Bulletbelt - Burn It Up

Angry Metal Guy 70

Written by: Nameless_N00b_83

When the inscrutable beings who rule over the promo sump shackled me to New Zealand’s Bulletbelt, I approached with caution. Formed in 2009, Bulletbelt has operated on a (mostly) biennial release schedule of bog-standard black/thrash albums a la Skeletonwitch. Their line-up has been in a constant state of flux, regularly churning through both vocalists and guitarists, a fact that didn’t exactly inspire much hope for my latest ball and chain. It was a revelation to learn that Bulletbelt wrote the theme song for my favorite cult-classic heavy metal movie, Deathgasm. “Good enough for me!” I thought, at which point I donned my battle vest, devoured Bulletbelt’s back catalog, and proceeded to gleefully smash my stupid face into their new album: Burn It Up.

Those familiar with Bulletbelt will find them unrecognizable on Burn It Up, their days of aping Skeletonwitch behind them. See the title track for the current iteration of Bulletbelt’s killer formula: hooky black/thrash riffs that have been tempered in the fire of classic heavy metal, and explosive choruses ripped straight from the best of Iron Savior. The sound of Burn It Up refuses to stagnate, veering between more traditional heavy metal in “Burn the Witch” and adult-oriented rock in “Cosmic.” In my attempts to nail down a single-encompassing genre for Burn It Up, I’ve affectionately landed on Heavy Fuckin’ Metal. Bulletbelt wields a wide range of influences—black, power, thrash, classic heavy metal, AOR—but everything has been carefully interwoven and fine-tuned to achieve Maximum Heaviness.

Burn It Up by Bulletbelt

It’s through Diego Attinger’s vocals that Burn It Up truly soars. This album is the beginning of Attinger’s tenure with Bulletbelt, and he exhibits a broader range than anyone Bulletbelt featured before. The growls are fast and furious, and the cleans drip with endearing edginess in the coarse timbre of “Cosmic” and the Visigoth machismo of “Burn the Witch.” More than anything, these jams are catchy. Attinger’s voice compels you to join him in belting your heart out for the chorus, which I’ve fallen victim to time and time again. I’ve tried to stop revisiting “Arminius,” “City of One,” and “Incendium Magnum Romae,” but those fiery choruses have chiseled their way into my brain. Bulletbelt purists might prefer the hostile vocals of yore, and certain discerning metalheads might scoff at Attinger’s edgier cleans, but this is a captivating new direction for Bulletbelt. Diego Attinger is the secret weapon of Burn It Up, and I hope he defies the Bulletbelt legacy of cycling through singers because he absolutely rips.

Sound junkies might be a little put off by the in-your-face production and the inconsistent mix. The guitars are aggressively forward alongside the vocals, arming the punchier songs like the title track and “Arminius” with an infectious weight, but the mix is obnoxiously loud in “No Afterlife.” Depending on your speakers, chunks of “Incendium Magnum Romae” can sound smothered and some riffs in “House of Death” might shoot up in volume. There are, as always, plenty of other nits to pick—a weak midsection, the chorus in “House of Death” sounding more like a pre-chorus, overextended spoken word sections in “Burn the Witch”—but these criticisms are inconsequential in the face of all that Burn It Up gets right. In truth, Burn It Up kicks ass, and I have to go out of my way to be bothered by a few missteps. It’s so much easier to just bang my head as Bulletbelt commands.

After I felt utterly lukewarm about Bulletbelt’s previous releases, Burn It Up lit a fire in me. This is the best Bulletbelt has ever been, and their combination of blackened classic heavy metal with Diego Attinger’s towering vocals outshines whatever minor flaws Burn It Up might have. By now I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve let Burn It Up repeat, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. I cannot recommend this album enough to those who want to raise their fist, bang their head, and feel the burn, baby.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Impaler Records
Websites: bulletbeltnz.bandcamp.com | bulletbelt-official.com | facebook.com/bulletbelt
Releases Worldwide: September 22nd, 2023

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Wed Sep 20 19:02:10 GMT 2023