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Bolt Thrower - Realm of Chaos
Review: With this album, Bolt Thrower initiated a pattern which endures throughout their catalog of finding a new style and then growing into it over a two-album spread. On Realm of Chaos, the riffing gets tighter and the heavy metal influences recede to give us a stripped down type of grindcore that aspires to the architectural riffing of death metal, giving it a grandeur and musical depth that outpaced other bands in the genre and caused many to start claiming Bolt Thrower was not grindcore.
Yet, in the words of noted metal critic and DJ Aditya Sharma, "All Bolt Thrower ever do is grind," and this album grinds onward with abrasive riffs that set two rhythms to convergent opposite tonal directions and let them grind against each other, finally culminating the song like a NWOBHM ballad with a moment of reconciliation and then a restatement of themes before conclusion. With more instrumental practice, the band are able to shape their riffs into rigid cadenced forms that collide in precise and sparse ways, giving the music greater inertia.
Spanning the gamut of underground metal styles, this album includes as much Slayer-influenced riff forms as it does punk and fellow grindcore influences; for example, "Lost Souls Domain" shares a riff with Terrorizer's "Fear of Napalm." That is not to say it is in any way derivative, because the patterns created here live on in altered form throughout much of death metal and grindcore, and we start to see the Bolt Thrower song pattern of two-chord grinding riffs highlighted with longer, often single-note-picked melodic lead riffs which add an atmospheric context to the raw fomenting id thrust forth by the simpler riffing.
Where the chaotic In Battle There is No Law laid out the ingredients, the second Bolt Thrower album defines a clear fusion and creates a framework onto which the band built the rest of their career, with the remaining major evolution left to go occurring within that archetype. While the first album is appealing for its youthful energy, and later albums are refined and clear, the raw impulse of dissident music plus an epic view of history emerges in an appealing form on Realm of Chaos and explains why this album remains a favorite two decades on.