BOLT THROWER - THE IVTH CRUSADE
After the two successful albums on Earache (War Master / Realm of Chaos), England's Bolt Thrower released The IVth Crusade in 1994. Evolving from a crust / grind sound, Bolt Thrower were one of the first death metal bands to slow things down and focus on double-bass mid-tempo grooves.
By this fourth album, mid-tempo became the rule and consequently, things begin to sound a little repetitive. All the tracks run in that 4-6 minute range and simply do not vary enough to warrant the duration. Bolt Thrower has generated a devout following with this sound, but it has never really grabbed me for more than a couple songs at a time. That being said - if I listen to a track at random from this album, I usually dig it. Ritual is a standout, as it slows to a crawl several times and that sludgy, down-tuned guitar just sounds beastly. Ditto for Spearhead which offers enough variety to stay interesting. Celestial Sanctuary also has some awesome riffs and a nice doomy pace to it.
Lead throat, Karl Willetts, has always sounded a bit bored to me. His delivery is very monotonous with little enthusiasm or menace. The result is the vocals become a background piece and the focus falls on the riffs. This means a song is only as good as its riffs and after a few tracks, Bolt Thrower seem to be repeating themselves. They also tend to hit the same few scales in their riffs - a song will end and a new one will begin, sounding like an extension of the last track.
I can't call myself a Bolt Thrower fan I guess, but in small doses I find them hard not to like. Longtime fans put this and "...For Victory" at the top of the list. I might recommend "...For Victory" over this release as the production is that much better. Not a bad album by any means - 3 out of 5.