Bolt Thrower are a grimdark death metal band from Coventry who sing, or maybe growl, about Warhammer 40,000, human extinction, and the horrors of war. Or all three at once.
They were founded in Coventry in 1987 and have had a bit of a mixed lineup over the years. Originally they used to hang out with the UK hardcore punk scene (i.e. Napalm Death, Carcass, Extreme Noise Terror) and you do still get occasional hardcorers going to their shows but we happily ignore them (apart from when they threaten to beat you up for eating a burger on the bus home because they're humourless straight edge bellends who think that fat attention whore Paul Watson is some sort of fucking hero rather than the waste of arms and legs he is, but that's a different node). However, only their first album, "In Battle There Is No Law" really has any hardcore punk elements to it. From the second album, "Realm of Chaos / Slaves to Darkness," they became more robustly death metal, and they've not really changed much since then, (although their most recent album "Those Once Loyal" only has one Warhammer 40K themed song on it in the form of "A Symbol of Eight.")
What do they sound like? A World War I-era tank, you know, those big rhomboidal ones, rolling over the Boche trenches, spitting machine gun and cannon fire in all directions, crushing barbed wire under its tracks. That's what they sound like. A squad of space marines backing up to protect their battle flag while grimly outnumbered by something unspeakable. Big rumbly riffs. Swaggering bridge passages. The odd solo here and there but nothing too noodly. This is riff driven death metal at its best. It won't rape you in the face and feast on your innards, nor will it slowly send you into Edvard Munch levels of psychosis. It will, however, crush you and grind you down into the mud. This is music to besiege Stalingrad to. However. They can swing from grimness to eerily atmospheric to screaming brutality in seconds. Listen to "When Cannons Fade" or "Cenotaph" for examples of this.
It should be explained that they used to be SERIOUS 40K freaks back in the day. "Realm of Chaos / Slaves to Darkness" is I. named after a 40K sourcebook, has the same cover art as Rogue Trader, contains interior artwork by John Blanche and John Sibbick and other Games Workshop artists, and has songs called "Dark Millennium," "Through the Eye of Terror," and "World Eater." The last of these is the first in a cycle of songs that all segue into each other across each of their albums; its ending riff forms the opening riff for "Cenotaph" on their next album "Warmaster" and that in turn segues into other songs like "Powder Burns," "Embers," and most recently, "The Killchain." Which is a disturbingly groovy song about automated nuclear armageddon that one contributor to Bizarre magazine in 2005 cited as a song to make love to. I can't attest to that myself, never having pulled another Bolt Thrower fan, but I can believe it.
According to founding and now returned vocalist Karl Willetts, apparently Vinnie Jones (as in the ex Wimbledon footballer) is a fan and used to listen to their stuff before matches to get himself riled up. Which explains a lot about his playing style, which could be described not inaccurately as "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD, SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!" and also goes some way to explaining what led him to grab Paul Gascoigne's balls ("No Guts, No Glory" perhaps), but that's a separate node. I personally don't know whether this is a good thing or not, because Vinnie Jones is a cunt, but there you go.
Bolt Thrower are also unusual amongst death metal bands in having a girl in their numbers in the form of one Joanne Bench on bass. She was apparently Karl Willetts' girlfriend in the early days and I have to say, this makes Willetts a right spawny get because she was I. tasty, II. into death metal, and III. a gamer. Schwing. She's also a rather good bassist as well.
They still carry on touring ceaselessly, usually with fellow Midlanders Benediction. Their tours are the only places other than Ebay where you can get their shirts. This is deliberate. They also have a policy whereby they will never release any album unless they think it's better than their previous one. They were going to release something new in 2008 but killed it because it wasn't as good as "Those Once Loyal." I am sure that if more bands adopted this policy there would be less overrated bollox about getting fapping reviews in NME because the hack who wrote it got invited to an orgy with their manager. This also seems to work quality-wise; Encyclopaedia Metallum shows an almost unbroken run of high 80s and 90s scores for almost all their stuff ("Honour, Valour, Pride" was a bit wobbly, let's be honest). Live, they are suitably stompingly awesome; I think in my recent memory only Nile have had more ridiculously violent mosh pits (although neither are good for getting a bangover; you need to go to a thrash show for that.)
In conclusion... listen to them now. They will crush you. And if music be the food of love, then KILL BURN MAIM, IN KHORNE'S UNHOLY NAME!
Oh, one other thing. here follows a quick rundown of their releases:
- In Battle there Is No Law, 1987.
- Realm of Chaos / Slaves to Darkness, 1989.
- Warmaster, 1991.
- The IVth Crusade, 1992.
- For Victory, 1994.
- Mercenary, 1998.
- Honour, Valour, Pride, 2001.
- Those Once Loyal, 2005.