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Bolt Thrower - In Battle There is No Law
Review: Metal and punk like a double helix converge every other generation and every other meeting shapes a viable hybrid, and Bolt Thrower grafts into one of these, grindcore, by making heavy metal songs using punk chord progressions, technique and blocky, guileless direct delivery. The resulting messy onslaught uncovers its heavy metal roots in the ordering of its songs, yet signals a clear punk heritage in how it renders classic heavy metal riffs in a crustcore/hardcore style of mostly chromatic intervals in rigidly symmetrical rhythms.
Starting with several tracks heavy on finger-wiggling, noodly lead guitar, In Battle There is No Law surges into existence with a sound that takes a Slayer approach to speed, invents a riffing style like G.B.H. meeting Possessed, and breaks up its songs with dramatic elements in the style of older grandiose heavy metal. Unlike most grindcore, which takes a literal-minded and individualistic view, Bolt Thrower borrows from the heavy metal appreciation of the epic and ridden with mortal conflict, requiring a vaster presence than short choppy songs complaining about modernity. This need spurs them to expand songs and shift between faster, motivational tempi and dragging slower ones for the contrast needed to maintain such a worldview.
Beyond Slayer, a heavy Sepultura influence permeates this early album, but many past greats contribute their own suggestions, from the Pestilence-like pacing of riffs to pre-choruses that sound suspiciously like an Angel Witch or Iron Maiden gambit. Preferring a default speed of a moderate fast tempo. Many riffs, like those of Repulsion, use a chord or two with a lightspeed melodic fill of single notes, creating a resurgent cyclic rhythm like the circular motion of the legs of a galloping horse.
The hybrid works for Bolt Thrower because they escape the one-dimensionality of most grindcore at the same time they escape the rock conventions of most metal, letting them create a sound with the musical nihilism of punk but the theatrical artistry of metal, pushing both genres past their comfort zones. While the band did not flower on this early and less-practiced offering, watching them assemble a brand new type of grindcore -- and an enduring voice -- makes this album worth owning on an intellectual level. The ripping, high-intensity songs and ludicrously exuberant guitar work make it a keeper for listening.