Earache Records is repressing the vinyl LPs of Bolt Thrower, Carcass, and Morbid Angel from the original tapes due to popular demand and inflated Ebay and Discogs prices. I reviewed the “Full Dynamic Range” remaster of Altars of Madness last year which sounded great. All are available for pre-order from Earache’s webstore and digital versions of most are on Earache’s Bandcamp page.
Bolt Thrower have finally officially broken up after going on hiatus following the death of their long-term drummer Martin “Kiddie” Kearns. Vocalist Karl Willets forming Memorian with original, still-living drummer Andy Whale heralded this. Bolt Thrower had not released an album in over a decade and their studio output had been a pale shadow of their 1980s grindcore peak. The band released a statement on their website:
Starting in the mid to late Eighties, many of the originators of death and black metal started to commercialize their music into straight speed metal for mass appeal to a bar show, beer metal audience; social concert goers in the uniforms of leather jackets, band tees, and high tops who treated shows as a time to socialize and shoot the shit with their friends while listening to typical bands that never challenged their musical preconceptions or startled them away from their ritualized moshing. Just a few years prior, many of these types would’ve been the same idiots seen in Heavy Metal Parking Lot. While most of their peers moved on from Judas Priest to Motley Crue and Guns ‘n’ Roses, many listened to what was considered an “acceptable” fusion of heavy metal and radio rock played by groups like post-Ride the Lightning Metallica, Anthrax, and Testament.
Popular music is a hard gig. To maximize your chances, you quit doing everything else and it becomes your only option in life. Then if that turns out poorly, you have the choice of being a 40-year-old shelf stocker at the local grocery, or swallowing your pride and becoming a cheesy third-ring entertainment figure. For this reason, musicians — especially those who first bands did not make the final cut of election to “favorite” of the public — tend to pander, flatter and provoke the public whenever they can. The resulting drama is the only thing standing between them and putting those cans on the shelves.
And yet, drama finds us all. It started on Twitter. Drama often starts on Twitter:
To clarify what is happening here: some armchair white knight decides that because some guy out there does not like homosexuals, there must be a social activity consisting of people gathering to hate on this guy. As usual, I point out the reality-based analysis which is that his opinion does not concern us; let him do his thing, and you do yours, and stop being a busybody nanny state jackbooted interloper simply because your life is boring and your society is failing and you want a scapegoat for all your problems. Grow up, in other words.
That set off a chain of nasty replies. According to David Ingram (Benediction, Bolt Thrower): if you defend free speech, you are on the side of “hate” and you are a very, very bad person. To him, defending the right of people to coexist is the same as endorsing the most extreme of their opinions, even though I never said anything in support of what the guy said, only his right to say it and the maturity of letting him enjoy that freedom over there without our action against him. Free speech works when the other guy says what he wants, and you say what you want, and you do not directly intervene in one another. Boycotts and mob attacks change that, even if non-violent, and we all suffer as a result.
Not wanting to let a good dialogue drop, I took it up with Ingram when one of his promotional spams hit our inbox:
Again we see the formula: defend free speech and you are a Nazi.
Join the angry mob and you are “good.”
Interesting to see Mr. Ingram cave to this. I suspect he is just doing it to try to keep his (flagging) career alive, and I have sympathy for that. But one can never truly have sympathy for those who use bad logic and are motivated more by hatred (of anyone who disagrees with them) than a desire to do right.
English battle poets Bolt Thrower will, according to their homepage, be playing at the Maryland Deathfest on May 23rd, Chaos in Tejas Festival in Austin a week later and Tuska Open Air Festival (Finland) on June 28th. At Deathfest they’ll be joined by Antaeus and Carcass among others.
Bolt Thrower made deathy grindcore during the late 80s and early 90s probably culminating in the epic …For Victory (1994).
