Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal
British riff gods Bolt Thrower are back with their xxth outing, following up Honor Valor Pride (2001), where Dave Ingram from Benediction handled the vocal duties for an, at that point, departed and missed Karl Willetts. Believing that Bolt Thrower would change anything at all in their patented sound for this new album would be as wise as betting a large sum on that Bruce Dickinson would sing opera on the the whole next Iron Maiden album. This is on the same level as where they left us with Honor Valor Pride, expect for the fact that now the classic settings is back, complete with Karl Willetts on vocals. The classic setup is the same, the riffs are built the same and the song has a very familiar feel to them. But Bolt Thrower is one of few bands that can get away with this, so this I am saying in a positive way rather than as a critical point. Some may say they are very monotone but I would rather say that they are consistent and manage to make every song sound unique and personal. How I do not know, but they do.
So how does this round of fire come out? It starts with a couple of really classic and uptempo Bolt Thrower songs that contain great riffing and the tone for the album is immediatly set. The first thing that hit me was that is fresh, vital and full with energy on a level as has not been heard since the album ...For Victory. It has a lot to do with the fact that the production is very clear and crisp but yet very fat, just as on the just mentioned predecessor. The drum sound is great and the bass is very apperant and a bit higher in the mix than before which I like. Returning vocalist Karl Willetts also sings better than ever here, even a bit darker and powerful then previously.
And with The Killchain it returns: the traditional opening riff which they as a gimmick have used as an opening or closer on several songs on many albums in the past save a few ones. The song later turns into a really groovy one with a bit of a chugga chugga riff and is bound to be a killer live piece. Granite Wall follows as another mid tempo, grinding and crushing song with a great flowing and rolling riff. The rest of the album continue with a well balanced variety of uptempo tracks (Last Stand of Humanity, When Cannons Fade) and more or less midtempo and groovy ones (Those Once Loyal, Anti-Tank (Dead Armour), Salvo).
There are a couple of songs that are good but are not really sticking out during the startup and the first verses, but that is later compensated by the fact that there is a killer mid part with a second riff and/or a change of tempo, which makes the overall level on the songs very high without exceptions. As usual the manage to capture a great mood in the songs and I seriously do not get how they can make it feel like you are litterarly being run over by a tank (Anti-Tank (Dead Armour)) or standing in the way of a round of bullets from a machine gun (Salvo).
It is hard to say where this album later will end up, since it usually takes quite some time for a new Bolt Thrower album to fall into its righteous place, but right now it absolutely feels like it is competing with The IVth Crusade and ...For Victory for a place as one of the best albums ever. I have the opportunity to catch them twice on their upcoming european tour. It will be a delight and I can hardly wait. Bolt Thrower are undisputedly the masters of death metal.
also review of: The IVth