“War. It’s Fantastic!”
The dominatingly high standard of Hail Of Bullets’ previous releases has had Leave The Hall collectively salivating for more with a fervour that can only be compared to the way Christianity fans felt after Jesus left them on a bit of a cliffhanger with the infamous faked death storyline back in AD 30. Having reviewed …Of Frost And War last year and awarded it a ballsy 4.5 Grimmetts, will the war-fuelled fire of creative genius still be burning bright in 2010?
To up the ante we find ourselves posted from the icy wastelands of Stalingrad and the Eastern Front to the sweltering inferno of the Pacific campaign. On Divine Winds, taking its name from the English translation of ‘Kamikaze’, covers not only the landmark battles of the theatre such as the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the battle of Guadalcanal, but also the events that led to war, such as the Mukden (Manchurian) Incident. Having said that, I am only assuming that they deal with these topics, not actually having access to the lyrics. For all I know Martin Van Drunen could very well be screaming about the pedestrianisation of Norwich city centre in his less comprehensible moments.
Intelligibility of death vocals aside, these Divine Winds hit with the force of a 16-inch round fired by Steven Seagal from the deck of the USS Missouri, Ed Warby’s production and Dan Swano’s mix taking the crushing tones and crisp production we’ve come to expect and tweaking them ever closer to perfection, ensuring that every note is well drilled in the lethal arts and honed to its maximum killing potential. However, as all popular music proves, a well produced album is useless if the music itself can’t punch its way out of Stephen Hawking’s house. This area, however, is where Hail Of Bullets really twist the bayonet, upping the ante in terms of song writing and composition beyond the already high levels laid out so far on their previous releases.
Grandiose introduction The Eve Of Battle is every war movie soundtrack combined into one, ushering us in with the sounds of falling bombs as we commence Operation Z, reminding us of their mission to stay true to the old-school death metal way like a fanatical Japanese soldier who refuses to accept the war is over and sits in his bunker for 30 years, featuring a classic combination of driving riffs, whammy bar solos and harmonic lead breaks. One thing is crystal clear straight away, Hail Of Bullets have upped the riff factor considerably, packing them in one meaty one after another until each song resembles a high quality Death Metal steak pie.
Strategy Of Attrition and Full Scale War continue the onslaught, marching relentlessly onward and adding those distinctive doom-influenced passages that have previously flavoured so much of Hail Of Bullets’ work on top of the aforementioned riff festival, the band slowing to the most funereal of crawling dirges on Tokyo Napalm Holocaust (which also wins the prize for best track name of all fucking time) and album closer To Bear The Unbearable.
It’s far from all doom and gloom though; if you don’t automatically headbang to Gualdalcanal or On Coral Shores you’re probably either dead or Tom Araya. Each track packs the sort of lurching, stomping mid-paced Death Metal groove that a million Six Feet Under’s working at a million recording studios for a million years could still never manage to pull off with this level of confident awesomeness, while Kamikaze fittingly ups the speed to dangerously thrashy levels which, when topped off with sounds of screaming engines and explosions, proves that this band are able to musically conjure up the perfect atmosphere for any given track or topic.
To make the saddest, most pathetic analogy of all time, On Divine Winds is Call Of Duty: World At War to …Of Frost and War’s Call Of Duty 2, further polishing the already pretty fucking shiny machine that was already pounding the world… like a battering ram. Hail of Bullets are probably the best no frills death metal band around at the moment and from the very tip of the concept down to the bottom edge of the artwork this album sees them further developing their sound into an unbelievably cohesive and compelling package. What i’m trying to say is… Get this or I’m going to tie a banzai scarf round my head and fly a plane laden with explosives into your house.