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Hail of Bullets - "On Divine Winds" (CD)

Hail of Bullets - "On Divine Winds" CD cover image

"On Divine Winds" track listing:

1. The Eve Of Battle (1:06)
2. Operation Z (4:37)
3. The Mukden Incident (4:12)
4. Strategy Of Attrition (4:57)
5. Full Scale War (5:19)
6. Guadalcanal (3:25)
7. On Coral Shores (5:10)
8. Unsung Heroes (5:14)
9. Tokyo Napalm Holocaust (5:20)
10. Sugar Loaf Hill (Bonus Track) (4:00)
11. Kamikaze (4:27)
12. To Bear The Unbearable (4:16)

Reviewed by on November 11, 2010

"The music is dense and straightforward, just like NWOOSDM (New Wave Of Old School Death Metal) should be."

Hail of Bullets loves history. Not only is Hail of Bullets a throwback death metal band that runs down classic outfits like Death and Bolt Thrower, but it makes concept albums about events that happened in the past, like World War II. Debut LP “Of Frost and War” was about the Russian Front, the original songs on EP “Warsaw Rising” are about the Warsaw uprising, and 2010’s long-player “On Divine Winds” catalogs the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire. This death metal supergroup (members have been in bands like Asphyx, Gorefest, Pestilence, Thanatos and Houwitser) has learned its history lessons well.

The music is dense and straightforward, just like NWOOSDM (New Wave Of Old School Death Metal) should be. Guitarists Paul Baayens and Stephan Gebedi stick to the script, walloping out riffs that range from mildly fast to mildly slow, and mixing that ungodly muck with some NWOBHM solos and layered riffing. “On Coral Shores” is a slow death march as the melody is churned out bit by bloody bit - at any point liable to fail from exhaustion - but neat tempo changes keep it sparked just long enough to survive the five minute run time. “Kamikaze” is a counterpoint, as the riffs are mostly fast and a-tonal, letting Ed Warby’s frantic whacking lead the wild-eyed anxiety. Toward the end it becomes a set of mid-tempo guitar solos as Gebedi and Baayens bring the melodies home.

Vocalist Martin Van Drunen is the lead history buff in Hail of Bullets; it is his historical interest in World War II that has driven the subject matter of Hail of Bullet’s three releases. By all accounts his lyrics and themes are both quite historically accurate and thought provoking (for example: the phrase “on divine winds” is the English translation of the word “kamikaze”). The only problem is that his vocals are so gloriously twisted and tortured that we have no idea what he is saying. Which is a shame because listening to heavy metal is a much better way of learning history than reading a book or taking a class. But no matter, despite the muddled enunciation, Van Drunen’s beautiful vocals sound like a cross between a werewolf with a slit throat gurgling some last words and a really drunk hyena.

Hail of Bullets was formed in 2006 by accomplished death metal veterans and is one of the forerunners of the recent NWOOSDM movement - so what is there to say, really? The band is really good at cranking out heavy and sludgy death metal? It marries subject matter and sonic templates well? The individual performances are top notch? The subtle changes between noise and melody, volume and tempo are keen and engaging? The band is even tighter here than on previous releases most likely due to more time working together? They don’t mess around with extraneous sounds or other studio junk? This is a fantastic death metal album that feels like a World War II tank grinding over your ear drums? Yeah, all those things could be said, and all those things would be correct.

Highs: The guitar interplay between Gebedi and Baayens is subtle and strong; when they get layers going together it is awesome to hear.

Lows: Like much death metal, the bass isn’t really a big part of the sound.

Bottom line: All-Star NWOOSDM band makes a fantastic death metal record.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)