are a band who’ve actually gone through quite a bit of change throughout their career, contrary to popular perception. Beginning in 1987 as a punk/grind-infused death metal, they evolved steadily over three albums, slowly incorporating more conventional melody into the mix and becoming a measurably tighter and more disciplined band before finally resulting in this record.
In some ways, I’ve always consider The IVth Crusade
to be the opposite of their first two records. Whereas In Battle
There Is No Law feels like a vicious, nasty skirmish in a war, The IVth Crusade
, instead, takes on a much more grandiose look at warfare than the previous albums did. The riffcraft on this record reflects this; the riffs on this have a more openly melodic, even graceful feel, compared to the dirtier, more grind-infused craft of the first two records. This album is certainly very openly melodic, but the melody is always used as an excellent counterpoint to the churning grooves which this band employs so excellently. The songs are excellently put together and arranged, with a careful, meticulous feel to their construction and craft, especially compared to previous BT albums, residing mostly in the mid-pace field, with surprisingly careful transistions marking these songs.
In terms of highlights, the title track is a clear winner, its (masterful) opening riff and the accompanying drums clearly set the tone for the record. This record rolls on with an incredible sense of consistency and power, until the slightly doomy “As The World Burns” and the excellent “This Time It’s War
”, both featuring outstanding riffwork and a fantastic sense of development. The songs on this are consistent, memorable, and yet certainly stand up to repeated listens.
The performances on this are pretty heavily improved over past works, in my eyes. Whereas the sloppy performances of previous records fit what the band was trying to accomplish, they would’ve been out of place here. Instead, the performances on this record are tight and precise, fitting this style perfectly, but at the same time, they hardly come off as overly sterile as well. The production job is excellent: clear, thick, and powerful, with a churning, heavy character to the guitar tone that manages to capture even the more melodic moments with ease, and the mix is well done.
It’s true that this is not as frantic or wild as earlier Bolt Thrower
albums, but what The IVth Crusade
loses in that, it gains a sense of meticulous discipline and patience with where to take these songs. This to me is the absolute height of this band’s discography and an example of mid-paced death metal done to excellence. Highly recommended.