    
02  Operation Z
03  The Mukden Incident
04  Strategy of Attrition     
05  Full Scale War 
06  Guadalcanal    
07  On Coral Shores        
08  Unsung Heroes
09  Tokyo Napalm Holocaust         
10  Kamikaze        
11  To Bear the Unbearable

Hail of Bullets is a Dutch death metal band from Rotterdam, comprising of Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx/Pestilence) on vocals, Ed Warby (Gorefest) on drums, Paul Baayens (Thanatos) and Stephan Gebédi (Thanatos) on guitar with Theo van Eekelen (Houwitser) on bass. The band's lyrical content mainly deals with the Second World War. 'On Divine Winds', the band's second album, was released on October 11th 2010 and positive reactions were overwhelming. The album even entered the German album charts and was voted 'album of the month' in various leading metal magazines like Rock Hard, Legacy and Terrorizer to name but a few. 2011 saw the band playing most of the prestigious European Summer festivals such as Hellfest and Wacken Open Air.

I really don't see how any self respecting fan of Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, Grave or other old school bruisers could not come away feeling impressed here, because these Dutchmen know exactly what buttons to press to shell the listener into stunned satisfaction. There is absolutely nothing technical about what Hail of Bullets write, and the album is insufferably primitive, yet it lands more powerful blows than about 90% of the guitar-wanking, metalcore necronauts dotted across the landscape. Thanks to a ruthless proficiency shared by the musicians and a steely-eyed ambition that has seen the band tackle the savagery of the Eastern front, the tragic Warsaw Uprising and now the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire. It’s a bold move that could have easily failed if it wasn’t for the fact that Martin Van Drunen is a WWII buff who tackles the subject matter with a mixture of matter-of-fact detachment and the utmost certainty of someone who is absolutely secure in their knowledge of the topic.

Of course Martin Van Drunen’s unmistakable voice is front and center, but the rest of the collective are as sharp as you’d expect. And while the production does seem to sound a little cleaner and lighter, it doesn’t stop the albums impact. The album leans more heavily on mid-paced, mud stoming rumblers (“The Mukoden Incident”, “Full Scale War”, “Guadalcanal”, “On Coral Shores”, “Tokyo Napalm Holocaust” and standout “To Bear the Unbearable”) highlighting the bands increased Bolt Thrower throes. A few fierce up-tempo numbers (“Operation Z”, “Unsung Heroes”), strike with the precision and relentless force. While you'll probably never notice the bass on this one, the drumming is of particular interest. It's nothing groundbreaking, but it has a great tone and perfect timing, and just the right mix of the whole kit is used. The leads are pretty interesting and when there are solos they work very well, but a little bit more experimentation, soloing or just plain old time signatures would have been great, since the album does start to drag a little about 2/3 through if I'm honest.

'On Divine Winds' is an ample, excellent follow up to '…Of Frost and War', with an even more controlled pace although lacking the wow-factor of the band's debut, but it shows that Hail of Bullets are more than a one hit wonder, unlike many other supergroups.

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