Despite several difficulties with their former record company and differences with ex-shouter Martin van Drunen, Bolt Thrower have a new long player in store! When Martin left the band because of certain discrepancies with other band members, Bolt Thrower was already declared dead but everything turned out to be different. Blunt as they are the guys just asked ex frontman Karl Willets if he didn't want to rejoin the band. He just whistled his agreement and by now "Mercenary" is done. The war machine is rolling again and in 1998 still sounds like Bolt Thrower! They haven't changed a thing, neither sound nor style: still cold as ice, mechanical, slow, monstrous and damn brutal! That's how we love 'em, that's how they are and that's how they always will be. Songs like "Powder burns", "Mercenary", "Sixth chapter" or "No guts - no glory" shred everything to pieces. There couldn't have been anything better than a Bolt Thrower album with ye good ol' Karl, still it's hard to retain some tears since we shouldn't forget that Mr. van Drunen was more than a good substitution for Karl.
As death bands go, Bolt Thrower doesn't get a lot of press, but in the UK they're pretty big, which stands to reason as they're from Coventry. To look at the cover and logo one might thing you'd be dealing with a Priest/Sabaton power metal or eighties thrash album, but you'd be wrong. Having never heard them before but knowing of them and a good rep, I found this CD supposedly used but looked like it had never been played or very little. I suspect the buyer was expecting more traditional metal, instead of the deathfest that resides in the binary codes.
Bolt Thrower were a punk hardcore style band at first, but with time honed their axes, tuned them down, and by "Mercenary", have developed a sound that goes down well with those who like bands who tread the blurry lines of a style of metal too categorized for its own good. I immediately appreciated the tone of the guitars, thick and doomy, reminiscent of "Arise"-era Sepultura, and the thrash influence of those legendary outfits who also showed just how closely related thrash and death ultimately are, usually the only difference being grunted vocals, like Slayer, Exodus or Sodom, to name a few. One the death side, you can also put Bolt Thrower in the Carcass/Vader vein, and be just as accurate.
Which means to say after all these comparisons is that "Mercenary", while not exactly creating anything unusual, are a reliably heavy chopping forge hammer of a band, no fancy frills, or excessive lead guitar wanking, solos being slower and melodic, a nice touch, heavy as any doom band and enjoyable, the lyrics of the album subject matter notwithstanding, which you have to read, as the grunt vocals are hard to understand, but that's death metal for