Bolt Thrower live at the Inferno Metal Festival 2006
|Origin||Coventry, England, United Kingdom|
|Genres||Death metal, grindcore|
|Labels||Vinyl Solution, Earache, Metal Blade, Combat, Relativity|
|Past members||Andy Whale
Martin van Drunen
Bolt Thrower are a British deathgrind band from Coventry, England. They formed in 1986 and released their first album with Vinyl Solution in 1988. The band then shifted to a new record label, Earache Records, soon becoming one of the best selling bands on that label. Their current label is Metal Blade Records. The band has had a succession of members and have toured Europe, the United States, and Australia.
The band takes its name from a weapon in the popular tabletop strategy game Warhammer Fantasy Battle. The lyrics and artwork of their second, third and seventh albums were based on Warhammer Fantasy Battle and its futuristic companion Warhammer 40,000, with much of the art actually being provided by the games' publisher, Games Workshop. The general theme of their lyrics is war and its consequences.
Early history: 1986–1988
Bolt Thrower were formed in September 1986 as a thrash/punk band, influenced largely by bands such as Slayer, Crass and Discharge. The band was founded by bassist Gavin Ward and guitarist Barry Thomson in a Coventry pub toilet during a hardcore punk gig. Shortly thereafter Andrew Whale and Alan West joined on drums and vocals respectively. In April 1987 the In Battle There Is No Law demo was recorded with this line-up.
Their second recording was the Concession of Pain demo, which they made in September 1987. Gavin had switched to guitars and they recruited Alex Tweedy to play the bass. However, Alex did not show up for the recording, and so Gavin played both guitar and bass for the demo. Two weeks after the recording session, Gavin's girlfriend Jo Bench replaced Tweedy.
With this line-up they recorded their first Peel session on January 3, 1988, with John Peel, the alternative disk jockey of BBC Radio One. He had received their second demo and became enthusiastic about the band. They recorded four tracks for it, resulting in a deal with Vinyl Solution to release one album. Just before the recording of their first full-length album, they replaced their singer with their driver Karl Willetts. Their debut LP, In Battle There Is No Law is only a half hour in length and has a primitive and raw sound categorized by one review as grindcore.
They were not satisfied with the deal with Vinyl Solution as it was a pure hardcore label at that time. The label did little promotion for Bolt Thrower and their blend of death metal and hardcore punk, so after one album Bolt Thrower decided to leave Vinyl Solution and were signed by Earache Records. Earache Records had also signed many other death metal bands including Carcass and Napalm Death. The production of this album was poor, though it was an improvement on previous attempts. The artwork was done by Games Workshop as a gaming supplement they produced had a similar name to the album Bolt Thrower was about to release. After Games Workshop heard the recording of the songs for Bolt Thrower's second Peel session, which was recorded on November 6, 1988, they offered to do the expensive artwork for Bolt Thrower's album, an offer the band quickly accepted. The record was released in 1989 with the title of Realm of Chaos and with the subtitle Slaves to Darkness. Most of the lyrics to the songs were also influenced by the game, but not merely because of the deal with Games Workshop. Karl, Andy and Gavin were very much into the games Games Workshop produced and they wrote a couple of songs about these games. Some obvious examples are "Plague Bearer" and "World Eater". Most lyrics can however be projected on war, the general theme Bolt Thrower uses. After the recording of Realm of Chaos they went on the Grindcrusher Tour with label mates Napalm Death, Carcass and Morbid Angel. On the Cenotaph EP one song ("Realm of Chaos") appears that is recorded during this tour. This EP also features the two CD-bonus tracks from War Master and Realm of Chaos plus the song "Cenotaph".
Continuing, they recorded their third and final Peel session on July 22, 1990. On this three songs from the upcoming album were performed in raw versions as well as "Lost Souls Domain" off Realm Of Chaos. Next step in the history of Bolt Thrower was the album titled War Master. It was recorded, as the previous album, in the Slaughterhouse studios, which burnt down two weeks after the recordings were completed. Again Games Workshop offered to do their artwork; however as it was considered too expensive, Bolt Thrower declined the offer. The former head-designer of Games Workshop would do the artwork, resulting in quite similar artwork as that of Realm of Chaos. For the U.S. tour they did to promote the War Master album, they used an old U.S. school bus as tour bus, loaded with many computer games. All three Peel sessions were then released on one CD named The Peel Sessions 1988–90 in 1991.
Their next step was the album The IVth Crusade. The title has a double meaning, as it was their fourth studio album (not counting the Peel sessions), but the album title also refers to the Fourth Crusade and the capturing of Constantinople. The cover artwork is a painting from Eugène Delacroix, showing "The Entry of the Crusaders in Constantinople".
They downtuned their guitars even more and wrote slower songs which were heavier and more bombastic. It leans more towards doom metal influenced by bands like Candlemass, in combination with their own massive death metal sound. The album was followed by the tour World Crusade with the Polish death metal act Vader and the Swedish death metal band Grave in Europe. The band toured the U.S. again as well as Australia. During this time a single was released called Spearhead containing a very heavy, extended remix of the CD track "Spearhead" plus two new tracks and "Dying Creed" off the album.
