This is one I've been meaning to do for a long time. I've been listening to Hail of Bullets since roughly the time that this album came out, if memory serves me, and despite having no idea how I got into them, they're definitely one of the first death-metal bands I listened to. "On Divine Winds" is the bands second album, and in the vein of their first one, is a theme-album centred around the events of world war two - in this case, the pacific.
Hail of Bullets are one of those bands who really couldn't have a better lineup, with such notables as Martin Van Drunen, who's vocals have graced the likes of titans Asphyx and Bolt Thrower. Aside from being in Asphyx at this moment, Hail of Bullets is Van Drunens "other band", and play a higher tempo, more aggressive brand of death metal. The musicianship all-round is tight, and the songwriting certainly keeps quality in mind - not one song on the album is weak, which is much the same as the bands previous onslaught. Also in-keeping with the previous work, the production is quite crisp and modern, with trademark twenty-first-century guitar tone, clean drums and a general genericness in production which is, fortunately, defeated by the sheer immensity of the songs on the album. This "immensity" is apparent in the energy bursting from all of the songs, slow or fast, and a belter like "Operation Z" is matched by a plodding battlecruiser of a song like parts of "Tokyo Napalm Holocaust". The grinding, ominous and deep guitar tone certainly gives itself to the band well, and creates a brutal heaviness which still manages to be diverse.
The highlight of the album, and Hail of Bullets in general, for that matter, is the riffs. Most of them are a lovely blend of crushing and memorable, with songs like "Strategy of Attrition" having riffs which feel like a fantastic punch to the face, but also manage to be atmospheric - many of them nicely encapsulate the grief and desperation of warfare, and the often melancholy lead parts really add to this well, creating a battle-weary feel when it's needed, and thus rendering many songs deep and highly atmospheric. As the tone in the first album was evocative of heavy armour on the move, battletanks and blitzkrieg, the same tone on this album evokes the huge battleships moving across the pacific. As I said earlier the bands sound is, in this respect huge. Bands like Bolt Thrower have nailed the "war" sound, but Hail of Bullets are the only band who seem to make it sound so, for want of a better word, huge.
I'm hoping, as many are, I expect, that the band will release a new album in the not-too-distant future. Until such a time as they do, this album remains a damn tasty slice of death-metal, and is a prime example of two things; that war-themed death metal is some of the best out there, and that the Dutch make damn fantastic death-metal all round.
I'm giving this 8/10.
Hail of Bullets Official site
Hail of Bullets on Myspace
Hail of Bullets on Facebook
Hail of Bullets on Metal Archives