Bolt Thrower are an important band to me. They were the group that I’d turn to, to motivate a wrathful rush of endorphins when I first started working out and a consummate musical aperitif to beer consumption. In short, I grew up with their atom-smashing death metal and I was close to openly weeping when I realized that 2005’s Those Once Loyal would be their last album to worry my ears. So when I heard that Karl Willetts and former drummer Andy Whale were teaming up with two pals from another British death metal institution, Benediction, to form Memoriam, not least to pay tribute to fallen BT drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns, my trousers were blown to smithereens. In the wake of the demise of mantle-bearers Hail of Bullets, For The Fallen comes to us in our time of need, locked and loaded and ready to lead the charge… to victory! Prepare for a whole battalion of questionable war puns.

Now, rightly or wrongly, I put a certain expectation on this release. I really wanted it to be at least good and, thankfully, it is. The songwriting sticks to a blueprint of unsurprisingly simplistic but ever-indelible riffing — after all, this was never going to be jazz-fusion. “Memoriam,” a pseudo intro, throws a respectful salute to Kearns and bassist Frank Healy’s late father in its commemorative lyrics and commences the album with thick, staccato palm mutes. “Reduced to Zero” the pre-release track, did nothing to impress me when I first heard it — I’m happy to report that in the context of the album, it’s actually a very effective song. Its marching main riff is one of the record’s most enduring and is currently pacing through my brain even as I draft this review.

For the Fallen is a record of two halves, with the back end unevenly weighted with the heavy artillery. The unarguable centerpiece, “Flatline,” is the defining moment of the album, tooled with all the best riffs and probably the most diversity, brandishing urgent tremolo sections in between the awesome rhythms. Similarly, “Surrounded (By Death)” perpetuates massive lines of thrash inspired locomotion, bludgeoning in its simplicity and neck-cracking in its quality. The material, even the better stuff, does have a tendency to run a little too long, however. Worst offender, “Corrupted System,” starts with a raw punk energy and initially captured my imagination in much the same way “Wrong Side of the Grave” (ironically featuring Karl Willetts) did, a fantastic cover of The Accused from Benediction‘s benchmark Transcend The Rubicon. Sadly, the track eventually descends into a stock middling pace and, at 6+ minutes, consistently fails to hold my attention.

The production is coherent and crisp and keeps Scott Fairfax’s guitars front and center along with Karl Willetts’ voice. In truth, the legendary vocalist’s pipes have lost some of their lustre and the once muscular delivery that shook generations to the core on ballistics like “World Eater” and “Cenotaph,” is now a little strained, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t still bellow out his lines with as much conviction as ever, reinforcing the better songs with enough attitude to compensate for any discrepancies. The real spotlight is on Fairfax and his riff craft. Although perpetuating a clear ode to the kind of mid-paced demolition Bolt Thrower were renowned for, it’s his time spent reproducing the more thrash spliced ruckus of Benediction that actually does For the Fallen the biggest favor, allowing the record a certain amount of variation. “Last Words,” the album’s tumultuous end, even sports sombre melodies in its verses, and closes out in grand fashion.

Although unlikely to knock Realm of Chaos or The IVth Crusade out of rotation, For the Fallen certainly has the firepower to out-gun half of Benediction‘s back catalog, and leaves the somnambulant Honour – Valour – Pride still wandering in the wastes in search of a personality. “War Rages On” stirs into life with a quote from the transcripts of Neville Chamberlain’s declaration of war, but I’ll leave it to Churchill to summarize these soldiers: “The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is.” And the truth here is, although these dogs may not be as deadly, they are most definitely still dangerous. Support the war effort.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: March 24th, 2017

Share →
  • Sean Sky

    Oh shit first comment… uhhhh uhhhh hi! Excited to check this out!

  • drug_genosh

    I liked “Realm of Chaos” but never got into anything that came after however that embedded track tickles my pickle. Maybe its those squealies but now im interested in checking out the rest of this fo sho

  • Zach Ward

    When talkin bout bolt thrower I always bring up the riff from Where Next to Conquer. That riff has a habit of making me do explicit things to myself I won’t dare speak of… This may be something very special soon.

  • Anon.

    Disappointed with Karl’s vocals, they sound tired. Too bad really as the music is generally fine.

    • Frost15

      He’s 50 man, he does a good job given his age. This review is spot on, a nice effort, but not a great album.

      • Anon.

        Karl’s voice sounded fine a few years ago so I guess age is a factor. Then again, Martin Van Drunen & John Tardy are also 50 and still sound killer.

