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Hail Of Bullets - War Is Hell

Written by Michael the MettleAngel, June 2008
(originally written for Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles #111)

he days of Dutch death metal reign supreme. With Hail Of Bullets, Holland's halcyon epoch of coarse concord continues. This all-star hailstorm bolts and blazes with a maelstrom of monstrosity and ferocity. This panzer division decimates, marching to the beat of their own doom, belting out a bitter barrage by following insanity's command.

ed by the asphyxiated rasp of Martin Van Drunen, whose pestilent vocal presence pulses with a consuming intonation, and punctuated by the prowess of Thanatos' rhythm section of Stephan Gebe'di and Paul Baayens on guitar, and ex-Houwitser member, Theo Van Eekelen on bass, Dutch death metal lives on, and prospers. Gorefest god Ed Warby, maintains the drum cadence and calm before the storm. All this culminates in a bleak, bitter, blatant analogy to the past, musically and lyrically.

orking on their demo in 2007 in Amersfoort, Holland under the tutelage of Dan Swanö, they released their first effort, which led to them being signed by Metal Blade Records. Finally, these Dutch dirge metal legends triumphantly hail and kill as one with the crucial offensive - ...Of Frost And War, their debut release, out in early May.

his conceptual black and white visceral portrayal of the harsh conditions undergone by those on both sides of the Eastern Front, during World War II, is an eye-opening account of the historical tragedy the German and Soviet armies experienced each grueling day. The malign message, as envisioned by master lyricist Martin Van Drunen (Pestilence, Asphyx, Death By Dawn), is a compelling journey back in time, taking the listener to the very precipice of the internal carnage. The bone-shattering words, well fashioned in iron and imagery, evoke such horror.

he booklet even includes actual footage, and horrid depictions of the war. The deliberate choice of no colour reflects the pallid cover art, which is shrouded in mystery. This approach echoes that early '90s pungent death knell of British indoctrination which mavericks like Carcass, Cancer, Bolt Thrower or Benediction epitomized, mingled with the mighty Morrisound ethic of Floridian entropy. Hail Of Bullets also honour the southern death tradition of Malevolent Creation, Autopsy, Massacre, Monstrosity, and Death themselves, while paying homage to the Swedish gods: Unleashed, Dismember, Grave, and Edge Of Sanity.

an Swanö paid careful attention to Martin's vocal approach. As Martin explains, "Dan claims that my vocals influenced his. Usually engineers are mainly concerned with guitar, and drum sound. Dan was focused on my vocal attendance, and constructed arrangements."

he concept espoused on this new album is something Martin has been wanting to promote for quite some time. "I've actually had the whole Hail Of Bullets idea in my mind for four years or so. Ed keeps busy with Gorefest and Ayreon, but he willingly agreed to drum on this album. We decided to do this because we love to play this type of music, and we have fun with it. With all the technology available to us today, the timing was right. It was relatively easy to exchange musical ideas, as we had song files on our computers."

mbracing a notion for ...Of Frost And Fire, held near and dear to his heart, all these years, was no simple task. Martin did dutiful research, reading several notable German and Dutch authors before penning the lyrics. The insipid conditions described therein underscore the crude reversion to cannibalism, the bodies on bodies of frost-bitten corpses, the systematic starvation, and scarcity of natural resources.

artin explains the cycle of resistance… "The concept is all about the Eastern Border of the War, under the dictatorship of Stalin, all of which eventually led to the fall of Berlin. This was a decisive turning point in WWII. The lyrics focus on the horror and atrocity, as depicted on the Eastern Front. Take the song 'Stalingrad' - this exemplifies my fascination for the maniacal ongoing carnage depicted by this battle. Stalin, like Hitler, was an evil ruler. These two ruthless souls sacrificed the lives of millions, just to secure their dominance."

artin's indomitable mettle refuses to subordinate, so he makes it well-known that Stalin was also a despot. Most Western scholars reflect on the wicked meaning of painful memories from the Holocaust, and the elements that led to Hitler's "Final Solution." Few reflect on the tyrannical renderings of the dictator Stalin.

e viewed his soldiers, his comrades, as a means to an end. Stalin killed millions of his own men and imprisoned those not in favour of his belief in gulags. All this he did in the name of Mother Russia, but was it really worth it? Martin vehemently retorts, "I ask you, how did Stalin expect his soldiers to survive the harsh weather conditions of -54 to -40 Celsius? They were exhausted from fighting, they had no food, they were wounded, with little medical attention. The battle raged on despite these miserable conditions! So many atrocities occurred, even, downright fuckin' cannibalism! They had no other choice for survival!"

he CD commences with the tanks ginding and chugging forth, over ice, on the opener - 'Barbarossa (Before The Storm)'. Then, each song delves deeper into the abhorrent allusion, unveiling historical madness. As the vibes sicken, so will the listener be enthralled in the essence of dearth and dudgeon, vicariously identifying with the victims' plight. He will then become possessed, seeing through the eyes of horror, realizing these slaves to the system, died needlessly. Martin's words are so dark and forboding, yet so informative. The sheer honesty of the legitimate themes exonerate his cause. This is why he has inspired so many great vocalists over the years. Including Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy and Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth.

ail Of Bullets is a real triumph for all members who contributed. Songs like 'General Winter', 'Red Wolves Of Stalin', 'Advancing Once More', 'Berlin', and 'Nachthexen' speak for themselves. Revisting the ghost of war will leave scars, and keep one transfixed. Just listen for the desperate cries of the forgotten souls echoing in Martin's evil chants. An acrimonious anthem of humble pie like 'Stalingrad', or 'Inferno At The Carpathian Mountains', elucidates this very aspect. "I am pleased to sing in the manner as I chose," notes Martin. "My deliverance is my technique. I visualize each part of the song, and how I want to enunciate the words forthwith. I ascertain how my vocals work with a certain riff or hook."

he retelling of The Crucial Offensive of 19-11-42, a bitter battle which resulted in the Wehrmacht's retreat, and which set the standard for German disgrace and the fall of Berlin, is another example of Mr. Van Drunen's exemplary writing skills. The cortege of soldiers marching on to Stalingrad, only to face defeat, is most authentic, being borne by the spirit of one whose ancestors died in this combat. This leads up to 'Berlin', which is a befitting end title, as the music lingers on and on, like the war, itself.

ne fascinating historical highlight is his mention of the Nachthexen "Night Witches." He vividly describes these vixens as, "Shrieking Madonnas, lead-spitting banshees and iron Valkryies." They were the aviatrixes of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment, women of the Soviet Air Force, who fought bravely, and survived, despite insurmountable odds, while performing precision bombing raids. This piquant personification of the female presence in the war corroborates Teutonic tradition. Women fought on both sides of the Eastern Front; unfortunately, their leaders displaced them, making them disposable heroes.

ar is Hell - a sad but true fact today, as it was over 65 years ago. Death metal at its finest will replicate in sonic brutality the ashen assignation of this drama, with a certain malevolent charm. Hail Of Bullets succeed by doing this and more. I champion the Dutch diligence, in all its black arts.

etal Blade made the right choice in signing Hail Of Bullets. Martin Van Drunen has hailed the bullet belt era of classic deathrash by solidifying his new band. Follow his paradigm and become a part of the natural born killing addiction, the dawning of a new era in death and dignity. You won't be mistaken or forsaken!

Michael the MettleAngel - June 2008