Highway Pirates? Well, that album title blows more than the Last Airbender! If I didn’t already know the music of Sweden’s Bullet, I would likely skip over this release based on severe title failure alone. I mean, c’mon, Highway Pirates? Pair that with the painfully cheesy 80s style album cover and these guys are not doing themselves any favors from a strictly promotional standpoint. Thankfully though, I do know Bullet and what they deliver, which is 110% throwback retro metal/hard rock that sounds like a fusion of old AC/DC and old Accept. I was pretty taken with the goofy but infectiously rockin’ charm of their 2008 album Bite the Bullet and little has changed here as far as sound, style or intent. This is simple, neanderthal metal/rock without any attempts to be thoughtful or important in any way. Beer drinking music, drunken weekend music, call it what you will but this is fun and catchy stuff without pretense. Is it original? No. Is it modern? No. Is it good? Yes, yes it is.
As I’m sure most readers of this wondrous blog can more or less imagine what a hybrid of AC/DC and Accept would sound like, I shan’t go into a huge breakdown of the whys and wherefores of the sound [which is actually redundant since “wherefore” means why – AMG]. I will say that Bullet writes short, four to five minute guitar-driven metal/rock anthems with simple structures and delivery that are meant to be played very loudly. You get a catchy main riff repeated throughout the song and an equally catchy, rockin’ chorus. At times on Highway Pirates you can even hear similarities with Airbourn. Songs like the title track (where the legendary Biff Byford of Saxon provides a whistle in the background, no seriously, that’s all he does), “Back on the Road” and “Heavy Metal Dynamite” all rock out with a gleeful single mindedness that has to be admired if not appreciated. As much as I hate to admit it, a few of these songs could have fit on the first Cinderella album (“Heavy Metal Dynamite” and “Fire and Dynamite,” yep two songs with dynamite in the title, the nerve!) and they give me a near uncontrollable urge to drink cheap beers down in somebody’s basement bar. Likewise, “Back on the Road” could have been on Krokus’s Headhunter album. Since I’m losing metal cred by the word, I digress. Now, not every song here is pure spun gold and a few verge on filler (“Blood Run Hot” and “Down and Out”) but most of the album is catchy, well executed old school metal.
That brings us to the main rub with Bullet. The vocals of Dag Hell Hofer are the very definition of acquired taste. His delivery is quite over the top and sounds like Udo from Accept mixed with Chris Boltendahl from Gravedigger if one had rabies and the other had hemorrhoids, both chronic. Yep, he sounds exactly like that. I know from first hand experience some people cannot stomach his manic shrieking, though I personally find it fun, very metal and entirely appropriate for the music. If shrill, screeching vocals are a deal breaker for you, Bullet will leave you with a badly broken deal indeed.
Hey, why so serious? Sometimes we all get too frazzled or wound up to listen to anything complex. For those times, Bullet might be the perfect numbskulled, cheese metal escapism you need. Forget the loser album title and the hideously pathetic cover and just scream along with good old Dag. Feel better now? Sure you do matey!