Their next album is called ...For Victory and was released in 1994. It was the final album with Karl Willetts and Andrew Whale. Both left the band because of changing life directions. The latest American tour did not go well, they returned home prematurely and by this time the band was quite fed-up with touring. A limited edition of the album exists containing a bonus live CD, called War (sometimes called Live War). After the album release Karl Willetts was replaced by former Pestilence singer Martin van Drunen, and Martin Kearns, who took over the drum kit.
In 1995 and 1996 the band did two European tours. Then in 1997, Martin van Drunen decided to leave the band again as he had never felt he really became a part of Bolt Thrower, and also because he got a disease that made his hair fall out due to which he felt insecure on stage. For at least one show in Germany long time friend Dave Ingram stood in. Martin Kearns decided to leave. The position at the drum kit is now taken by Alex Thomas. Karl Willetts temporarily rejoined the band to do the vocal duties on the next album. The band switched record labels from Earache to Metal Blade Records, because since the U.S. ...For Victory tour they had seen a lack of success with Earache. Earache had also wanted to get rid of them and Bolt Thrower wanted to leave Earache as soon as possible, so they parted company.
The album titled Mercenary was released on September 8, 1998 in Europe and on November 10, 1998 in the USA, and features 9 tracks. It is over all a bit slower than its predecessors. However, it is definitely very heavy and sounds very much Bolt Thrower. And Karl returned to perform his previous style of singing; the hardcore punk influences have disappeared again. After the album recording, Karl left the band again and the band recruited Dave Ingram permanently after he left Benediction.
In November 1998, Earache Records released Who Dares Wins, an album featuring various older recordings, including the songs from the Spearhead EP and Cenotaph EP. The band themselves do not agree with the release of this album and warn not to buy it as they consider it a cheap cash-in from Earache. Originally, it was titled No Guts - No Glory but the title was changed because one song on Mercenary has the same title and Metal Blade objected. Following the release of the album a European tour was done, called Into the Killing Zone with Dave Ingram on vocals. Alex Thomas departed since he lacked interest in the musical direction of Bolt Thrower.
After a short European tour in 2001 (which only 5 dates), they started to work on a new album. Honour - Valour - Pride was released in late 2001 on Metal Blade and shows a progression from the direction taken on Mercenary. It contains nine tracks; the digipak has one bonus track. Martin Kearns is now back with the band after he settled his things in his life.
In 2004 the band began working on new material for their latest album. They intended to record it in the May 2004, with the release set to the end of the year by Metal Blade. Meanwhile a European tour and a U.S. tour were prepared. Unfortunately, right before the recording could begin, Dave Ingram decided to leave, due to health and personal issues. This put off the new record and tours, and priority was set to finding a new singer. On November 18, 2004, the band announced the return of Karl Willetts. Recording of the album, titled Those Once Loyal, started in May 2005; it was released on November 11 in Germany, November 14 in the rest of Europe and November 15 in the United States, 2005. It has been met with widespread critical acclaim from magazines such as Rock Sound, Rock Hard and Metal Hammer. A European tour followed in January and February 2006. A second leg followed in April, with dates in Scandinavia, UK, Spain and more.
Meanwhile, Earache has coincided the release of Those Once Loyal with a re-release of the Realm of Chaos featuring new artwork. The band encourage people not to buy it as (like Who Dares Wins) it was released without their consultation let alone consent. Furthermore, it has been alleged that the band has not received royalties from Earache for a number of years.
Bolt Thrower announced that as they were satisfied with the Those Once Loyal album, they will be indefinitely postponing the recording of another LP, as their goal was always to stop after releasing "the perfect Bolt Thrower album". However, Karl Willetts has mentioned work on a ninth album. 
Since releasing Those Once Loyal Earache has released a remastered version of the 1989 album Realm of Chaos featuring alternate artwork of John Sibbick, the artist responsible for the original artwork of both Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader cover design and Realm of Chaos - Slaves to Darkness 1989 album.
Audio files (mp3)
- Mercenary (1997)
- Honour – Valour – Pride (2001)
- Those Once Loyal (2005)
- "Bolt Thrower Official Biography". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping it PeelArtist A-Z". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- Terrorizer Magazine No. 75 (2000), 'The Decade in Death Metal', p.6-7
- "BOLT THROWER Working On New Material - February 12, 2007". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "Bolt Thrower: Past Tours". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "Interview with Martin van Drunen in Voices from the Darkside". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "BOLT THROWER Part Ways With Singer, Seek Replacement - September 1, 2004". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "BOLT THROWER Condemn EARACHE 'Realm of Chaos' Reissue - November 19, 2005". Retrieved 2007-03-04.
- "Official Bolt Thrower website News Section". Boltthrower.com. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- "War stories: bolt thrower and benediction recall their shared history". Retrieved 2009-07-08.[dead link]