BOLT THROWER (1986–PRESENT). Alan West (vocals, replaced by Karl Willets, then Martin VanDrunen, Dave Ingram, now Willets again), Gavin Ward (guitar), Barry Thompson (guitar), Jo Bench (bass), Andy Whale (drums, replaced by Alex Thomas, then Martin Kearns).
Bolt Thrower is a long-running English death metal band who have refined and perfected one of the most distinctive and aggressive styles of the subgenre. The band started in Birmingham, which, due to its depressed economic conditions and unusually gloomy weather, has inspired countless metal bands. Bolt Thrower is unique in that their lyrical themes are not so much about rotting corpses with words taken straight from a medical dictionary but they have concentrated their lyrics more on battles, armies, and warfare (including a unique bit of metal product placement, where the band teamed with the company behind the Realm of Chaos game, leading to the Warhammer record where most songs were about events in the game). Like Napalm Death, John Peel, always looking out for aggressive music, helped discover the band and featured them on his radio program on BBC1 and helped them record a Peel Sessions record. Bolt Thrower also have the distinction of having one of the few women in death metal, Jo Bench on bass. The band has evolved gradually away from the completely sped-up style of the early death metal sound to use more dynamics and slower parts when necessary, backed by Willets’s bearlike growl.
The band floundered a bit in the late nineties when Willets and original drummer Whale departed, but after a series of less-than-stellar tours and records, Willets returned in 2004 and the band has continued to tour with the renewed lineup since then. The band’s website is also well worth checking out, not just for the usual news and lyrics, but also for the band members’ profiles, where each member is ranked according to battle honors and tours of duty. Bolt Thrower may be one of the most consistent bands in death metal history and certainly is one of the most fascinating bands in that genre.
Discography: In Battle There Is No Law (Future Shock, 1988); Realm of Chaos (Combat, 1989); Warmaster (Combat, 1991); The IVth Crusade (Combat, 1993); Who Dares Wins (Combat, 1994); … For Victory (Earache, 1995); Mercenary (Metal Blade, 1998); Realm of Chaos (Earache, 1999); Honor Valor Pride (Metal Blade, 2002); Those Once Loyal (Metal Blade, 2005)