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4.09 | 38 ratings | 5 reviews
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Album · 2005

Filed under Death Metal


1. At First Light (4:38)
2. Entrenched (3:41)
3. The Killchain (4:41)
4. Granite Wall (4:03)
5. Those Once Loyal (4:14)
6. Anti-Tank (Dead Armour) (4:15)
7. Last Stand of Humanity (3:10)
8. Salvo (5:18)
9. When Cannons Fade (5:27)

Total Time: 39:32


- Karl Willetts / vocals
- Gavin Ward / guitars
- Barry Thompson / guitars
- Jo Bench / bass
- Martin Kearns / drums

About this release

Metal Blade Records
November 11th, 2005

Recorded and Mixed at Sable Rose Studios, Coventry, May-September 2005.
Produced by Bolt Thrower.

Thanks to Time Signature, Vehemency, bartosso for the updates


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Bolt Thrower have a few albums listed in the MMA top 20 death metal albums, and as they showed up in my searches on YouTube I thought I should try them out. But how does one pick out the best album for one’s own preferences when there are eight albums from which to choose? YouTube has the answer with most if not all albums available in full for listening preview. Still, a preview is not the same as sinking into a purchased record.

Reading the Wikipedia article on the band, Bolt Thrower planned to cease recording after this album because they felt that they had finally made the best Bolt Thrower album. There was talk of recording another album after a hiatus but the band ceased in an untimely manner when their drummer passed away. I was trying to decide which album to get, “Those Once Loyal” or “Mercenary”, and ended up deciding on the former.

As far as death metal albums go, my experience is only just at the newbie level, but I feel that much of the music here is closer to thrash metal. It’s not as technical or brutal as death metal can be and it’s not as melodic as it can be either. Though double kick drumming is freely employed, the snare beats are not that fast and I don’t recall noticing any blast beats. Except for the deep, bear-like vocals, I feel the music sounds more like some of the late eighties thrash metal I used to listen to. At times there are some killer, slow n heavy riffs as in “The Killchain” and “Last Stand of Humanity”, which make these songs stand out for me. But most of the album reminds me a lot of early Slayer, or at least it make me feel like listening to “Haunting the Chapel”for some reason.

While this may be Bolt Thrower’s magnum opus, I feel it’s just a very good album that can be played all the way through with two tracks worthy of adding to a playlist. The album is consistent and heavy, though lacking much variation. Maybe it’s a good introductory album to the band? I like it but at the same time I want to hear more adventurousness. A decent piece of work for straightforward heavy thrash with death undertones.
"Those Once Loyal" is the 8th full-length studio album by UK death metal act Bolt Thrower. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 2005. Since the release of "Honour - Valour - Pride (2001)", original lead vocalist Karl Willetts have returned to the fold again, replacing Dave Ingram. Willetts had been in and out of the band a couple of times since his first departure in 1994, but it seems his return this time is permanent. And if you ask me he is more than welcome back. Dave Ingram did a decent job on "Honour - Valour - Pride (2001)", but there is something special about the way Karl Willetts growl that just fits Bolt Thrower´s music like a glove.

The music on the album is in the trademark war/battle themed death metal style that Bolt Thrower have practiced since the early 90s. Ultra heavy beats, simple yet effective downtuned riffs and a commanding growling vocal on top and you know you´re listening to Bolt Thrower. What makes "Those Once Loyal" stand out from especially the last two albums by the band, is the extremely high quality of the material and the performances. The musicianship are strong, the sound production probably the best yet on a Bolt Thrower album, and the songwriting is memorable. Each and every track on the album are simply killer material.

In my world "Those Once Loyal" is close to perfection when we´re talking this type of death metal. Which means death metal relying on brutality and simple riffs as opposed to death metal focused on technical playing or progressive ideas. A 4 - 4.5 star (85%) rating is deserved.
Bolt Thrower's last album to date still has yet to see a followup - not because the band have split up, but because according to them they do not want to put out any new songs unless they are of greater quality than what they present here. I guess that's a reasonable decision, because Those Once Loyal finds Bolt Thrower deep in a rut; whilst it's grown on me sufficiently that I don't think it's an outright embarrassment, and it's worth listening to if you are a fan of the band, it shows that their creative batteries were beginning to run out of juice a little - not so much so to be a problem this time around, but enough to merit a break to recharge them. The compositions offer few any surprises or twists beyond the incorporation of a more traditional Iron Maidenish riff or musical motif here and there, the band's performances sound more or less exactly like they have done for their last four albums, and overall the band's command of the death metal genre remains strong even if their spot in the first rank is wavering a bit. It's a great and entertaining listen, but the previous few Bolt Thrower albums had been ear-splittingly fantastic listens.
With death metal legends such as Bolt Thrower it is easy to expect that they will release another classic. Those Once Loyal is no different. It contains all the groovy riffs we have come to know and love from Bolt Thrower, along with Karl Willetts' crushing vocals and the war-heavy lyrical themes. The songs are well composed and the album is well put together.

The album starts off with the dreary wind sounds of a war torn battlefield, until the epic riffs of "At First Light" bursting in and announcing Bolt Thrower's presence. The album goes and does not let up after that. Not only are the riffs powerful but the bass is extra present on this album, so you can feel it gripping pace as the band drives on. This is especially noticed in the intro to "Anti Tank (Dead Armour)", where Jo Bench is given the spotlight.

Along with the previous tracks mentioned, there are plenty of other highlight tracks. "Granite Wall's" riff is downright menacing, and it progresses into a rapid fire guitar solo, while the rest of the song gives the impression of a tank speeding across a desert. "Salvo" has a great flow as it's opening riff and slow drums evolve into a rapid pace and pounding snare. The "Last Stand of Humanity" is exceptionally brutal, with powerful drum blast all in a short heavy piece suitable for any classic death metal album.

The only thing bad against the album is that sometimes the songs do sound similar. That being said Bolt Thrower's riffs and songs have always been similar sounding, and the formula still works. The album is still fresh material, and the band has stated that they will refuse to release material they feel is subpar. That is why this is currently the band's latest album for a while, as the band continues to tour. Hopefully Bolt Thrower becomes inspired down the road to release another great album. However, Those Once Loyal is an excellent parting gift in the meantime.
Time Signature

Genre: groovy death metal

This album has everything! It's got brutality. It's got melody. It's got groove. And you can actually hear the bass in the mix!

"Those Once Loyal" is, for my money, the best Bolt Thrower album ever. The production is crisp and the musical performance is tight. There is a certain groove to this album that inspires headbangin or, at least, headbobbing. This is especially evident in "The Killchain" which is my favorite Bolt Thrower track of all times, but also in "Granite Wall", the aptly titled "Anti-Tank (Dear Armour)", and "When Cannons Fade". There are also plenty of melodic guitar riffs on this album as well as good old fashioned death metal riff, which have always been part of Bolt Thrower's style. The album is perfectly balanced in terms of brutality, groove and melody.

I would recommend this album to... well... everybody!

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