Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Hail of Bullets: On Divine Winds (2010)


Hail of Bullets is a Dutch death metal band fronted by Martin van Drunen of Pestilence/Bolt Thrower fame. Like fellow Dutch death metallers God Dethroned, they like to write lyrics about war, and their second full-length On Divine Winds focuses on the Pacific theater of World War II.

On Divine WindsIt's not just lyrical content that links them to God Dethroned. The sound is similar as well. In other words, it's mostly mid-paced straight death metal with a distinct Swe-death flavor. "Guadalcanal" sounds like a fast-paced Unleashed song, and "The Mukden Incident" resembles Amon Amarth (though the melo-death is kept to a minimum). They do tread some more unique ground at times, like the vaguely Egyptian-sounding riffs of "Full Scale War", and go faster ("Kamikaze") and slower ("Strategy of Attrition") enough to keep things interesting. Some of the best tracks are the slow-to-mid-paced, heavy steamrollers like "Tokyo Napalm Holocaust".

None of the instruments ever go around showing off--this band is about songs, not technicality--and they have not let the concept album storytelling hurt the songwriting in any way. The vocals are in a hoarse, gruff voice you might recognize from van Drunen's other work. The solos tend to be par for the death course, but check out "Operation Z" and "Tokyo Napalm Holocaust" for some Slayerisms. 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 Verdict: This is very high quality death metal. There's no innovation, but the songwriting is superb and if you listen closely enough to the lyrics, you just might learn something about history. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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