Sometimes the thoughts and ideas that result from a contemplative and serious drinking session are often seen differently in the cold light of day. Thankfully, after such a meeting between Stephan Gebédi, Martin van Drunen, Ed Warby, Theo van Eekelen and Paul Baayens at the end of 2006, the ideas that sounded great in the drunken haze also sounded great the next morning…. the musical direction had been thrashed out and Hail Of Bullets was born!
A whirlwind couple of years followed for Hail Of Bullets, signing to Metal Blade Records in May 2008, quickly followed by the release of their, Dan Swanö produced, debut album “…Of Frost And War”, which lyrically followed the grim brutality of the battle on the Eastern front during World War II. 2009 saw the release of “Warsaw Rising”, the 6-track mini-album and the band’s first foray into America.
At the beginning of 2010 work began on the second Hail Of Bullets full-length release, “On Divine Winds”. World War II was again the inspiration for singer/lyricist van Drunen, this time focussing on the rise and fall of the Japanese Empire. “On Divine Winds” was also produced under the watchful eye of Swedish death metal guru, Dan Swanö.
“On Divine Winds” kicks off with the atmospheric, awe-inspiring introduction, ‘The Eve of Battle’, setting the scene with aeroplanes and explosions. ‘Operation Z’ follows straight after with Hail Of Bullets trademark heavy, fast paced brand of death metal. The guitars spew out face-melting riffs, whilst the drums pound their ferocious beats and van Drunen growls about battleships over the top. The breakdown halfway through has a real hook to it, to which you can’t help but bang your head!
‘The Mukden Incident’ opens with a menacing guitar riff and machine gun drums before dropping away into a slow paced groove. The menace continues through the groove until midway through when the machine gun drums erupt again and the solos break out. The opening riff returns once more before the vocals kick in and the onslaught continues. ‘Strategy Of Attrition’ raises the tempo once again with more of the trademark riffs ad drumming. Again, the slower breakdowns are additively good, complete with the automatic response of banging your head! ‘Full Scale War’ and ‘Guadalcanal’ continue the death metal assault with a dash of groove thrown in here and there. The constant theme of hard, heavy and fast mercilessly surges throughout.
‘On Coral Shores’ takes things to darker place, the slow deliberate tempo and the menacing riffs set the scene before the vocals join in to complete the aural picture of devastation. The last minute of this track in immense, dirty riffs, pounding beats all mean one thing and one thing only… bang your head! ‘Unsung Heroes’ is a little less dark than ‘On Choral Shores’ but is no less intense, the pace has returned, as has the groove. The pace drops towards the end that acutely enhances the feel of hopelessness and desolation before the track once again explodes into life for one last death throe.
‘Tokyo Napalm Holocaust’ starts as it means to continue, slow, dark, desolate and malevolent. The evil oozes out of this track, the guitars create the scene, the drums enhance the desperate mood and the vocals echo the appalling reality of the situation… ‘Sugar Loaf Hill’ once again raises the tempo and brings back the groove, the beat is contagious and you can’t help but get caught up in its momentum. ‘Kamikaze’ is a brief foray into thrash tinged death metal and it works, the pace is relentless, the energy immense. Once again, the momentum of the track is infectious and drags you along before dive-bombing you into the deck! The slow breakdown that follows reeks of emotion and hatred.
The album closes with ‘To Bear The Unbearable’ that aurally describes the desolation left behind after the war. The haunting guitars set the sombre mood, augmented by clever programming in the background. The vocals paint the picture of utter hopelessness and despair of a population in ruins…
Tackling the subject of World War II is a difficult thing at best, not only does it stir huge emotions in people but it is also an immense challenge to incorporate it within music. Hail Of Bullets have managed not only to do it justice but they have also managed to do it in a way that makes you think as well as enjoy it. That is also without saying that is a damn good death metal record that will have you banging your head throughout!