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.