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Bulletbelt - Warlords Award winner

by Kenn Staub at 08 September 2020, 3:05 PM

Formed in 2009 New Zealand’s BULLETBELT plays a blend of black, thrash, and traditional metal with a bit of second-wave punk thrown in for good measure. They’re brand of metal has landed them on the bill in support of acts such as SEPULTURA, NAPALM DEATH, THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, and PAUL DIANNO on tours of their home country, Australia, and Japan. This past summer (June 20202) BULLETBELT released their fourth album, “Warlords,” which, according to a release by the band, is intended to be “a soaring metal beast of an album” marking a “renewed emphasis on hooks and choruses.”

Warlords” opens with “Destroyer Of All,” a dreamy guitar piece that builds in urgency as it segues from an acoustic number into a fuzzy six string growl marking the transition to the album’s first full-length track, “Impaler.” With “ImpalerBULLETBELT is off to the races in the best tradition of speed metal. Like many of the tracks on this album, BULLETBELT works in tempo changes throughout the number, slowing slightly for the chorus but then ramping it back up once done. The guitar solo is blistering, filled with notes and harmonics. “Punishment Of God” is a highlight of the album. It’s a driving number, the tone set by the drummer with the other instruments falling cohesively in line to pull the song forward. And just like BULLETBELT promises in their promotional information, it makes great use of hooks and choruses.

Herodian” is an interesting song, a metal opus of sorts. The Herodians were a New Testament-era political party who submitted to the rule of Rome and joined with King Herod and the Pharisees to plot against Jesus. Known for their celebration of sensuality and corrupt living, the Herodians chose what was socially acceptable or personally beneficial above all else. The complicated history of the Herodians is reflected by the intricacy of the song. Opening with sparse acoustic guitar playing, the track becomes progressively more sinister and, with the throat shredding screams of Roberts, downright dark. About halfway through the instrumental density gives way to another period of sparseness before subtly transitioning back to the sinister, the drums leading the way into a wailing guitar solo.

In addition to tempo shifts, another hallmark of this album is the use of different styles within individual songs. “Blade On The Fire” is a great example and another highlight of “Warlords.” Opening with a RAMONES-like fuzzy guitar blast, “Blade On The Fire” quickly transitions into a more contemporary metal feel and then reverts back again. The guitars surge, playing a pulsing riff overtop the bass and drums. “Flames of Hell” goes from plodding heavily along into some slick guitar playing underneath Roberts’s wails. The tune is driving and hooky as the guitar steals the show, scattering some neat little riffs throughout.

Boudicia,” is seemingly based on the life of the fierce Celtic queen who rose up against the Roman invasion of Britain in 60 or 61 AD. When the uprising failed Boudicia chose death by poisoning. Again, BULLETBELT tells a fine story through their music. Another sparse guitar and cymbal intro gives way to a thumping bass as the tonal intensity is ratcheted up to finally be released as berserk thrash mayhem. In some respects I came to consider this tune BULLETBELT’s equivalent of IRON MAIDEN’s “The Clansman.”

Mutilate And Destroy” comes right at the listener from the start and doesn’t let up. After a slight tempo change to a somewhat slower pace at the midway point, BULLETBELT comes back even faster (if that is possible) with an avalanche of notes and breakneck drumming. “Warlords” closes the album of the same name on a high note. Cymbal crashes lead into a driving maelstrom, with a plethora of notes packed into a very small place.

BULLETBELT has released an unrelentingly ferocious but melodic album. “Warlords” reveals a band who is not afraid to take a few risks musically. BULLETBELTS’ eclectic tendencies are evident throughout the album and often in the same song, with most tracks marked by both tempo and stylistic changes. In sum, this is a well-produced album that delivers a hooky, chorus-infused metal hybrid.

Musicianship: 9
Songwriting: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Destroyer Of All
2. Impaler
3. Punishment Of Go
4. Herodian
5. Blade On The Fire
6. Flames Of Hell
7. Boudicia
8. Mutilate And Destroy
9. Warlord
Paul Roberts – Vocals
Josh Obien – Guitar
Tim Mekalick – Bass
Steve Francis - Drums
Record Label: Impaler Records


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Edited 22 March 2023

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