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November 6th, 2013

Album: Hail Of Bullets – III: The Rommel Chronicles

Hail Of Bullets promo photo Thrash Hits

Hail Of Bullets
III: The Rommel Chronicles
Metal Blade
29 October 2013

by Rob McAuslan

Only one man has ever caused me to reconsider my attendance at a death metal show through the sheer sickening weight of his damped powerchords – Paul Baayens of Hail Of Bullets, Thanatos and Asphyx. To my mind, that’s how death metal should feel – it was always meant to be nasty, uncomfortable music, in keeping with its lyrical content and overall aesthetic.

Hail Of Bullets III: The Rommel Chronicles album cover artwork packshot Thrash Hits

Hail Of Bullets are very much of this old school sound, with less than flattering comparisons having been drawn to Britain’s very own Bolt Thrower in the past. Whilst it’s fair to say they’re not a million miles apart that’s got to be more about shared influences than any direct copying in either direction. The differences become even more apparent with this album anyway; Bolt Thrower have always been about more general war themes with Hail Of Bullets so far concentrating on specific theatres of war, and the lyrics this time take a more focussed turn to be about the rise and fall of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Such a long and storied career can hardly be covered in any great depth over 45 minutes or so of music, but ‘resident historian’ van Drunen deserves credit for touching on the key points outside of the African campaign that Rommel is most famous for. Taking us through his exploits in World War 1 (‘Pour La Mérite’), through his early success as a tank commander in the Battle Of France (‘DG-7’ and ‘To The Last Breath Of Man And Beast’) and onwards to the Afrika Korps era. The truly interesting and unusual part of Rommel’s story, what happened after the Allied invasion of France in 1944, actually makes an appearance in the final track, fittingly.

‘Death Of A Field Marshal’ takes on an appropriately doomed feel for its subject matter, and serves as a perfect haunting coda to the overall sturm und drang  assault of the rest of the album. In short, it was discovered by German high command that Rommel was involved in the resistance against Hitler that led to the 20 July bomb plot. Given the option of facing charges of treason against what was little more than a kangaroo court, which would inevitably result in his family also being dragged into the dock as co-conspirators and doubtless found guilty, or taking his own life and sparing those around him, he chose to take a cyanide pill and was buried with full military honours.

III: The Rommel Chronicles sees Hail Of Bullets grow as a unique proposition within a fairly limiting field. The injection of more doom and thrash into the riffing this time round gives them a far more distinct musical character than they’ve previously possessed, and the addition of a genuine story concept is great too. Will it inspire some listeners to do a bit of reading on one of WWII’s most misunderstood and fascinating individuals? I certainly hope so, as an understanding of the man and his story lends this record a greater depth, but it’s not essential to enjoying what is a fine and fun rattle through a solid collection of death metal savagery.

4.5/6

Sounds Like: Hail Of Bullets took on some lessons about manouverability and surprise
Standout Tracks: To The Last Breath Of Man And Beast, The Final Front, Death Of A Field Marshal

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