Realm Of Chaos - 1989 - Earache
War Master - 1991 - Earache
The Fourth Crusade - 1992 - Earache
...For Victory - 1994 - Earache
Mercenary - 1998 - Earache
Honour, Valour, Pride - 2001 - Metal Blade
Those Once loyal - 2005 - Metal Blade
Live War – 2010 - Earache
S= Karl Willets>>Memoriam - Karl Willets>>Memoriam - Al West - Benediction, Eyegouger, Warlord>>Dave Ingram>>Downlord, Hail Of Bullets, Echelon, Down Among The Dead Men – Memoriam>>KARL WILLETS>>Memoriam
G= BAZ [BARRY THOMAS] - GAVIN WARD
B= JO-ANNE BENCH
D= Colosotomy>>Andy Whale>> Colosotomy, Memoriam – Adem>>Alex Thomas>>Earl Shilton, With The Dead - Martin Kearns
The band recorded its demo Concessions In Pain in 1987. Like many English bands, Bolt Thrower's career got a boost in 1988 shortly after appearing on a John Peel session. The band makes its mantra solid and crunchy grindcore from the start and is immediately a fan favourite. On Earache the band appears on the Grindcrusher sampler and consequent tour and releases a string of albums that maintain the grindcore habit yet mix in some death metal. The band gets a positive reputation for its massive sound achieved through its collaboration with Colin Richardson. The band's drummer and singer are increasingly unhappy with style and touring and leave the band, but agree to record with the band should the need arise. The band has cause for anger, has abruptly abandoned a US tour with Benediction and even vows never to be booked at or play the Milwaukee Metal Fest in the USA again. The band supports ...For Victory with 17-year-old drummer Kearn and former Asphyx singer Martin Van Drunen whose recruitment was met with much skepticism on the scene. Van Drunen's style is removed from that of his predecessor and the fans do not know what to expect. An American interview in which Van Drunen, influenced by his new wife his former promotions person at Century Media, seems more interested in feminism does not help matters either. For Victory sees an end with the band's sponsors Games Workshop (see band name) and a picture of the Falkland War replaces the legendary cover. Having recorded no albums and caught in a revolt against Earache (who at this time see the future in bands like Misery Loves Company and Ultraviolence), Van Drunen leaves the fold presumably ill with a disease causing hair loss. Rumour has it the Dutch singer does not see his image suitable any longer as such. Old friend, Dave Ingram of Benediction joins the band at first for live activity and then permanently. At this juncture, the band tours Europe with label mates Fleshcrawl.
In the summer of 2004 the band announced the departure of vocalist Dave Ingram. In a statement, the band said: "Dave has been suffering with health and personal problems for a while now and he has decided that it would be best if he left the band to concentrate on his recovery. We would like to thank him for the 6 years he dedicated to the band and we wish him all the very best for the future." The recording of a new album was delayed. The band was soon rejoined by original vocalist Karl Willetts and began writing a new album. The album, Those Once loyal, was recorded at Andy Faulkner's Sable Rose studios and issued in November of 2005. The group ceased its new album’s writing and recording process in 2008 believing that the new material would not top the Brits’ last album, Those Once Loyal. Live War was originally the second CD on the special edition of ...For Victory in 1994. The band was organizing a 2011 'Bolty Birthday Bash' to celebrate its 25th birthday. Bolt Thrower was playing half a dozen shows in the USA in May of 2013. In October of 2015, Martin "Kiddie" Kearns died at the age of 38. He died in his sleep after feeling sick at rehearsal for the now cancelled Australian tour the day before. After years of inactivity and death of drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns a year before Bolt Thrower made its break-up official in September of 2016.
Jo and Gavin were a couple.
BOLT THROWER - THOSE ONCE LOYAL - METAL BLADE
In the brief history of death metal, the pattern of bands toning down their heaviness and conceding to commercialism after a mere album or two has already established itself. This is the usual crap that the fans have to go through: The realization that their favourite band has traded in its integrity for a groove and two bundles of cash. England’s Bolt Thrower, in a pattern-defying move, has become the first ever band to release five death metal albums without compromise (excepting Napalm Death’s grindcore maneuvers). A welcome rarity and reason to chat with guitar Barry Thomson about the band and that recently released fifth onslaught, For Victory. - Ali “The Metallian”
Barry, your band has just released its fifth album which, musically, is no less heavy than its predecessor. Yet by the same token, it is a target for critics unaccustomed to such consistence. Barry concurs, “The album is total Bolt Thrower. There are no blast beats anymore, but it has speed, control and what you expect from us. The British press has slagged us for not changing, but we are happy with what we do. We have our individual style. Why change if you are individual and unique? Just because the new thing is to have rocky riffs?”