Awakened in remorse
To rebuild from destruction
Recreate life’s evolution
Returning from the brutality of a Bolt Thrower show to recollect the events that defined it brings to mind the task of Ernst Junger, depicting the graphic scenes of martial violence and destruction in his soldier’s memoirs, ‘Storm of Steel’. Not merely the sounds of war and chaos, but the philosophy of death is what one has to confront on such a stage, and this sums up the depth of the Bolt Thrower experience. The great elemental gods of Britannia fired the opening salvo of the evening, unleashing a torrential downpour on the troops to be in attendance once conscripted into the dismal but still functional ULU venue, around the University College London site and home of the un-elite Utilitarian philosophy. A single flash of lightning, probably striking the Cenotaph for the war dead a few minutes away in Whitehall, would indicate that this night belonged to only one elite group, and the slowly multiplying hordes as if signalled to the venue by this storm omen, proved that the headliners were in everybody’s iron sights.
In the meantime, some fairly well-known bands would run through comparitively uninteresting sets in order to plug new albums or just an association with Bolt Thrower on this Next Offensive European tour. For the one unknown band, clearly grateful to the Coventry squadron for being able to provide opening infantry support, Ancient Ascendant took to the stage with some confidence and raged through their set infront of the minimal crowd at this time. The sound was not good and the technical setup of the venue’s sonic equipment would be a recurring issue throughout the night, usually leaving bands with an unbalanced sound. Even less impressive was Ancient Ascendant’s music, which was practically educated by the newer schools of Death Metal exclusively, sounding like a more frivolously melodic version of Bloodbath. A lot of generic rhythmic business with some predictably inserted flourishes of lead guitar lines and none of the compositional sense that at the very least ripping-off the old school Death Metal formula would have imbued the songs with by default. Even the next band, The Rotted’s only listenable song was from the older generic Gorerotted project, which is not much less moronic than The Rotted who are really damn retarded in this incarnation, with their stripped down songs consisting of one riff from a later Cryptopsy song played out as blasting Punk music. It’s also quite strange and not recommended to watch old, drugged up men performing breakdowns.
Considered by many as nothing more than a brief distraction, this was soon forgotten as the once powerful entity of Promethean Greek Black Metal took to the stage and the floor swelled with eager hordes. For someone that reveres the older fraction of their catalogue as highly as the Nordic classics, the Rotting Christ set provided both frustrating disappointment but also possibly the biggest surprise of the evening (not the appearance of Diamanda Galas). The transition from ancient Heavy Metal-inflected compositions of blackened mysticism to a boring and cheap form of fast and extreme Rock music with pseudo-cultural embellishments that would make Vangelis either laugh hysterically or summon the wrath of Mars upon Sakis and company, was made quite some time ago when the band sold out to Century Media and although the recent jump to Season of Mist has only marginally improved the quality of their music, the bulk of their songs is blockheaded rhythmic work that wouldn’t sound out of place on a System of a Down joke and disembodied keyboards typical of mainstream Black Metal bands to accompany the minute flickerings of nostalgia that is the signature Rotting Christ melodic style, the same tactic used by fellow Greeks, Septicflesh. Within this disastrous but obviously crowd-pleasing selection of tracks was something quite unexpected given the current direction of the band and their most recent live performances. Almost as though the old spirit of Necromayhem broke free from his sealed confines, the band launched mercilessly into ‘Sign of Evil Existence’, flooding the crowd with a sea of beautiful, extended phrasal work, causing an absolute frenzy and evoking the first old school invocations of the night. Not content with such a brief introduction to arguably the pinnacle of their early discography, ‘Fgmenth, Thy Gift’ continued the magic of ‘Thy Mighty Contract’ with the folky but regal opening riff surging into those magestic, ascendant patterns of guitar. The higher register key of these older songs manipulated the flatness of the sound setup brilliantly, with every note perfectly audible and a memorable contender for song of the entire show.
