While Hail of Bullets' focus on war has always given their brand of brutal, no-frills death metal a refreshing, thematic change of pace from their contemporaries, it always felt more like flavoring than an actual concept. On their third album, III: The Rommel Chronicles, the band focus the attention from the horrors of war as a general theme to the rise and fall of legendary German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, tracking the career of the man known as the Desert Fox with an album that skirts the line between concept album and historical essay. While the album's destructive, riff-heavy sound comes as no surprise, what's most interesting here is the earnestness with which Hail of Bullets tackle the subject matter. Unlike other death metal bands, whose lyrics about death, destruction, and gore create a sense of escapist fantasy, III: The Rommel Chronicles' lyrics feel surprisingly grounded. This makes for an experience that feels less like a death metal album and more like the heaviest, most sonically crushing history book on tape the world has ever known. Despite the lyrics lacking a certain level of sensationalism, Hail of Bullets' decision to hunker down and really explore one topic provides the album with a narrative through-line to propel the listener deeper and deeper into the album. Sure, in a sea of new things to try, historical documentary seems like an odd choice, but with its fine balance between history and heaviness, III: The Rommel Chronicles shows that there are still some new directions to take in the world of death metal.
AllMusic Review by Gregory Heaney