Review Summary: Bolt Thrower emerge victorious in creating one of the most visceral and engaging war-related Death Metal albums of all time.
When writing an album that responds to the pain and terror of warfare, you really have to consider three things that are vital to making the consistency and the musical effects themselves as interesting and as engaging to the listener as possible. Firstly, the very thought of how a soldier would feel when going into war. Secondly, knowledge of the advanced technology that is used to destroy the enemy, as well as the crippling effect it has on some unfortunate ones. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the significance of warfare on society and civilization in general. These three things should naturally be considered in a similar way when writing a book or making a film, but when you are part of a collective group that has dedicated themselves to the life-changing effects of war such as, say, Bolt Thrower, then it makes every other aspect of the production somewhat simpler to deal with.
Not that Bolt Thrower aren't a band who don't excel at their instrumentation, because frankly, they are, and I'll be damned if a devoted fan of British Death Metal doesn't own at the very least “The Ivth crusade”, “...For victory” or “Those once loyal”. But it is with such focus and regard for the nature of warfare that Bolt Thrower have truly succeeded in grabbing people's attention, and making themselves stand out from the crowd. The band's fifth album, the very aptly titled “...For victory”, is one example of when the band has been at their musical peak, and at the same time done their research on a specific subject.
“...For victory” is an album that engages the listener from the very start and does not stop being so consistent or interesting to the listener's very ears. From the opening explosion that is 'War', Bolt Thrower sweep through the next forty minutes as swiftly and as menacingly as possible. The first thing that truly stands out is Karl Willets' approach to the lyrics. As you can imagine, Willets tries his very best to make every single word understandable and at the same time significant to the listener. You can feel the intensity and power of Karl Willets pushing through the speakers when he cries quite energetically that “This surely cannot be twisted now, far from reality, delving into depths, mankind's depravity” on the rampaging 'Remembrance', or perhaps when he tells you emotionally “Do not be sad - the pulse now gone, The war of life continuous - this battle now is won” on 'When glory beckons'. Even on the somewhat anthemic title track, Willets attempts to breathe new life into the sound, using none other than Laurence Binyon's poem “Ode of remembrance” to give fresh meaning to the very idea of warfare. It also helps that Karl Willets can control his voice to a point where it is unknown whether the instruments are following his voice, or his voice following them.
It's not all about the vocals, but they certainly help a great deal. With the addition of an extremely precise rhythm section and an explosive drummer in Andrew Whale, Bolt Thrower's fifth album really cannot go wrong at all. Call that an overstatement if you will, but listening to the battering ram beats of 'Tank (Mk.I)', 'Graven image' and enigmatic closer 'Armageddon bound' will probably change your mind. What is specifically impressive about the guitar work is how they contribute to making each and every song on “...For victory” all the more intense and epic, something that “The Ivth crusade” slightly lacked. On the title track and sometimes slow-burning 'A silent demise' Ward and Thompson chop their way very cleanly and menacingly from start to finish, but it is with their solos that the songs are given an extra kick as well as a new level of exciting sounds. The solos that close the album in fine fashion on 'Armageddon bound' certainly leave the listener wanting a replay, and it is with this finely tuned guitar style that Bolt Thrower succeed on “...For victory”.
The only song that could be claimed slightly weaker than the others is perhaps 'Forever fallen', but even then it's not weaker by much. It opens with realistic noises created by visceral warfare and the instrumentation, although not that different to the likes of the title track or 'Remembrance', still kicks in with as much aggression and intensity as humanly possible. If ever you wanted a soundtrack to the pains and emotions conceived in war, then this is surely one album to try out. Forget that it was made by one of the most prominent British Death Metal bands almost two decades ago. Forget that it is the last album to feature furious drummer Andrew Whale. “...For victory” deserves your attention even if you don't listen to Death Metal at all, for the lyrical content and the way in which Willets passionately and clearly roars every word are reason enough to buy this.
"They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them."