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          My reply was going to be about how John Tardy is 49 and sounds every bit as awesome as he did 28 years ago. He still sounds as if thick black blood spills from his mouth with every vocalization.

          • Anon.

            Partly too I wonder if Karl intentionally changed his style, kinda like Barney from Napalm did a few years back.

        • Sean Sky

          Some guys probably just lose a step from years of screaming their lungs out. Some guys probably just lose the fire even if they’re still capable.

          • Chris_Martin

            Karl was on the MetalSucks podcast recently, and he did indicate that he was trying a different vocal style, and that the band in general didn’t want to be “Bolt-ediction” or “Bene-thrower.” Some of that difference is probably age-related, though, as you say.

            It’s actually quite a good interview, even though the MetalSucks podcast guys are grating.

          • Reese Burns

            Well, Metalsucks is grating in general. But having heard that interview, I agree.

          • Sean Sky

            Interesting. Good to know.

  • Name’s Dalton

    So, someone on eBay is selling a long-sleeved Bolt Thrower shirt with tiny holes in it, a coupla stains on it and tattered hems for $479. Seems reasonable.

    • follower of buddha

      BT merch was rare and damn expensive already back when they were in active status, so prices predictably jumped completely out of this world when they retired the band.

    • Reese Burns

      Describe these, erm, “stains”?

  • rumour_control

    “…and leaves the somnambulant Honour – Valour – Pride still wandering in the wastes in search of a personality.” — Nice bit of writing. Good read.

  • Jason

    Sounds like the vocals are behind the instruments. It’s definitely headbangable, but I don’t think the vocals match the ferocity of the music (at least in the embedded track).

  • Sean Sky

    Unrelated to this album but if you need someone to make a new background image and implement it into your HTML just let me know… I’m sick of the sweaty man bun already =D

  • Even before reading the review and listening to the track, I had to jump down here and write few words about how epic the artwork is. So…
    The artwork is EPIC.
    Ok, done.

    • rumour_control

      Agreed. Found this on the band’s site:
      “The album’s impressive artwork was created by Dan Seagrave (BENEDICTION, DISMEMBER, HYPOCRISY, SUFFOCATION,…).”

  • Morbidly Obese Angel

    About the vocals, Karl did say in an interview that he wanted his vocals to sound a bit different than what he did with Bolt Thrower. Could be the reason his vocals sound “strained”, could also be his age too, he is 50 so..

    • [not a Dr]

      Your disqus name is a work of art.

  • Dead1

    I really wanted this one to kick arse but have been disappointed instead.
    It’s ok but nothing out of the ordinary and certainly no Bolt Thrower. That may be the Benediction influence – they were always such a mediocre band.

  • EnslavedEld73

    Excellent release. I think his slightly changed vocals totally fit this record.

  • Steve Critchley

    If ever a band was signed due to past glories of its members then its Memoriam. This makes me sad as i’ve been into Bolt Thrower since 1988, but this album is truly well below average in terms of riffs, songwriting and especially vocals.

  • herrschobel

    ha…i couldn´t agree more to the first paragraph…i don´t know on how many occasions i have been blasting bolt thrower OR Benediction through my headphones doing my ‘high speed’ walks through the city … made me feel like a superman ready to tear out some cement pillars or throw around some SUVs and eat some rich people….those 2 Bands are probably my most favourite Death Metal Bands next to early Entombed … ah i still like all …fuck all these purists…while this will take some getting used to i have no beef with the vocals…sounds different and yeah old, battered and roughed up..but that man still bites … if any of you young Gentleman have this conviction and dedication to your craft when you are 50, we talk again ! … it´s good to see these old dogs coming out and still kick some ass…so just for that 3.5 …

  • Aesir

    Vox ruin it for me, sorry.

  • Ta2dlam

    This isn’t usually something I would dig but I like the embedded track quite a bit. The cool thing for me is while searching more of these guys after reading the review I stumbled across Disbelief. Now that shit got me going way more than this. Definitely worth checking out the Navigator album and the couple tracks from their upcoming release.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Nah this album is absolutely a solid 4 out of 5. Its disgustingly old school, ball exploding loveliness.

  • The Unicorn

    Very good release, but the songwriting is not up to snuff with Bolt Thrower and what I expect. Nonetheless, digging it. Good review too.

  • Zrinko Maloseja

    Really wanted to love the album. Love Benediction, love Bolt Thrower, love the artwork, love the vocals… but the riffs are crap. The first song is unbearably uncreative. Meh. Damn it!