Release DetailsLABEL Metal Blade Records
RELEASED ON 11/15/2005
Those Once Loyal
posted on 11/2005 By:
From the moment the ominous opening tones of the Operation Crossbow movie sample and epic solo kicked in to start “At First Light”, I got goose bumps. This is after all, Bolt Thrower’s first studio album in four years and marks the return of original front man and the voice of Bolt Thrower, Karl Willets after a one-album hiatus for the respectable but not quite classic Honour, Valour, Pride.
So here it is, album number eight, and what were you expecting? Flutes? An Accordion? Female vocals? This is quite simply a Bolt Thrower album, and to be honest, one of their better ones, which to most Bolt Thrower fans means is on par with ..For Victory, Warmaster and Realm of Chaos. What it also means is that it is no deviation whatsoever from the last 6 Bolt Thrower albums in that it’s simplistic, rumbling, Panzer paced, war themed death metal with no frills. But in an era where speed and technicality has become the be all of the genre, Bolt Thrower’s brutal simplicity is akin to having 22 ounce rib eye after 3 weeks of eating nothing but haute cuisine.
Even though they never ‘went away’, the return of Willets does give the album a certain ‘comeback’ feel that permeates the entire album. The tracks seem to lumber with a more purposeful yet somber tone, much like ..For Victory, maybe due to the real world conflict theme. ..For Victory tackled the Falklands conflict and Those Once Loyal addresses inarguably the greatest and stupidest war ever, World War I.
Those Once Loyal is chock full of everything you’d expect; massive grooves, thick, punishing riffage and a reserved sense of brutality that lurches and stomps with the weight and devastation of a 155mm Howitzer shell. Tracks like “The Kill Chain” (with its now familiar “World Eater”, “Cenotaph”, “Embers” and “Powder Burns” riff), the punishing groove of “Granite Wall” and “Anti-Tank (Dead Armor)” lope with tangible, air displacing heaviness. There are also some muted harmonies and, gasp, solos as the title track (very reminiscent of …For Victory’s superb title track), “Last Stand of Humanity”, the massive “Salvo”, and the stunningly somber closure of “When Cannons Fade” (my personal favorite from this album), which show Bolt Thrower is subtly more than just Shock and Awe.
The Andy Faulkner (Honour, Valour, Pride) production is what you’d expect from these Brit Bruisers; smooth but punishing and like a Challenger Mk II tank bearing down on you; threateningly heavy.
An album like Those Once Loyal or any Bolt Thrower album for that matter should need my stamp of approval as it comes with an innate recommendation due to Bolt Thrower’s well deserved ‘legend’ status. I tried not to be all fanboy and gush about Those Once Loyal like a noobie reviewer listening to Bolt Thrower for the first time or a grizzled vet blinkered by favoritism, but the truth of the matter is this album is deserving of the above score. Bolt Thrower are one of the few bands that despite their lack of progression and flair, always deliver the goods. And Those Once Loyal is no exception as it will leave you with powder burns and shellshock.
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