Whenever I get word that Hail of Bullets are in writing mode for a brand new album, I can hear the unrelenting chugging of Panzerkampfwagen ((I’m sorry, but this is the first attempt to see how many German WWII terms I can shoehorn into this review. Yes, I’m well aware that the band is not German. Shut up.)) treads demolishing the ground beneath it, and I get incredibly excited. Boasting members from seminal European death metal groups such as Asphyx, Thanatos, and Gorefest, the band is back and ready to once again pump Nazi scum full of lead and set their dead aflame with their brand new offering, III: The Rommel Chronicles.
Much like the predecessors before it, III: The Rommel Chronicles gives us an incredibly detailed and harsh soundtrack that is attributed to the European warfare of World War II (let’s not forget to mention that there is even a trip to Africa, too), which is told only through the painful, signature wailing of Martin van Drunen, the dualing guitar attack from Paul Baayens and Stephan Gebédi, Theo van Eekelen’s thunderous bass lines, and Ed Warby‘s Stuka dive bombing drums.
Throughout Hail of Bullets’ tenure, they have always managed to do at least one thing right: have an incredibly rich and thick sound, courtesy of mix master and death metal extraordinaire, Dan Swanö. There is nothing better than hearing the massive barrage of riffs and drums that is akin to that of a Maschinengewehr 42 once “Swoop of the Falcon” really gets going and, from then on, there is no end in sight for the campaign of old-school brutality.
Another attribute that Hail of Bullets have always been extremely proficient at is creating ridiculously catchy, melodic leads, and this record is chock full of ’em. In fact, they are so prevalent that at times it felt as if I was listening to At the Gates in their prime. If these type of leads are what you live for as a European death metal fan, then you will be extra happy with “Pour le Mérite”, “To the Last Breath of Man and Beast”, “The Desert Fox”, and “Death of a Field Marshal”. I’ll also throw a bone to Ed Warby, who seems to have really stepped up his drumming chops. I’ve always known Ed to be an incredibly tight drummer, but there’s just something about the way he is playing on this album that sounds so much more fluid and natural than on previous records, which were already great to begin with.
I think that I have established quite a case for III: The Rommel Chronicles being a great album; however, as it happens with most gems, there are bound a couple flaws here and there. The guitar tone could make it difficult for the listener to find much variation in some of the riffs; there were points in the album in which I would also notice a riff or pattern that were repeated in more than one song, and if you couple that with a really thick tone, it can just make things less enjoyable in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully, this issue isn’t one that has enough power to tarnish the whole record, unlike what Dr. Josef Mengele did during the Holocaust, who was just terrible for the Germans in terms of PR. ((Editor’s Note: if you are a member of the JDL, please bear in mind that Jon was adopted into a Jewish family before you pipebomb us))
Despite being around for only seven years, it’s pretty obvious that Hail of Bullets have been setting themselves up as being one of the premier death metal bands in Europe, and III: The Rommel Chronicles just adds to their already stacked resumé. They have continued with their strong tradition of melodic, old-school death metal, and while this style is not groundbreaking in any meaningful way, that doesn’t mean that it cannot entertain the hell out of you for the millionth time. Hail of Bullets know what it is they are good at and show no signs of stopping. Hell, why should they? When they continue to put out wonderful material like this every two or three years, then what’s the point in changing it up?
III: The Rommel Chronicles is an absolute triumph for the group, much like the surrender of the Axis forces was for the Allies.