Bolt Thrower: Realm of chaos

28/02/12  ||  Habakuk


More old school shit! And, more importantly: more Bolt Thrower!
These guys used to be my favorite band for a long, long time. They
probably still are somewhat, but I’ve kind of dumped the concept of
having a favorite band, so no dice. Yeah, this album is absolutely
nothing new. Even the band themselves have moved away from their early
sound whose grind notion culminated on here. Only a re-written version
of “World Eater” as well as its everpresent 6-00000000000-6-000000000
recycle riff (wow, I still know tablature!) have survived through the
ages. The rest has been abandoned without hope of being revived. Well,
almost. There is this one band
which kind of capture the sound of “Realm of Chaos”, but as a whole,
this dark, early crust- and grind-infused slab of death metal probably
won’t be reached again.

How old this is also shows in the weird collaboration of one of the
most cashgrabbing, fan-alienating companies the nerd world has ever
experienced (Games Workshop with their Warhammer franchises), teaming up
with a band known for the exact opposite of these traits. Quite
frankly, things were a bit different in 1989, and both parties still
could find common ground simply in both occupying themselves with
“underground” pastimes. And speaking of underground, let’s dive right
into the filth.


Yes, there are definitely influences of early grindcore, but Bolt
Thrower never were a grind band. If you’ve read that somewhere, it was
wrong. They may have had blast beats on their first three records, but
the songs were a lot more varied and, dare I say, thought-out, which of
course reflects in a song playing time of a more conventional two to
five minutes. There are a lot of songs that have been composed
climatically, with blast beats serving as a point of culmination instead
of the general basis for songwriting. A great example for this is the
awesome “Lost soulds domain” which builds up, releases a bit of tension
and builds up again, only to reach its grand blast finale with a change
of keys and an appropriately desperate vocal delivery. Tempos in general
reach from a slow crawl to pounding grooves to faster than healthy
passages – and the great integration of all of this into one engaging
mixture is what elevates songwriting score to an 8.


This is what the band themselves say on their homepage: “Recorded at
Loco Studios, Wales in April 1989. Engineered and badly mixed by Tim
Lewis. Re-mixed at Slaughterhouse, UK in July ’89 by Colin Richardson.” –
and yeah, it sounds like that a bit – the “wall of sound” concept
suffers a little from the lead guitars and thin drumming sounding a
little tacked on, and bass getting lost in the mix completely. The good
balancing of the vocals and thick wool string guitar sound make up for
it somewhat, but the flaws remain. 6


Crushing, deep and heavy beyond any kind of rationality, when
crawling their way into a song, the two guitars have an almost sludgy
quality to them at times (“Through the Eye of Terror”). Axemen Thompson
and Ward manage well to transport a gritty, dirty feel throughout the
album, albeit not succumbing to simply playing like shit. No, there are
tightly played, great riffs wherever you look – it’s just not a
riff-centered album, but more of a “greater than the sum of its parts”
affair. And one of these parts are the skillfully executed guitars. Oh,
but I have to mention this hideous solo on “All that remains”. I can’t
describe that abomination, but rest assured it’s probably the worst
thing ever done to a lead guitar track. Probably was part of the
demented Chaos theme, but it’s still not too easy on the ears. Still: 9


Karl Willets could do no wrong in Bolt Thrower and as always, he
fits them like a glove on “Realm of Chaos”. He isn’t as well-pronounced
as on later recordings, partly owed to the blast-heavy tempo, but he
always remains somewhat decipherable with his great, evil, raspy growl.
Kind of sounds like a deeper, more guttural Brett Hoffmann to me. Though
the bands are often dumped into a lot, one thing that sets Bolt Thrower
miles away from their peers in Napalm Death or Carcass is Karl Willets,
who actually knew how to sing. 10


I would have loved to see those bass strings wobble around in this
tuning. At least there would’ve been something to watch, because hearing
it in this mess is practically impossible, sorry. 3


Andrew Whale had always been the weakest link in the band, that is
no secret. A drummer with a punk background, he only picked up playing
double bass drumming when starting to play for Bolt Thrower, and it took
him a few albums to get around the whole thing, it seems. Curiously
enough though, his sloppiness spices up the early albums including
“Realm of chaos” as it adds a lot of energy, similar (though nowhere
near as good) to the crazy performance Mick Harris propelled Napalm
Death with. Technicalities aside, Whale’s playing serves the band’s
sound and gives a lot of unique character to the album. So I’ll still go
for a 7.


You stand alone

The final parody

As you realise your mortality

For you cannot change your destiny

To die at the hands of the unknown enemy

Your death you can’t deter

As the silence returns

Bolt Thrower never lost their affinity towards the Warhammer
imagery and topics (war?) after this album, but here they actually had
the official license to use and abuse them at their will. Still, while
there are a few notional nods (“World Eater”, “Plague Bearer”, “the Eye
of Terror”), except for the intro, the lyrics are far from mere
recitals. It’s clear to see though that the close lyrical connection to
the dark, twisted, rotten, inhuman, fascistoid universe of neverending,
senseless war envisioned by Games Workshop for their 40k series started
here. And it actually survived (inofficially) a lot longer than the
musical direction. 9

Cover art

Of course, we’re talking about the original version with the genuine
Games Workshop artwork, not the rip-off Earache re-release that
supposedly doesn’t involve the band getting paid. It’s a lot campier
anyway, involving a company of Crimson Fists (look at me, I remember
this shit!) in 2nd edition Corvus Armor (!!!!!) ripping shit up. It
hasn’t aged well, though one might say the general motif
hasn’t changed much. However, the fact alone that this is taken
straight of the first Warhammer 40.000 rulebooks gives this an infinite
nerd bonus that our insufficient scale can only reflect by a mere 10.


Ouch! The general logo is ace, but that color choice is a crime
against humanity. Also, absolutely not how I’d envision the “grim
darkness of the 41st millennium”. Then again, I’m not a graphic
designer. 5


A few Games Workshop artwork drawings are strewn throughout the
booklet, which of course feature your standard fare of lyrics, picture
and thank yous. Enjoy those artworks or not, at least this was
conceptualized and executed as a complete package, and I like that. I
don’t know about the re-release, but you shouldn’t buy that anyway. 8

Overall and ending rant

Looking at the big picture with this band, I’d lump this album and the debut in one corner, call War Master
the transition record, and sum up all the other albums under “trademark
Bolt Thrower sound”. However, while I willingly acknowledge vast
differences in sound, personally, I like all of them. I understand if
some people are turned off by the crusty filth on the first ones, but to
me, that’s a lot of their charm to begin with. “Realm of Chaos” might
not sound perfect in a sense that it’s intricately produced, glitters
and has sugar glaze, but sounds aggressive, dark, hungry, young and
energetic instead. And that’s nigh perfect to me.


  • Information
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: Earache
  • Website:
  • Band
  • Karl Willets: vocals
  • Gavin Ward: guitars
  • Barry Thompson: guitars
  • Jo Bench: bass
  • Andrew Whale: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Intro
  • 02. Eternal war
  • 03. Through the eye of terror
  • 04. Dark millennium
  • 05. All that remains
  • 06. Lost souls domain
  • 07. Plague bearer
  • 08. World eater
  • 09. Drowned in torment
  • 10. Realm of chaos
  • 11. Prophet of hatred
  • 12. Outro

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This entry was posted on August 22, 2015 by in Class6(66) and tagged , .
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