Review Summary: A solid, worthwhile effort from one of death metal’s most consistent forces.Bolt Thrower
is the definition of consistency. They have barely changed their sound since Warmaster
(their demos and full-length debut were different from what they have become known for), but have still managed to create some of the most crushing metal that manages to separate itself from the pack in many ways. If you’re wondering how exactly they go about accomplishing such a task, let me just say this: there isn’t a single blastbeat on this entire album.
The riffs on the album can be described as death metal with deep roots in thrash that are as upbeat as classic NWOBHM. Many of the thrashier riffs are accompanied by steady double-bass and are extremely catchy while still managing to be heavy as hell. As soon as the short sample ("I can’t really tell if it’s a sample or something the band recorded) on the first track is over and the song starts, you’ll be tempted to bang your head even if you’ve never done so before. Trust me.
Every band member gets an equal share of the attention; every instrument (bass included) is audible at all times. The riffs, licks and solos are all very well placed and well executed; these guys don’t have technicality on their mind when they’re writing, every riff and solo on the album has substance and purpose; this is some superb songwriting. None of the songs are repetitive but still manage to have highly memorable individual riffs (something that is difficult to do without driving the same one into your ears over and over), and there’s a good enough amount of variation between the tracks to allow for each song to be able to be told apart from the next.
These guys create some awesome disjointed rhythms that fit very well together, perfectly balanced out by balls to the wall thrash riffs, as well as some melodic moments and solos. The bass is very well played with some creative licks that deviate from the rhythms while managing to sound like it fits perfectly with the riff it’s accompanying. The drumming is never excessive (as mentioned before, there are no blastbeats on this album) and flows along nicely with the songs with a good deal of variation.
The clear production does a lot for the album as well. It’s obvious that they weren’t going for the somewhat raw, crunchy sound found on some of their other albums, and instead wanted every note played to be heard perfectly, which plays a small part in making the album so memorable and easy to digest.
The lyrics are fairly clearly pronounced by the deep guttural growl of Karl Willetts (who rejoined the band for this album after their previous vocalist left), and tell a fairly interesting “story” (if you want to call it that) about World War I, continuing the band’s tradition of war-themed lyrics.
Overall, Those Once Loyal
is a worthy addition to Bolt Thrower
’s catalogue that is enjoyable from start to finish. I don’t just recommend this album to death metal fans, but to fans of any metal genre.
+Upbeat, catchy, memorable
+Very good songwriting
+Great, crushing riffs
+Audible/well played bass
-Thrash riffs could bore some
-It’s not all that different from the rest of their catalogue
At First Light
Those Once Loyal
When Cannons Fade
FINAL RATING: 3.5/5