February 22, 2006 | | 3

Bolt Thrower, Those Once Loyal

The last time I bought a Bolt Thrower album, I was just about to graduate high school. The time period at which The IVth Crusade was released pretty much marked the start of my declining interest in death metal. I remember feeling underwhelmed with the whole scene in general. The IVth Crusade was an excellent album and one of the bright spots as I shifted my attention to other genres of heavy music.

Thankfully, during the past couple of years, the death metal scene has finally started producing some quality music, providing me a few releases that will remain in my CD player for some time. I spied Bolt Thrower‘s latest release in the store the other day and a bit of nostalgia hit me. I had always enjoyed the fact that their albums reminded me of a soundtrack to a great event or battle — theatrical and powerful. Those Once Loyal is no exception and it pleases me to see that they have adjusted their sound over the years without losing any of the good stuff that I remember from years past.

The album art only re-enforces that thematic concept that Bolt Thrower builds their albums upon. Complex guitar work, layered rhythm section and the deep guttural delivery by Karl Willetts (who is back on vocal duties after an album’s hiatus) provide for a great landscape on which to paint a picture of a desolate, smoking battlefield. I know that description sounds cheesy as hell, and in some respects it is, but man does it kick ass.

At First Light The album starts off with a nice quiet fade into a great solo and riff that gets the head nodding right away. Willetts’ delivery is slow and deliberate compared to the riffs and drumming, but equally as powerful. This is classic Bolt Thrower. A few change of pace blasts and solos help build the momentum toward the remaining eight tracks.

Entrenched The second track starts off with some short blasts from the drums and guitars before the vocals kick in. There are some great riffs highlighted in this one. The pounding beat toward the end is insane.

The Killchain We almost lose the momentum after “Entrenched” with some dead air prior to the rolling fade in of the drums and chugging riffs of “The Killchain.” This is a slower, darker song filled with some great riffs.

Granite Wall A great rocking beat starts this one off with a sweet head banging groove. “Granite Wall” aptly describes the wall of sound this band generates. I think I’ll attempt to blow out the speakers in the truck on the ride home with this CD.

Those Once Loyal The title track begins strongly with a crawling, eerie riff. The slower pace and deliberate vocal delivery give this track some doom and gloom. This has got to be my favorite track on the album.

Anti-Tank (Dead Armour) A thick and nasty bass line accompanied with some blasts from the rest of the band make you feel as though you are actually inside a rolling tank on the battle field. Weaving solos feel like rounds of bullets bouncing off your armor as you plow through the enemy lines.

Last Stand Of Humanity This is one of the faster paced tracks on the album. The pounding pace makes the songs morbid subject of a slow death that much more violent.

Salvo “Salvo” recreates what the band thinks an experience in a fox hole in between two front lines would feel like. Bombarding blasts from the double base, driving guitar solos all weave a story of desperation that fit in nicely with the overall story.

When Cannons Fade The final track on the album is a fitting end to the release, announcing the climactic end to the battle.

In classic Bolt Thrower tradition, all but two songs weigh in at over four minutes in length. If there was one complaint about this album it would be the level on Willetts vocals. I would love to have it bumped up a notch or two as it fades into the background a bit on some songs. As stated above, I haven’t bought one of their albums in a long time, so maybe they’ve been super consistent and producing quality material in the meantime. For me, they picked right back up where The IVth Crusade left off — a powerful, rolling wall of destruction, making this a must have for any death metal fan.

Favorite Tracks:
Those Once Loyal
Last Stand Of Humanity

Additional Notes: