Back in 2020, here on MetalTalk, I wrote, “I love it when a band totally surprises me, and New Zealand based Black/Thrash Metallers [as they were back then] Bulletbelt have totally done that with their fourth full-length, Warlords. Not a band I was familiar with until I heard this latest release, and it totally stripped away every expectation I had as to how it might sound. I’m utterly blown away by this album. It takes a slightly different emphasis on Black ‘n’ Thrash to the one usually taken.”
Bulletbelt – Burn It Up (Impaler Records)
Release Date: 22 September 2023
Words: Jools Green
Fast forward to 2023, and Bulletbelt return with their fifth studio offering, Burn It Up, and they have totally surprised me once again, reinventing themselves as more of a Power/Heavy/Classic Metal outfit.
While sound-wise, this is a bit outside of my usual area of interest/expertise, given how much I loved the previous album, I owed it to them to check it out, and it’s an undeniably good album, well composed and delivered with a great deal to interest me still and there are still some thrashy echoes of their previous offering.
Much of the change has been facilitated by the arrival of new vocalist Diego Attinger, who brings a completely different vocal style and range to the mix, a combination of classic cleans and a deeper Death Metal snarling growl.
The eight-track offering Burn It Up spans a compact thirty-eight minutes. The band emphasise that it features all live instruments, no triggers, patches or simulations, with a renewed emphasis on hooks and choruses.
Bulletbelt believe it to be their strongest album so far, with new vocalist Diego Attinger’s arrival into the fold giving them the opportunity to take their songwriting to a different place, with Classic/Power Metal influences introduced, aiming to give the band a much broader appeal.
Opening with the title track, Burn It Up, this still has an element of the thrashy undertones to the drive from their previous offering. The thing that I really love on this track and album is the snarling, harsh vocals. They pack a punch and are delivered with clarity, sitting well with the clean backing chorus and the squealy leadwork. A fist-pumping start to the album.
Arminius is a little more classically styled, a pounding beast of a track embellished by those deep snarls, and the cleans are very powerfully delivered, giving an anthemic feel. I like the drop away, where the lyrics are delivered in a whisper and accompanied by piano briefly before the pace soars up to its original level.
Haunting keyboards and a rousing drum battery open City Of One, a track that mixes punchy elements and snarling vocals with cleaner vocal passages and melodic swathes. With a little more emphasis on keyboard work, this is a catchy number with killer squealing second-half leadwork.
No Afterlife is understatedly powerful, delivering reflective guitar work over the sound of a ticking clock, whispered spoken elements and precise pounding drum rhythms. A track that develops a heavier, more crushing feel as it progresses, it is emphasised by the arrival of harsher raw vocals backed by clean chants.
I love how those raw vocals develop into a scream towards the close before the track drops into a reflective piano-based ending. A very moving piece that has a very contemplative nature to the lyrical content.
Slightly haunting and ominous guitar work opens Burn The Witch. Vocally, it’s different from the predecessors as clean, classic vocals are the dominant factor here. Delivered with power and conviction, there is a nostalgically classic, slightly retro feel to the guitarwork. You also get female vocals on the chorus too.
Incendium Magnum Romae opens on beautiful, classically styled acoustic guitar work, building and melding into something all the more thrashier. The deep, snarling vocals return, accompanied further by a female choral element, which adds a very effective depth and texture to the track. You also get a lovely burst of squealing leadwork in this catchy little number.
Opening on haunting piano, the next piece, Cosmic, should not, on paper, appeal to me at all. It’s somewhat ballad-like, with clean vocals throughout, but it has a certain something that grabs my attention. It’s a powerful, moving piece lyrically, and there are brief moments where the vocals remind me, ever so slightly, of that ultimate Metal God himself, Rob Halford, in some of the lower-end cleans.
Final piece, House Of Death, opens on a superb burst of searing, blackened riffing. This morphs into something a little thrashier with harsh growls. Classic Metal melodic swathes and clean vocal choruses are dropped in, along with a searing, soaring blast of midpoint leadwork.
Burn It Up is definitely full of surprises and is an engaging listen that is well worth checking out.
Bulletbelt are on tour with Semblant. Tickets are available from here.
Bulletbelt European Tour 2023
Oct 5 / DE Düsseldorf / Pitcher
Oct 6 / DE Weinheim / Café Central
Oct 7 / BE Bree / Ragnarok
Oct 8 / NL Den Haag / Musicon
Oct 12 / FR Paris / Petit Bain
Oct 14 / FR Toulouse / Connexion Live
Oct 15 / FR Montpellier / Secret Place
Oct 16 / FR Lyon / Rock and Eat
Oct 18 / FR Pratteln / Suisse Z7
Oct 20 / HU Budapest / Analog Music Hall