Bolt Thrower
Honour Valour Pride

Three long years in development, you’d start to think that Honour Valour Pride, Bolt Thrower’s long-awaited seventh full-length album, was some sort of top-level military secret. While the second departure of longtime growler Karl Willets made headlines all over the metal world, not a word leaked from the Bolt Thrower camp about their whereabouts until recently.

A new vocalist in the form of Dave Ingram (ex-Benediction) and a new album signaled Bolt Thrower were indeed alive and well. Truth be told, a Bolt Thrower album is just that – expecting more will invariably set you up for disappointment. Bolt Thrower aren’t Voivod and have never aimed beyond their careful trajectory. Therein lies the beauty of death metal’s most consistent outfit. Guitarists Barry Thompson and Gavin Ward are riff machines with a soul, hammering out some of the most infectious riffery this side of Tony Iommi. In fact, hindsight reveals Bolt Thrower have always been closer to Black Sabbath than Carcass and Napalm Death, two more bands that helped shape the formative U.K. scene.

With the above in mind, Honour Valour Pride is a massive undertaking in the science and craft of the riff. Each song here contains a formidable payload of headbanging delight. “Contact-Wait Out” opens up to the bunker-thick churn of Thompson and Ward’s slickly devised mid-paced death metal – think “Cenotaph” in terms of heaviness. Ingram’s vocals aren’t quite as clear as Willets, but what he lacks in clarity he makes up for in power, which isn’t too dissimilar from his shining performance on Benediction’s The Grotesque – Ashen Epitaph. Only two tracks in and “Inside the Wire” is undoubtedly the standout. The song’s simple but effective gait isn’t as impenetrable as the opening of, say, “World Eater” yet you won’t find another quite like it. If current death metal (hello Six Feet Under?) featured this kind of exemplary craftsmanship much of it wouldn’t be utterly forgettable.

Also, tucked away inside Bolt Thrower’s efficient arsenal is melody. You’ll find it laced in every track, but more so in the band’s melancholic work. “Honour” is such a track as were “Dying Creed” and “Silent Demise.” These death metal ‘ballads’ have almost vanished today, and hearing a veteran crank it down a notch is a testament to their longevity. “7th Offensive,” “K-Machine” and “Pride” drive with similar force as most newer Bolt Thrower cuts and despite a few diversions (Jo Bench’s brief but welcome bass solo, Slayer-like builds, eerie solos) manage to scour large swaths of old-school attitude on the current landscape of boredom. Combine “Inside the Wire” and “K-Machine” into a two-song MCD and I doubt most bands 10 years younger will be in a mortar shot of touching Bolt Thrower. Don’t get me wrong, Honour Valour Pride has a few yawn-fests. “Suspect Hostile,” the opening of “Valour” and the verses of “A Hollow Truce” move like a HUM V in neck-deep water. Get it.

On the whole, Honour Valour Pride makes for essential Bolt Thrower listening. It’s more inspired than Mercenary and the Andy Faulkner production does wonders for the band’s outstanding attention to riff structure. Bolt Thrower junkies like yours truly will nevertheless enjoy but Honour Valour Pride points out that even Krisiun and the Brazilian wind-‘em-up-and-go-movement don’t have much on Bolt Thrower. Quality over quantity has never been so right.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris Dick
November 14th, 2001

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