Band Profile

Bolt Thrower

Bolt Thrower
Hometown: Midlands, United Kingdom Current Label: Metal Blade Records Websites: Official Website
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Band Members: Karl Willetts - Vocals
Barry Thomson - Guitar
Gavin Ward - Guitar
Jo Bench - Bass
Martin Kearns - Drums

Bolt Thrower Bio:

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 independant 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.

With this line-up the band carried on the promotion of the album with a full European tour in 1995 and the highly-credible ‘Fuck Price Politics’ festival tour in 1996. The next couple of years turned into an endurance test for the band with the departure of Van Drunen due to illness, the successful ending of the bands relations with Earache Records and the new signing to Metal Blade Records. Although the band themselves are not huge fans of playing open air festivals, they agreed to break with tradition and play the 1997 'With Full Force' festival in Zwickau, Germany. They were greeted by a rapturous audience and with the help of stand-in Dave Ingram on vocals (who stood in for the absent Van Drunen), they managed to win the crowd over with their own brand of ‘heavy metal’.

The next to leave the BOLT THROWER camp was Martin Kearns, who went on to be replaced by Alex Thomas for the recording of the first release on Metal Blade - 'Mercenary', (1998). The vocalist on this album was to be the re-instated Karl Willetts, unfortunately he found he could not commit himself to be a full-time member, so Dave Ingram, (who was a longtime friend of the band and had recently left Benediction), filled his position. With the support of new label Metal Blade, BOLT THROWER proved to be more successful than ever. 'Mercenary' was greatly received all over the world - in particular Germany, where it made an entry in the German album charts and received 10 out of 10, and album of the month in their biggest selling Metal magazine Rock Hard. The band took ‘Mercenary’ on the road, with the ‘Killing Zone’ tour in 1999. Dave proved to all he was a worthy replacement, and slotted into the vocal position with ease. But when the tour was over, there was to be more upheaval when Alex decided he also couldn’t make the full commitment required by the band. So the vacant position was filled by another familiar face - Martin Kearns, who re-joined the band just in time to do the German 'With Full Force' festival for the second time. Much of the year 2000 was spent rehearsing with the new line-up and writing (and re-writing!) new songs for their 7th album, and when the writing was complete, the band were itching to get back on the road again. So, early into the following year, they re-introduced Martin to the public with a handful of shows around Holland and Germany. The sell-out shows and their apparent increase in popularity was enough to inspire the band when they ventured into the studio to record ‘Honour - Valour -Pride’ in May 2001.

HVP - the first album to feature ‘new’ members - vocalist Dave Ingram and drummer Martin Kearns, was released in November 2001, again on Metal Blade Recs. The album was unleashed upon certain members of the press in Bolt Thrower’s unique way, when the usual studio report turned into a ‘mock kidnap’ with military tasks for the unsuspecting music journalists. Regardless (or maybe because!) of this, Bolt Thrower again received an influx of positive reviews and feedback for the fans. This album also received 10 out of 10 and album of the month in Rock Hard magazine, a great achievement for a band twice in a row and on their 7th studio release. The ‘Ground Assault’ tour followed in January 2002, taking the band around Europe, with Dave’s old band Benediction - dispelling any rumours of bad feeling between the bands. The tour was a huge success, Bolt Thrower again playing to packed venues, and proving they are one of the best live acts around. They also went back to Germany in October to play the ‘Westfalenfestival’, which was enjoyed as much by the 1300-strong crowd as the band themselves.

The band started off 2003 writing riffs for the next studio album.They turned down several festivals so they could exclusively play one summer show The ‘Rock Hard jubilee’ festival. Unfortunately for the band and fans alike, the band had to cancel their performance there because of the (untimely!) birth of Dave's son. Towards the end of the year, and early into 2004 the band started continued to write new material for their 8th studio album, although things slowed down for BT when it appeared Dave was suffering with health and personal problems. In the middle of the writing, Dave Ingram decided that he was going to leave the band to concentrate on his recovery.

The band were again left again in a situation where they had been on several occasions before of having to find a replacement vocalist. Of course, there was only one had to be Karl Willetts. Karl was asked and agreed to re-join Bolt Thrower as a permanent replacement late 2004. His return was welcomed by both the band and the fans, and Karl easily slipped back into his old role as he launched himself once again into writing lyrics with Gavin.

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  1. Tour: Bolt Thrower announces limited US tour dates – Metal Riot2/15/2013 10:00 AM | Permalink

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