Hail of Bullets

Tidbits: the various, the sundries, the miscellaneous, the whatevers.

dev_randomEvery decade or so, at least for me, I hit a “dry spell” as a music listener and/or reviewer. No one album sounds that great, rocks my world, whatever– hence the four-month absence of Sawtoothwave from the “new article” section of Awesome Websites Monthly.

I finally figured that, since there were no full albums worth reviewing, on this, my birthday in the early/mid/late 40s, I should hip you to what I have actually been listening to whilst I get up, or work out, or wash dishes, or fall asleep, or whatever. Sound good?

And maybe, just maybe, these tracks are extra good because they pierced my shell of indifference, my equivocal soul, my hemming-and-hawing eardrums….

So, in no order:

Carcass’ “Thrasher’s Abbatoir,” and “316L Grade Surgical Steel,” from Surgical Steel: blistering thrash-cum-archetypal death metal, ferocious as fuck, played by experts.

Hail of Bullets’ “Pour La Mérite,” and “Dak” from III The Rommel Chronicles: a lumbering granite Godzilla, destroying the earth and teaching you about World War II German commanders all the while.

Finnish thrash-ish band Stone’s “Get Stoned,” from Stone: catchy power metal/ thrash that went on to influence bands like Children of Bodom. Great stuff.

Skeletonwitch’s “Burned From Bone,” from Serpents Unleashed: typical Skeletonwitch, in that it’s thrash/black/power metal’s heavy yet disco-ish fury in less than three minutes.

Pelican’s “The Tundra,” from Forever Becoming: if the whole album were like this, it would be as awesome as their greatest album….

Sting’s (I love Sting and every ounce of his pretentiousness, you shut your damn face) “What have we got?” from The Last Ship: add some distorted guitars to this and it would be Týr’s greatest song EVAR….

Speaking of which, Týr’s “Hold the heathen hammer high,” and “Trondur I gotu,” from By the Light of the Northern Star: pagan metal that is an inspiring as a pre-battle pep-talk from a renegade Norse warlord. Fair warning: play either one and you’ll hum it for weeks; it will be more of an earworm that anything Kahn could have devised.

Shining’s “Healter Skelter,” from Blackjazz, and “I Won’t Forget,” from One One One: tenor sax as jazz that really loves metal, much like….

Peter Brötzmann Octet’s “Responsible/ for Jan Van de Ven” from The Complete Machine Gun Sessions: jazz, as metal as it gets.

Fontanelle’s “Traumaturge,” from Vitamin F: if Miles Davis, specifically the Miles Davis from Bitches’ Brew, wanted to make some metal– and rub some funk on it.

Tribulation: anything from The Formulas of Death, but you’ll only need one tune.

Eric Church’s “Smoke a little smoke,” from Caught in the act: Live— this country outlaw ends his tune about wine and weed with the main riff from Sab’s “Sweet Leaf” (love the audience’s collective What the fuck?)– what more do you need to know?

Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has a Master Plan”: a 32-minute opus of revolving licks and paeons to marijuana and altered states in general.

Finally, we have Sloath’s newest work (though it was recorded at the same time as their first album, one of my favorites of all time): “The Deep Rift IV.” Just listen.

I’ve been me and this is my time. Thank you very much, I’ve been great.

Asphyx, Deathhammer

Deathhammer is prototypical “brutal” death/ doom metal: i.e., grunted/rasped vocals over wildly-detuned-yet-fairly-simple riffs– It’s more primal, simpler, than Martin van Drunen’s other extant outfit, Hail of Bullets

There’s two types of songs herein:  fast/deathy and slow/doomy. Thus follows the highlights of either category….

Slowish, doom-metally:

“We Doom You to Death,” is particularly memorable and a great riff in general, like a European Sleep tribute band… “As the Magma Mammoth Rises” is a 7-minute-ish lurching doom-metal-by-way-of-death-metal tune: they’re both great, and yet though somehow slow and low-tuned, somehow still reminiscent of Hail of Bullets without being an obvious ripoff the said act… more like Death (the band and the phenomenon) on Quaaludes….


“Deathammer,” “Reign of the Brute,” and “Vespa Crabro,” are all (tempo-wise) fast and (chronologically) brief: all under 3:00. All way-detuned and all furious and bombastic.

The best part of both types of tunes is probably van Drunen’s vocals: rather than sounding like he’s imitating harsh, angry vocals, he genuinely sounds like someone being tortured, and being enraged by it. Like a schizophrenic screaming on the streetcorner about God/ aliens/ CIA implants….

Truly metal, in other words.


Hail of Bullets, discography

I’m doing both albums (i.e., no eps) at the same time: it’s a Hail of Bullets 3-way. Ha. [Shudder.]

Is it good or bad if you can safely review a band’s discography without having to worry about the nuances between specific discs? Whatever: Hail of Bullets are D-beat death metal (you instantly understand this or you’ve no idea), metal legends old school d(eath)-beat jamming– their sounds tuned a fifth below standard, i.e., inadvertant bowel-movement low, and sounds like  –not like the frequent-metaphor “metal”–but rather Stone– massive, solid, unyielding ancient granite. 

The kids call this “brutal” death metal (versus technical), which seems to connote lack of technical ability, which I suppose is true. Unfortunately, that tag misses their songwriting chops, which are many. Lyrically both albums are fairly detailed recountings of World-War II area stories, allegedly the result of a drunken bar bet. Which actually sounds completely plausible: “Hey man… let’s jam and make an album based on the fucking most metal battles of all– WWII, man!” You’ve probably made that decree at some point or another. We all have. It’s just that Martin van Drunen made good on it.

Sober(-ish) assessment: Both …of frost and war and On Divine Winds are completely worth your time and attention. They’re the “campfire” standby of Death Metal (capital D, capital M): fast or slow where necessary, lyrics nearly (though not completely) unintelligible, with surprisingly articulate lyrical content.

If you don’t have them, get them.

Word to your mother.

Herculean Riff of the day: Hail of Bullets, Full Scale War

Normally it takes awhile, sometimes years, to really decide if a riff is truly Herculean. I’ve only recently been listening to Hail of Bullets, the retro-death metal outfit from the Netherlands, led by Martin van Drunen (of Pestilence, Asphyx, and many others), and frankly, most of their songs I don’t dig. But the main riff in “Full Scale War” (from their second LP, On Divine Winds) is a big stone monster. Go:


The mournful, “start high, bend low” notes (around 1:16) remind me of Cathedral, yet somehow not boring.

Happy Wednesday morning….