Benediction were next on stage, an aging group of Death Metal punks fronted by Dave Hunt of Anaal Nathrakh, Mistress and Never Mind the Buzzcocks fame, who nearly talks as much shit on stage as Barney Greenway, including an embarrassing appeasement of some girl’s sob story about a now deceased Benediction fan, thankfully met with a shout of ‘Only death is real’ from the front of the crowd. The set itself was a typically reliable collection of songs spanning most of their discography, better suiting the live environment than on CD, inducing as much violence from the crowd as their primitive, bouncy Death Metal can, like ‘Harmony Corruption’-era Napalm Death meeting ‘Tower of Spite’ by Cerebral Fix. It wasn’t much of a loss to have a guitar cut out during their stint, as the rest of the band seemed to push onwards, building up as much aggression as possible and justifying their placement on the bill, though it was huge relief to hear the end of Benediction at long last, for the lights to dim and the next offensive to commence proper.
Anticipation was immense for the legendary Grindcore/Death Metal ensemble and the battle hordes pushed forward like a scene from Braveheart, rivalling the force of a 90,000 strong audience gravitating towards the celebrity status of Metallica. Faint sounds of approaching war lingered from the amps over the field as Bolt Thrower finally took to the stage and launched straight into the sombre yet mammoth opening riff to ‘IVth Crusade’. The deliberate, sinister pacing of the double bass began to roll through and the crowd imploded into deadly chaos and aggressive force. As bodies began raining from the skies like mortar fire, crushing necks and leaving temporary indents of fallen victims, the atmosphere became thick with the smell of blood, sweat and the disturbing fragrances of shampoo. A large bulk of the set consisted of tracks from the last album but these were all delivered with enough power and rousing, anthemic vigour to blend seamlessly with the more skillful dynamics and evocative melodies of the older songs, from the brilliant rendition of ‘World Eater’ into ‘Cenotaph’ to the unforgettable lead guitars of ‘…For Victory’.
Bolt Thrower commanded the crowd, Karl Willets looked like a war-torn veteran but still yet to be tamed as the ferocity of his vocals didn’t let up for an instant. Jo-Anne Bench is undoubtedly the most menacing female presence in the entire Metal scene, and the poorly balanced sound worked well to render the songs with more bassy fury than can be heard on record. The subtle rhythmic variations of Baz’s guitars on the other hand were not as discernable, but for a seemingly undiscerning crowd, this did nothing to quell the primal violence that tore bones asunder in a ritual of combat replication. The signature riffs were also fairly muted but managed to somehow shine through like the sun between Afghan mountain peaks, and as the band returned for an encore, the perfect choice of songs scorched the stage like a vast napalm attack, with the ominous theme of ‘War’ transforming into ‘Remembrance’ as though the sorrows of Arjuna had been cast aside as he takes to the empty plains of Kurukshetra, seeing the world as it is.
Even as the band exited, the feelings of confrontation and pugilism reigned as brawls ensued and battered humans walked out to count their wounds. The show proved how bands such as Bolt Thrower who retain their integrity, remain possessed by this same eternal process of nature’s evolution and deliver like a well-trained soldier, with precision and consistency will rule for the longest time. We will remember them.
A quick news update:
- Timeghoul interview probes the origins of this unique, quirky, but deliberate progressive death metal band.
- At the Gates reviews cover the entire discography of this amazing band who never got the credit they deserved, in part because their later albums tapered so badly.
- Bolt Thrower reviews describe the entirety of this innovative melodic grindcore band’s career from messy post-crust to polished thematic work.
Check ’em out, and then whine up a storm in our forums.
BOLT THROWER were formed at a punk gig in a Coventry pub in 1986, following a conversation between friends guitarist Barry Thomson and bassist Gavin Ward. Inspired at that time by bands such as Sacrilege, Discharge, Candlemass & Slayer, they decided to form a band that was heavy, aggressive, but more importantly, original. They were soon joined by Alan West, a friend of Baz’s, who took the role of vocalist/lyricist . When it came to finding a drummer, Andy Whale was suggested by a mutual friend, and when he met up with the rest of the band to try out, he found he had similar music tastes, and joined immediately.
