Bolt Thrower - In Battle There Is No Law
Vinyl Solution
Grindcore, Death Metal
9 songs (30:21)
Release year: 1988
Bolt Thrower
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

It's often a surprise to remember that the giants of English extreme metal - Napalm Death, Carcass, Bolt Thrower and so on - had their roots not in Death Metal's golden age of the early nineties, but earlier, back in the Hardcore Punk that first gave messy birth to the whole rotten mess. For the warmasters themselves, Grind was not to be turned progressive and melodic, a la Carcass, nor was it the simultaneous springboard to musical evolution and anchor to reliability that Napalm Death earned their good names with. Instead, Bolt Thrower kept the punkish spirit of Grind at the heart of their pummelling sound, using Death Metal as a surrounding carapace, a sort of armour for the blistering engine inside. The results, whatever some may tell you, are far more impressive than the band's underserved reputation for making an album and then repeating it ad infinitum - fine, so they've changed less than their peers. If, however, you can genuinely hear no difference between 2005's Those Once Loyal and, heading right back to the beginning of their career, In Battle There Is No Law, then your ears clearly need fixing.

Way back before they even signed to Earache and released 1989's Realm Of Chaos, the album that would kick-start their legend, Bolt Thrower's debut full-length had as much in common with Hardcore Punk of the Discharge variety as it did the emerging horde of Death Metal. Just look at the grisly artwork, an entire evolutionary stage before the Warhammer 40,000™ connection arose - it's the same politically-charged horror that the early Crust and Grind scenes used for artwork, cheap yet timeless and powerful pieces of artwork that got the band's message across in a much more effective way than the sterile Photoshopped monstrosities of today. In Battle There Is No Law is a primitive yet intense burst of rage, generally ignored when fans total up the greatest bolts thrown since it lacks the sheer power and brutality of slabs of aural warfare like 1992's The IVth Crusade, but it's still a great listen, particularly if you enjoy the earliest forms of Death and Grind.

Fans of the band will know that they've had a pretty stable line-up compared to most, and Karl Willetts, Jo Bench, Barry Thompson and Gavin Ward are all present and correct. As with other Death Metal releases from back in the day, there's a certain Thrash vibe to the music here, yet it's hard to decide exactly what genre a particular riff fits into. The production doesn't help, admittedly; muffling the sound and not really giving any one instrument dominance, although it should all be perfectly tolerable for those used to the underground sounds of the late eighties. Songs are straightforward and to the point, frantically-paced squads of riffage that grind and groove their way into your head with little mercy - those expecting a Scummy noisefest will be surprised at how good the music here actually is, particularly the Slayerish likes of Forgotten Existence which approach melody at times. There are several tracks just shy of three minutes' length which should set off headbanging fits, Denial Of Destiny especially showing off the Bolt Thrower sound more or less as most people know it today.

It's hard to criticise In Battle There Is No Law, ultimately. Most Death Metal fans are more than happy to experience the pulverising battle cry that is a Bolt Thrower album, and whilst this is clearly an early, rough form of the band's later sound it's impossible to mistake it for any other band. Fans should already have this, but there are many delights for be found for those in search of the roots of extreme metal as we know it. It's not quite the gleeful exuberance of a young band sent into battle for the first time, the metaphor around which I was originally planning to build this review, but as an initial volley In Battle There Is No Law is extremely effective.

Killing Songs :
In Battle There Is No Law, Forgotten Existence, Nuclear Armageddon
Goat quoted 77 / 100
Other albums by Bolt Thrower that we have reviewed:
Bolt Thrower - The IVth Crusade reviewed by Goat and quoted CLASSIC
Bolt Thrower - Those Once Loyal reviewed by Alex and quoted 89 / 100
Bolt Thrower - Honour-Valour-Pride reviewed by Paul and quoted 95 / 100
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