It is my belief that the so-called metal press, for the most part, exist to encourage bands down the road of commercialism. “Yeah, they want us to,” affirms Barry. “They say, ‘Oh, it’s just another Bolt Thrower album.’ What do you want? You want Entombed, then go listen to Entombed! But, if you want Bolt Thrower, then buy a Bolt Thrower album. At least you won’t be disappointed.”
An integral part of any Bolt Thrower album is the excellent work of producer Colin Richardson. While his work is renowned, it is with BT that he achieves his best results. “Colin can’t get the Bolt Thrower sound on his own,” claims Barry in his British accent. “When we write ‘produced by Colin Richardson and Bolt Thrower,”it is. We want it done right. When it’s time for mixing, Colin has a go, and we come in and say, ‘No, that’s not right, we want more this and more that, et cetra.’ It’s a joint thing.”
This recording process is one which the band has seemingly established as a routine. Something that cannot be said for the recent departure of vocalist Karl Willets and drummer Andy Whale – the first line-up change within the signed band. “One of the reasons they left is what we were just talking about, the musical style,” reflects Barry. “They wanted to expand and be more mainstream. There was no way Bolt Thrower was going to do that. People say there were arguments within the band. Sure, but at the end of the day, they just didn’t want to do it anymore.”
Could you see the departure coming or was it a surprise? “We could see it coming,” reveals the guitarist. “It was going on for nine months before it actually happened. They kept saying ‘this is it, this is it,’ and during our North American tour, the end it was. That was something that needed to be sorted out because the band didn’t know where it stood.”
The new additions to the line-up of guitarists Barry Thomson and Gavin Ward, and bassist Jo Bench are, “Martin van Drunen (vocals) who got the job because he’s been a close friend ever since we toured with Pestillence and Autopsy. That tour went really well and we got on with Martin. We have a new drummer called Martin Kerns who is from my home town of Coventry. He’s only 17 years old. He puts young blood into the band.”
While I appreciate Martin Van Drunen’s vocals, I have to question whether his particular tone and style are appropriate for Bolt Thrower, knowing that he sings in a relatively higher pitch. Barry foresees, “He might have to take it down a bit, but you can’t expect him to sing like Karl. No one wants Martin to sing like Karl anyway.” Despite Barry’s reassurances, it is interesting to note that the band, at the time of this interview, had not yet rehearsed with Martin! Barry responds, “Our first gig is in two weeks, and he’s coming over next week. Then we are going to tour Europe for six weeks with Asphyx and Cemetary.” Note: Since this chat Asphyx were taken off the bill due to intra-band differences. Brutality accepted the replacement slot.
While we are on the subject of tours, let me ask about the reasons behind the cancellation of several dates last summer during your North American trek. “We missed a lot of dates because they were cancelled,” he remembers. “Milwaukee Metal Fest? We were supposed to play at midnight, and they were saying we have to be there to pick up our passes at 8:00 AM! We had a long drive through the night after a gig. To get there at 8:00 was ridiculous; so we didn’t bother. It turned out that we made the right decision, because the bands which played last ended up playing two songs! People should come see us at a real gig.”
Elsewhere I asked Barry for his opinion of their long time label Earache Records. Is the band content with the label’s work? Barry opinionates: “All record companies are bad – it’s a dirty business. Earache is one of the better ones, which doesn’t mean they are good. All this bullshit about being cool to be on an indie label – it’s not. They are money-grabbers like everyone else. Look at Nuclear Blast: they have a hundred bands. It’s ridiculous. That’s what’s killing the scene. At least Earache has few bands.”
That about sums up my questions, but as a final note I ask whether there is anything the Briton would like me to insert in the interview. His response: “Don’t believe everything you read.”
Unless it is written by me of course. “Ha ha. I say that because I may do an interview and my views don’t agree with the interviewer. Then he will paint a bad picture of us. We have a bad reputation, I suppose, because we don’t lick the music press’ arse. We don’t give them freebies. That’s what it’s like in Europe; you give them a free jacket and they give you a good review. It’s just bullshit. We don’t do that so we don’t get in any mags. I don’t think people realize how dirty this business is. You can’t get on MTV unless you give them money. To interview you, they want you to pay them first class tickets to come out and see you at a destination they haven’t been to before – it’s annoying.” Precisely. MTV is nothing but an outlet for jaded pop and rap, and at the risk of repeating myself. I invite everyone to ignore such media. There is far better music on offer on today’s music scene than MTV drivel. Bolt Thrower’s For Victory is now available at a store near you.
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 14.
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