BOLT THROWER - Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness)(EARACHE - LP 1989)
These are some bands, some albums, which I believe do not need an introduction. Bolt Thrower is one such bands certainly, as not only they’re one of the oldest and longest running European death acts, but also one, which is one of the best ever. Personally I think you know shit about death metal, if you don’t recognize this logo or that characteristic, brutal style of this British commando. And of course it’s a must to have their albums, especially that unlike some other British bands, like Carcass or Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower never really did a shamefully bad and worthless album! Sure, I can’t say that their entire discography is perfect, but all records are at least solid and great. And some are causing fuckin earthquakes!!! Going back to their early days, I must say that the first record “In Battle There Is No Law!” is probably one that I like least, as it sounds too crusty, punky or whatever, but not enough brutal in my opinion, although it’s still a good album and I understand that the style of music on this LP is a natural consequence of the influences the band had in the 80’s. And what the scene was like back then, as death metal was barely existing yet. But the second record, “Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness)” is one, which I already really fuckin love. This album is for me one of the first European death metal masterpieces, released way back in 1989, and to this day – and it’s been 26 years since its recording – it sounds great and crushes like crazy.
I don’t really wanna describe the whole history of the British death metal and grind core and what were the influences for all these bands like Napalm Death, Carcass and Bolt Thrower in their beginnings. But surely the scene in UK was quite specific and the roster and history of Earache Records actually shows that perfectly, as this label paid as much attention to the 80’s metal scene as to the punk / crust / hardcore bands. Death metal around 1987/88 was still pretty much in its infancy and mainly focused around the US bands (Death had two records released by 1988 and although I do remember about some other classic bands, including obviously Possessed, for me Death is the first pure death metal band, which released an album). But in this review I would rather skip that part about the historical background of the British death metal scene and just focus on one particular album. And that album is in my opinion quite a big improvement when compared to the crusty debut LP. The songwriting is better, the riffs are better, I just love the harsh vocals of Karl Willets here and finally the production, although still quite rough, is just awesome, surely less chaotic, when compared to the first album.
Take the first song… “Eternal War” has signs of that characteristic Bolt Thrower-ish riffing and style, which was developed on the future albums of the band and which is so damn flesh ripping groovy, extremely memorable and brilliantly headbanger’s friendly, but also aggressive. I just love it, really. Yeah, the opening riff is bloody good, but I also like that this song speeds up nicely and turns into one ferocious beast. Sadly, it’s quite short, so it’s not like those future epic Bolt Thrower anthems, but it still is the best song here and an instant winner for me. “World Eater” is in very similar vein and also brings the main riff played in that characteristic, classic Bolt Thrower style and damn, every time I hear it I just must bang my skull. This is a powerful shit!
What makes “Realm of Chaos” a stand out among these old British records is how slow it is in many parts. Such “All That Remains” goes just against the tide when compared to the other successful, classic British combos (Carcass and Napalm Death), which were freaking fast and grinding like crazy. Meanwhile this song opens with slow, almost doomy riff, which sounds really damn heavy and later transforms into killer mid paced riffage. Oh yeah, get yourself ready for a real bloodshed. Finally I also just love “Lost Souls Domain” and how this song begins, with almost thundering bits and heavy, slow riffage. It also starts to grind brutally after some time and this is what I call a massive, bone crushing old school death metal! And I must admit that these slower / mid paced pieces are my favourite moments of the album, they’re really fantastic and I almost feel like the album looses a bit, when Bolt Thrower fastens up. And they do that here and there, so “Realm of Chaos” has the strong grind core and crust influence still present. Just give a listen to “Through the Eye of Terror” and “Dark Millennium”. These crusty influences may have probably never been really lost in the sound of Bolt Thrower, but I guess their later albums cover it with more brutal and groovy death metal. Here they’re still quite well audible. I must also say that when Bolt Thrower plays some fast tunes, it is almost obvious what country they’re from and what age is the music, as it sounds so bloody typical for that old British Earache roster. Especially as the music has that filthiness and rawness in the sound, which is so damn different to some more polished US death metal records of that era of late 80’s / early 90’s. Finally it needs also to be said that “Realm of Chaos” is far from being a technical album. The playing is rather simple, with not much complexity in the riffs department and so also the drumming is pretty standard. The songs structures are also rather easy, what probably makes the songs even more memorable.
A lot of people pays much attention to the whole presentation of “Realm of Chaos”. Surely the vinyl looks way more special than the other stuff from those days, being released on nice gatefold, with huge artwork and with that booklet. And yes, the graphics are from the Warhammer games / comics / whatever… which I am not a big fan of, although surely all the artwork included to this album looks nice, especially the fold out front cover. These graphics fit perfectly to the entire lyrical side of the album, which is all about wars and apocalyptic themes. It all gave Bolt Thrower a special character and distinguished them from other death metal bands for good. Their music should be played in every war machine, when going to the battle. I don’t know why the modern armies didn’t realize it yet haha! So… nothing more needs to be said here. Classic LP it is!
Standout tracks: “World Eater”, “Eternal War”, “Lost Souls Domain”
Final rate: 80/100