"III: The Rommel Chronicles" is, predictably, more of the same from the titanic Hail of Bullets. Advancing once more are the primitive elements of blitzing death metal led by an elite ensemble of veterans who have all lived up to the majesties of their previous bands and efforts with the might of Hail of Bullets' assault. The album doesn't match the muscle of "On Divine Winds" or the superb "...of Frost and War," but Hail of Bullets is an adept to the art of death metal, and the squad's attack remains ruthless and cunning. Hail of Bullets has actually aged and evolved quite well, although "III: The Rommel Chronicles" occasionally deploys a tune that sounds like a T-34 but flops like a Schwinn with flat tires.
My only complaint with "III: The Rommel Chronicles" is that it at times feels like another day at the office. The pacing, riffs, drum patterns, and vocals of some anthems appear almost routine rather than invoking a measure of drama or the essence of war that many of Hail of Bullets' previous efforts had so elegantly captured with their mixes of atmosphere and brutality. It's merely a minor scuff on an otherwise colossal display of punishment; Hail of Bullets again relies on its greatest strength: being Hail of Bullets. Stephan Gebédi and Paul Baayens bring only the purest death metal riffs to the table; their performances are filled with all the groovy slop and sheer malevolence of a herd of tanks rolling through a village with Bolt Thrower blasting in the background. The simple lead ending "DG-7" might be the most brilliant piece of guitar work Hail of Bullets has ever put down on tape; it's absolutely wonderful.
Ed Warby, one of the more underappreciated drummers in death metal, is remarkably consistent and powerful throughout "III: The Rommel Chronicles" as expected, and Theo van Eekelen's bass acts hardy underneath the barrage of heavy stuff leveling the ears of the unfortunate. Martin van Drunen is awesome as usual, though his voice looks more focused and precise when compared to most of his erratic performances back in the days of Asphyx and Pestilence; he's aged nicely as a vocalist, and that refinement definitely shows. The songs are pretty much how anyone familiar with the group would picture them, but they have some really excellent stuff boiling in the trenches. The exterminating, melancholic thumps of "Death of a Field Marshal" are just fantastic, and I frequently snap my neck listening to "Swoop of the Falcon" and "DAK."
No, not much different from "On Divine Winds" and "...of Frost and War," and it's certainly the weakest of the bunch, but "III: The Rommel Chronicles" is often a reasonable continuation of the Hail of Bullets conquest, occasionally a snapshot of the band's utter brilliance and mastery of death metal. Once more they prove that Hail of Bullets is a well-oiled machine that runs on pure power and strength, not false ideals or a fake veil of authenticity that emphasizes the importance of image over quality. The demolition of Hail of Bullets makes "III: The Rommel Chronicles" a surefire product of noisome, wreckful, annihilative death metal cooked up by the most credible musicians around, and there's little wrong with the record to call it a stalemate of any kind.