... Of Frost and War by Hail of Bullets
Release date : May 2008
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Within the vicinity of Amersfoort, Holland, five musicians convened towards 2006's closing months so that a heavy drinking session could ensue. Sharing a mutual affection for old school Death Metal groups, those five musicians opted to form a group themselves. Comprising Thanatos guitarists Stephan Gebédi and Paul Baayens, ex-Pestilence / Asphyx vocalist Martin Van Drunen, Gorefest drummer Ed Warby and erstwhile Houwitser bassist Theo van Eekelen, the act was christened Hail of Bullets by January 2007. In some respects, Hail of Bullets can be deemed a supergroup - providing that you admire underground music.
Within several months, enough material had been penned for a full length to accomodate. On June 29th, Warby ventured into Amsterdam's Excess studios to cut drum parts over the course of one day. Six drum tracks emerged from the sessions, and four of those surfaced in the guise of an official demo release. Following the completion of drums, those parts were uploaded to ProTools at Gebédi's abode so that guitars could be laid down. More sessions occurred on July 13th-15th, and 20th-22th. By early August, Van Drunen had donated vocals to those specific numbers. In mid August, the recordings were sent to none other than Sweden's Dan Swanö so that mixing could be handled at Unisound Studios. Boasting the track “Ordered Eastward” with Swanö on guest vocals, the four-track promo was made available for download in late September. Within several months, Germany's Iron Pegasus Records issued the promo in two different versions via limited-edition vinyl in January 2008.
In late November, it was then announced that Hail of Bullets had inked a record contract with Metal Blade Records. Throughout 2007's latter stages, writing sessions continued. Recording sessions in support of an inaugural full length began at Excess studios in early February 2008, and Van Drunen supplied vocals during three planned days. Both mixed and mastered by Swanö, in mid March the album's title was revealed to be ... Of Frost and War.
From the very second that the engineer pressed “Record”, destiny specified that this particular album would be an underground classic. An arguable classic full length indeed, ... Of Frost and War was penned during the wrong decade. Bearing no contemporaries, Metal groups no longer pen material in the vein of ... Of Frost and War. A thick fog of doom comprises the landscape, and the album grinds and solos within this canvas. Perfectly navigating through the dense fog, few groups possess that capability. Whether one focuses upon the tempo or Van Drunen's mostly flawless vocals, darkness and brutality permeates the album. The lyrical content supplies plentiful to digest, not unlike the many historic Bolt Thrower albums. War is the theme, not to mention the actual sound.
Numerous highlights feature, though select tracks merit a partially higher fraction of acclaim. “The Lake Ladoga Massacre”'s drudgery thoroughly consumes the listener, and is notably reminscent of an acid trip. If hippies felt contempt towards human beings and actually penned Metal music, then the fruits of that specific toil would likely figure upon this album. Van Drunen unleashes dynamic, painful howls during “Berlin”, another doom-laden masterpiece. Possibly an eternal favourite amongst this reviewer, “Berlin”'s guitar solo is felt awhile after its conclusion. Each visit is too brief overall, although the guitar solo thankfully undergoes revivals throughout “Berlin”. “Red Wolves of Stalin” is another key number, though due to a contrary reason. Brutality, speed and technicality disguise themselves as a song, spawning a masterpiece. Much reminiscent of Vengeance Rising's inaugural pair of full lengths, albums which this reviewer has never drawn a comparison towards until now. Maintaining both speed and intensity, “Nachthexen” demonstrates how much this reviewer has missed those two respective qualities.
Pulling no punches, ... Of Frost and War assaults the listener until no more punishment can be sustained, and then continues the assault. When that assault is paired alongside a history lesson, then this sires an album replete with both intelligent lyrics and raw potency. How rare is this phenomenon? Despite the fact that the group's members seemingly channel their focus towards main projects, let's hope this album doesn't comprise Hail of Bullets' swansong. If Metal wishes to survive, then such groups prove a necessity. Those who cherish Vengeance Rising and Bolt Thrower should produce their folded notes, and purchase of ... Of Frost and War.