Hail of Bullets - III The Rommel Chronicles (Metal Blade)

A blitzkrieg of death metal fury.

Hail of Bullets is a band that combines two of my favourite things, Martin van Drunen and World War II history. Combine that with some of the old-school death metal riffage that makes bands like Bolt Thrower and Asphyx so great and you have an almost guaranteed recipe for success.

However, there was slight trepidation on my part for this album, simply titled III The Rommel Chronicles. Having covered the Eastern Front and the Pacific Theatre respectively on their first two albums, would an album detailing the life of German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his campaign in North Africa be much like the real life event and become ultimately overshadowed by the scale and violent ferocity of the other two conflicts? 

Would it bollocks. No, once again Hail of Bullets manages to bring the goods and deliver some of the finest straight-up death metal you're likely to hear all year. If you're a Martin van Drunen fan, you should well know what to expect from this album. There are liberal amounts of that classic death metal sound mixed with some absolutely crushing doom riffs that end up making the band sound like a lovely hybrid of Bolt Thrower and Asphyx. Of course, this is all delivered with the accompaniment of van Drunen's tourtured, raspy howl. The man is a force of nature and has one of the most unique and effective voices in death metal.

Opener Swoop of the Falcon sets the tone of the record quite nicely with its mid-paced chugging riffs. The first thing the listener is struck by, particularly if they're a death metal aficionado, is the guitar tone. Holy mother of god that guitar tone. The production of the album was handled by drummer Ed Warby and mixed by the one and only Dan Swano and it's astounding just how nasty the record sounds. This is death metal as it's meant to sound.

However, it certainly helps to have riffs of the calibre of those penned by guitarist Paul Baayens. The doom influence was certainly racked up on this album and it is put to great effect. The riffs of the aforementioned Swoop of the FalconDAK and Tobruk are some of the best doom riffs I've heard in a long time. This is brought to a climax on the album's closer, Death of a Field Marshall which becomes immensely emotional at times with the combination of Baayens' slow-crawl riffs and van Drunen's agonised howl. The lyrics perfectly capture the tragic nature of Rommel's final days ("the choice between dishonour/ and death by cyanide") and serve as a fantastic conclusion to the album.

All able-bodied death metal fans take heed. The war drums have sounded and the world's most brutal batallion are on the march yet again. Prepare to be conscripted.

III The Rommel Chronicles is out now.