Review Summary: With "War Master" Bolt Thrower finally established their distinctive signature sound.
Formed in 1986, Bolt Thrower were one of the first extreme metal bands that emerged from England. Their first releases, The Peel Sessions
, In Battle There Is No Law
and especially Realm of Chaos
, helped in establishing Bold Thrower as one of the most respectable and distinctive extreme metal bands of the late ΄80s.
Keeping the same line-up as in their previous effort, Realm of Chaos
, Bolt Thrower released their highly anticipated 3rd album, War Master
in February 1991. Whereas grindcore textures were still the prevailing element in the band's previous album, War Master
evolves naturally towards a more "classic" and refined death metal sound. However, the distinctive signature elements of previous records, namely Karl Willetts's powerful grunting vocals and the intense guitar riffs, remain intact.
Bolt Thrower's refined formula is immediately recognizable on the opening track "Intro... Unleashed (Upon Mankind)", a song that brilliantly combines doom oriented atmospheres with mid and up-tempo sections. The track that follows, "What Dwells Within", starts with an epic riff, followed by an impressive and powerful vocal entrance by the inimitable Karl Willetts. After the first two songs, the listener easily understands that "War Master" is a different creature from "Realm of Chaos". Regarding the songwriting, although it feels slightly repetitive, it is carefully arranged now, while it focuses on building different but coherent dynamics within the songs and canalizing more effectively the aggressiveness of previous releases. Colin Richardson's effective production and sound engineering also helps the band in finally establishing its distinctive signature sound. This well sensed balance with respect to sound and arrangements, continues throughout the album with songs such as "The Shreds of Sanity", "War Master", "Afterlife" or the epic "Cenotaph", a thematic and musical continuation of the previous classic "World Eater". As it becomes evident from the song titles, "War Master" is lyrically focused on all aspects of human warfare, continuing the established tradition of previous releases.
Despite the slightly repetitive songwriting, "War Master" remains an excellent effort, based on interesting musical performance from a band that finally found its identity. As for the album itself, it still remains one of the most respectable death-metal albums ever released.
What Dwells Within and Cenotaph
Karl Willetts performance
Colin Richardson’s sound engineering
Slightly repetitive songwriting