Release date: October 28th 2013
Record label: Metal Blade Records
Review by: Omer
A recipe for a good concept album requires only two things – Good music, and a good plot to go along with. Most of the bands, fail to deliver one of the two (and sometimes both), making their concept album(s), much less conceptual and interesting.
Hail Of Bullets are a different story – dealing heavily in the historical territory of the second World War, while mixing it up with some of the harshest Death Metal tunes you’ll ever hear, creates a magnificent result that remains both a good listen and an interesting subject.
What started out as a side project of Martin Van Drunen and his Asphyx/Thanatos gang for the sole purpose of playing a well-oiled Death Metal war machine, soon became a name for itself – Hail Of Bullets built their own character, slowly departing from their mother-bands and standing up proudly.
After an initial outstanding debut situated in the Eastern front, and later on a worthy successor that took the listener to the shores of the Pacific, now comes a mighty concept album, that is based on one of the most interesting commanders of that period (alongside Zhukov, Montgomery and Eisenhower), the Desert Fox himself – Erwin Rommel, head of the German forces in the battle for North Africa.
As both a Hail Of Bullets fan and a WW2 history nerd – I must say I was quite excited when I first hit the play button.“Swoop Of The Falcon” starts with a well-familiar soldier’s tone, then blasts its way with one of the best riffs in the band’s history, and by the time Van Drunen adds his voice to the war effort, the listener would already by plucking his own neck out from banging too hard. Musically speaking, with the first minute gone, it’s already clear that the guys are all lined up, their weapons… err, I mean, instruments, are ready and their attitude is fixed like a bayonet. The song rolls in a mid-pace, pounding it’s way though the listener’s eardrum with hard, well balanced column of sharp riffs.
“Pour Le Merite” continues a similar line, and the song structure storms like a line of loyal soldiers, whereas Van Drunen’s vocals seem to fit perfectly, especially during the slower parts of the song, whereas he gives away a little desperation vibe to his vocals. The well-known Asphyx-ish slower Death/Doom parts are also present in the album, interwoven into the songs, such as in “DG-7” that puts a fine example of exactly that every now and then.
The album rolls through the important stages of Rommel’s career and life, and while the first songs dealt with his earlier acts, it’s with the fourth song that we’re going full-on Blitzkrieg with our concept character. This gem of a track doesn’t show any kind of mercy of his listeners, as the race for the conquest of France occurs. The band manages to depict these final moments just right, with some round, continuous guitar work that constantly goes back to smash any remaining French resistance, while depicting Rommel for what he was – a commander that the simple, ground troops could count on.
The Rommel Chronicles is not such a different album in the sense that it will renew anything about Hail Of Bullet’s arsenal of material, but it was rather a must since it does sound more focused than previous releases. Gems such as “The Desert Fox” and “Farewell To Africa” are one of the best the band has ever written, and it’s in those moments that these bunch of Death Metal veterans are showing their worth.
The album carries it’s own odor of blood, sweat and sand (while in Africa, that is) and the atmosphere that the group manages to capture, is pretty much the main element that turns this album to Hail Of Bullet’s finest work as of yet.
The album is closing down of the listener the same as reality in WW2 closed on Rommel – After the turn of events in March 43′ in which the renowned field marshal managed to tactically withdraw from battle with minimum casualties, Rommel was assigned to the Western front.
“Death Of A Field Marshal” closes down the plot like it should – quite dramatically. A slow and heavy song, that builds itself up with crawling remnants of glory. The almost-ceremonial drum work transforms the track to an overwhelming work of concept-based music. The kind of which, you don’t hear much in this genre of extreme music.
If you’ve ever heard Hail Of Bullets before, you know what you’re going to get with The Rommel Chronicles, but it’s indeed a treat. It surpasses the band’s previous albums in the sense that it’s far more complex and yet not too hard to digest.
Choosing such a person as Rommel as the main idea behind an album is not an easy choice – there are tremendous amounts of knowledge to spill about it and it’s hard not to bore everyone with dry explanations. The band succeeds in manipulating their way that they touch most of the subjects (even the less debated about, such as “DG-7”) without spending too much time in the same spot, plot-wise.
1. Swoop Of The Falcon
2. Pour Le Merite
4. To The Last Breath Of Man And Beast
6. The Desert Fox
8. Farewell To Africa
9. The Final Front
10. Death Of A Field Marshal