Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bolt Thrower - Realm of Chaos

When it comes to just pure death metal, this album is one of my favorites. When it comes to old school death metal, this is one of my favorite albums. For those of you that may ask, my VERY favorite old school (pre-1995) death metal albums are Tomb of the Mutilated by Cannibal Corpse, Altars of Madness by Morbid Angel, Leprosy by Death, Legion by Deicide, Mental Funeral by Autopsy, Into the Grave by Grave, The Grand Leveller by Benediction, and Realm of Chaos by Bolt Thrower. Being one of the biggest British extreme metal bands next to Napalm Death, Carcass, and Venom, Bolt Thrower not only contributed to the formation of the death metal genre itself, but their music is actually GOOD! Let’s be honest, I could easily write a review on how influential this album has been and how it’s a classic and all (which it is), there’s so much more to this album than the impact it’s created. I want to talk about this album like I do with ever other album.

For me, there are only two problems that I have with this album, and one of them isn’t really a “problem”. The first thing that bothers me is that Bolt Thrower seems to have a tempo issue; they’ve never done the best job when it comes to keeping time and staying tight. In a lot of the breakdowns, the drums and the guitars don’t consistently match up. But thankfully, the breakdowns on this album aren’t as pronounced and obvious as the more modern breakdowns that the younger crowd knows only too well. Some people might beg to differ with me on this, but the drummer (on this album at least) isn’t really that good. He has AMAZING technical skill and really helped solidify the (at the time) brand new genre known as “death metal”. But his timing and strength limit him. In songs like Through the Eye of Terror, the hand that’s playing the snare during the blast beats completely fails at keeping time. And since the snare is the most audible part of a blast beat, if it doesn’t keep time, it completely ruins everything.

Even the kick drumming tends to be off a lot of the time. But the lack of technical skill the drummer has is made up with a lot of innovative creativity. Almost all of the fills that the drummer does are really unexpected and just not something you would be used to hearing out of ANY death metal band! I find a lot of the patterns that the drummer plays during the breakdowns to be really unique. But then again, he’s pretty fucking lucky to have so much goddamn creative talent because if it weren’t for that, Bolt Thrower wouldn’t be NEARLY as legendary as they are.

If you’re someone that really likes the really raspy mid-ranged growls from the REALLY early albums by Grave, Obituary, Unleashed, Dismember, and Fleshcrawl, you’ll like the vocals on this (and pretty much any Bolt Thrower) record. It reminds me a lot of Corpsegrinder’s (post-1994 Cannibal Corpse) growls: a lot of lower end that’s overtaken by a really high-pitched raspy sound. The one issue that some people might have (not including me, in this case at least) is that there isn’t much of a variety in the vocal sounds. I know that in most cases I can be pretty harsh when vocals (especially inhales) sound EXACTLY the same and remain completely monotonous and unchanging for the entire duration of the album, but this is an exception for me. No matter what point the music is in, the vocals ALWAYS give the music an extra spark that helps it reach higher levels, even though the growls sound almost exactly the same everywhere in the album.

Let me change that thought, because I literally JUST noticed something as I’m listening the album while typing out this review. The growls do, in fact, change in several places in the album, but they change in INTENSITY, not PITCH. When people say that the vocals have a lot of variety, they usually mean that the vocalist lets out different sounding vocals that are at different pitches. For example, in order to put some variety in the vocals, vocalists will do both growls and screams. Some vocalists do really low guttural growls and then occasionally do some less-intense mid-ranged growls. When I’m talking about INTENSITY, I’m talking about how hard the vocalist is belting out those growls. There are some parts where he’s growling so powerfully that you’re expecting one of his lungs to suddenly fly out of his mouth. And there are some sections where his growls don’t have as much power or intensity; this is usually when the music is at a slower section or a quieter part.

Anyone that listens to death metal needs to have the first two Bolt Thrower albums because they are ESSENTIALS. For me, Realm of Chaos is better than In Battle there is no Law, but I would HIGHLY recommend both of them to ANYONE who has even the slightest interest in investing a bit of their time in the old school death metal world. But not just because of that, I would give this album 17/20 for having innovative creativity, blasting riffs, and just for the fact that death metal can’t really get any purer and more raw than this.