St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
In hono(u)r of one of my lasting favorites, BOLT THROWER, making an imminent and rarer-than-rare Midwest appearance (review forthcoming!), a few reflections on their music and flagship theme.
Which is, of course, WAR. As a wee lad, inexperienced and riding the high of …For Victory‘s rolling excellence, I remember reading more than one reference to BOLT THROWER as “war metal,” much earlier than I saw the term in reference to BLASPHEMY, BEHERIT and bands of similar ilk. It made sense: to their proud admission, BOLT THROWER’s imagery and lyrical content is unabashedly and fully dedicated to the subject. They married death metal’s schlock horror to the nuclear apocalypses of speed metal and grind to write lyrical tales of almost literary weight.
For the longest time that seemed like the only real connection to the “war metal” tag. Still death metal, I thought, but plastered with horror stories of battle: got it. I recall trying to explain to a non-metalhead elder what “war metal” meant, musically, when he asked about my Warmaster shirt, and I could come up with nothing except the descriptions I copped from reading the same fanzines 30 times over.
Perhaps my adolescent brain lacked a protein vital for abstract thought. Maybe taking in classics like Realms of Chaos and The IVth Crusade over decades rather than months or years opened new pathways to my understanding. In any case, it came to me all at once: The artillery-heavy, metronomic advance of steel as rhythm. The general monotonously and tirelessly giving command from above. Riffs as vignettes of the hardended determination, terror, regret, morosity and triumph of the battalions. BOLT THROWER, the entity, as war in toto.
Unsurprisingly, there was more there than my naïve mind was likely to connect. This is apparently the case with the rest of the death metal genre as well, since a true “BOLT THROWER clone” has yet to surface in my opinion, a ringing testament to the band’s achievement with their sub-craft.
While there may not be anybody following BOLT THROWER directly into battle, I’ve been invigorated recently by my rediscovery of Arkansas’s VORE, having long ago picked up and enjoyed their Lord of Storms debut album. VORE’s newest, Gravehammer, is a massive juggernaut of power-chord driven death metal, somewhere between an upbeat version of ASPHYX and BOLT THROWER’s most brutal, head-down moments of attack.
Previously (and for a surprisingly long time, since 1994) VORE were completely self-released and self-supported, but their recent signing to AFM Records (Germany) has apparently provided them with substantial provisions. Gravehammer is an awesome display of aural power, light years beyond the somewhat dry, somewhat subdued din of their first effort Lord of Storms from a production standpoint. These guys manage to take the open-E to levels that should surprise even jaded death metal curmudgeons (i.e me) by their subtle layering and sense of dramatic timing, something like the movie Conan the Barbarian made into a sprawling death metal epic.
Rumor has it that VORE could make an appearance here someday soon, and here’s to hoping that’s the case. For now, I guess I’ll settle for seeing BOLT THROWER in front of a company of 600 rabid death metal shock troops and hope to carry the same combat-ready spirit with me.
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