The four- piece went on to write a number of songs and eventually recorded two demos ‘In Battle…’ and ‘Concession of Pain’ – the latter was sent to the much-respected British radio DJ, John Peel. During this time Gavin Ward decided to switch to guitar and local bassist Alex Tweedy was the temporary replacement. When Alex left – one or two gigs later, they agreed to let Jo Bench try out. She proved she was the right person for the job, and in September 1987 the new 5-piece line-up was complete. A few gigs later and the call came saying John Peel liked the demo and wanted to offer the band a radio session.
Bolt Thrower recorded 4 songs for their first BBC Radio One “Peel Session” in January 1988. After the transmission was aired on national radio, Vinyl Solution contacted the band and offered them a recording contract, the band agreed to a one-album deal. Unfortunately, at this time, Alan West decided that the band was getting a bit too serious for him, and was replaced by Karl Willetts, who was the band’s backline driver and long-time friend of Andy’s. With this line-up they went on to record their first album ‘In Battle There Is No Law’ recorded at Loco Studios in Wales, which was unfortunately mixed without the band’s knowledge and released in the summer of 1988.
After constant gigging around the UK, Bolt Thrower were becoming more and more popular, and were soon contacted by Earache Records who were at that time, the biggest independent label for extreme music. The band signed a deal with Earache and also at the same time were approached by Games Workshop – a fantasy wargaming company – who’s boss had heard the Peel Session when it was aired, and was impressed enough to be interested in a collaboration with the band. So, incorporating both – ‘Realm of Chaos’ the second studio album was released on Earache Records in 1989, and featured cover and booklet artwork from the artists at Games Workshop. The band were gaining a much wider audience, but didn’t forget their roots, and were proud to be given the opportunity to record two more Peel Sessions (which were later released as an album). In 1989 the band took part in the legendary “GrindCrusher” tour around the UK, with Carcass, Napalm Death and Morbid Angel, this proved the band’s reputation as being one of the most powerful live acts around. On the back of the success of the UK tour, they made their first tour of Europe in 1990 with Autopsy and Pestilence – where they met Martin Van Drunen and their current tour manager Graham.
At the start of 1991 they were back in the studio. They recorded ‘Warmaster’ at Slaughterhouse Studios, Driffield with Colin Richardson producing, and thanks to the clever scheduling skills of Earache – it was released in the middle of their tour of Europe! Fortunately, the untimely release was unnoticed by the hundreds of fans who got to see the band for the first time – the band also went on to make their first visit to the US this year. The Bolt Thrower name was starting to spread worldwide…. Next came ‘The IVth Crusade’ – recorded at Sawmills Studios in Cornwall in 1992, it showed the band had continued to create their own unique style of music that was easily identifiable as BOLT THROWER. The band also decided to make the break from their usual fantasy artwork sleeve, and instead used a classical painting by Delacroix. The band promoted the album extensively with their ‘World Crusade’ tour, which took them again around Europe (with Benediction & Asphyx) and in 1993, to Australia.
The recording of ‘…For Victory’ in 1994, (at Sawmills, again), was immediately followed by the bands second tour of the U.S. This unfortunately saw the departure of drummer Andy Whale and vocalist Karl Willetts, who decided they didn’t want to continue in the band. The rest of the band decided to carry on, and the album was released later in the year, and Whale and Willetts were subsequently replaced with drummer Martin Kearns and Martin Van Drunen on vocals.
These were the vital years of this band who, like most grindcore, took influences from both metal and punk/hardcore/crust. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be …For Victory, but it’s hard to go wrong with their other formative works like War Master, Realms of Chaos, and The IVth Crusade.
Lantern take the Finnish black and death metal and move it back in time towards eighties speed metal to better appeal to a funderground hipster audience who never bothered to listen to Beherit or Demigod. The production of II: Morphosis is clean but slightly cavernous and vocals that sound like Per Boder of God Macabre help deceive inattentive millennials that Lantern are quality death metal and not Finnish Pantera.
Continue reading Lantern – II: Morphosis (2017)