Released: 2008, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The Second World War was an ugly, long and globally devastating event. Whether it was Hitler’s killing of six million European Jews, Stalin’s genocidal reign over Russia, the destruction of England or the international loss of soldiers, no one was left unaffected. Because of this, World War II has provided more than enough material for nearly every metal band from Bolt Thrower to Marduk to Motorhead to delve into. Holland’s Hail of Bullets takes its turn on the band’s debut, …OF FROST AND WAR. Painfully researched, detailed and produced, …OF FROST AND WAR is the musical equivalent of the opening scene of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Tanks rumble past, gunfire erupts and heavy metal thunder takes to the skies in a panzer-like assault of old-school death metal aggression. Drawing key members from Gorefest, Thanatos Asphyx and Pestilence, these guys know how to deliver the goods and clearly hit the history books to make …OF FROST AND WAR lyrically and thematically genuine. A bit on the long side, the album can be a challenging listen as the Sunlight Studio muckiness and lack of any real hooks leave the listener wanting something to grab on to but overall, this is a hell of a debut where the band successfully puts the listener right in the trenches to “feel” the subject matter.
With an epic, sweeping instrumental that leads right into the path of a bone-jarring tank to kick off the album, the thick, ravaging death metal of “Ordered Eastward” is as unrelenting in its delivery as the subject matter itself. Drummer Ed Warby (Gorefest) unleashes a militaristic opening salvo that is backed by the beefy riffs of Thanatos guitarists Paul Baavens and Stephan Gebédi before the monolithic vocals of Martin van Drunen (ex-Pestilence/Asphyx) deliver the final death blow. The band is positively crushing during the air raid siren-fuelled intro of “General Winter.” Slow, agonizing and with enough steel-on-steel guitar savagery, the listener can almost feel the blizzard-like conditions overhead. Taking a cue from the Swedes, “Advancing Once More” begs, borrows and steals the death metal shuffle once popularized by Grave, Entombed and Unleashed to recreate the German attack on Russia during the winter of 1941. “The Red Wolves of Stalin” is the most lyrically profound track on …OF FROST AND WAR. Describing the involuntary “service” of Russian men to thwart Hitler’s impending troops, the innocents are described as “Marching, creeping, waiting/Snipers in the trees/Aiming, shooting, killing/These wolves will have their feast.” Brilliant imagery brought to words through van Drunen’s painful delivery. The slow burning “Berlin” is epic in sound and the perfect exit to this battle of the senses, leaving the listener surely spent.
While hardly a “supergroup” given the underground nature of this band’s pedigree, Hail of Bullets comes out of nowhere to batter the metal hordes with …OF FROST AND WAR. It is old-school death metal tastefully done with a cerebral edge but not too preachy, either. War is a heavy metal cliché but when done right, it can be emotionally-draining and powerful. This album will undoubtedly make many end of the year lists and rightfully so as Hail of Bullets has succeeded with …OF FROST AND WAR.
KILLER KUTS: “Ordered Eastward,” “General Winter,” “Advancing Once More,” “Red Wolves of Stalin,” “The Crucial Offensive (19-11-1942, 7.30 AM),” “Insanity Commands,” “Berlin”