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Music / Bolt Thrower

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Bolt Thrower were a British Death Metal band themed around war, whether in the Warhammer 40,000 series or not. The name is actually taken from the tabletop game.

They started originally as a hardcore punk band with thrash influences, founded by bassist Gavin Ward and guitarist Barry Thomson, and after a few more lineup changes, one including Gavin's then girlfriend Jo Bench, they recorded their first album under Vinyl Solution, but left the label due to dissatisfaction in regards to their deal. They were then signed onto Earache records, home to similar bands like Carcass and Napalm Death. Games Workshop heard about the band and did artwork for the sophomore album for a hefty price. They offered to do artwork again for War Master, but was turned down due to lower budget.


The IVth Crusade was released with a change in sound for their standards, and the release was followed by the tour World Crusade with the Polish death metal act Vader and the Swedish death metal band Grave in Europe. The band toured the U.S. again as well as Australia. Karl Willetts and Andrew Whale left shortly after ...For Victory was released, and to no surprise did the American tour afterwards failed. They parted ways with Earache due to differences with each other, signing onto Metal Blade. Karl returned to the band briefly during the recording of Mercenary in 1998, but left again that same year and was replaced by Benediction frontman Dave Ingram. Dave's sole album with the band, Honour - Valour - Pride, was released in 2001 - while he intended to stay longer, he left in 2004 due to having medical issues. Karl was welcomed back once more for the recording of their next album Those Once Loyal. As the band were satisfied with the result, they vowed not to write a ninth record until they felt they had material that was as good or better.


It was not to be. A follow-up to Those Once Loyal never happened during the decade gap between the album release and their break-up in 2016, as their longtime drummer Martin Kearns passed away in 2015 of a heart attack and the band decided to call it quits soon after rather than finding a replacement. Vocalist Karl Willetts formed Memoriam sometime after. As for Dave Ingram, he slowly made his return to music after his departure, and today performs in several underground death metal bands, including being a frequent collaborator with prolific Swedish musician Rogga Johansson, and returned to Benediction following Dave Hunt's departure in 2019. Dave and Karl would eventually share the stage together in 2016 during one of Memoriam's earliest performances, joining forces to sing the song "Inside the Wire".


Final Lineup:

  • Barry "Baz" Thomson – rhythm guitar, lead guitar (1986–2016)
  • Gavin Ward – rhythm guitar, bass guitar (on demos) (1986–2016)
  • Jo Bench – bass guitar (1987–2016)
  • Karl Willetts – vocals (1987–1994, 1997–1998, 2004–2016)
  • Martin Kearns – drums (RIP) (1994–1997, 2000–2015)


  • In Battle There is No Law! (1988)
  • Realm of Chaos – Slaves to Darkness (1989), Remastered in 2005
  • War Master (1991)
  • The IVth Crusade (1992)
  • ...For Victory (1994)
  • Mercenary (1998)
  • Honour – Valour – Pride (2001)
  • Those Once Loyal (2005)

Associated Tropes:

  • The Band Minus the Face: Their lineup during Honour - Valour - Pride, as it is the only album of theirs to feature Benediction singer Dave Ingram, whose voice and vocal style is completely different from Karl's.
  • Deathgrind: Started out playing this, but became more straightforward death metal after their second album.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In Battle There Is No Law! had a raw Grindcore sound absent in later albums. The artwork was also monochrome.
    • Realm of Chaos also had some grind influences, but not to the extent of the previous album.
  • Epic Rocking: Couple, all have been 6 minutes long.
    • From Warmaster, we have "Intro... Unleashed (upon Mankind)" and "Afterlife".
    • The IVth Crusade had "Spearhead".
    • Honour-Valor-Pride has "7th Offensive" and "Pride".
  • Hardcore Punk: A definite influence and a scene that they have historically been friendly with and respected by, and their influence can be felt on modern acts like Xibalba, I Am, and Fuming Mouth.
  • Heavy Mithril: Some of it. Realm of Chaos, for instance, is entirely Warhammer 40,000 themed.
  • Horrible History Metal: If they aren't covering Warhammer, they're covering history.
  • Gorn: Averted. Unlike most straight-up Death Metal groups (Technical Death Metal and Melodic Death Metal bands being more likely than not to avoid those types of lyrics), they don't really write any gory lyrics. They do write about violence, though, but in a different fashion.
  • Groove Metal: A noticeable influence on their later records.
  • Female Rockers Play Bass: Jo Bench was their bassist and only female member for 29 years out of the band's 30-year run, playing on all the band's albums and serving as one of the earliest examples of women in extreme metal. -
  • Lead Bassist: Jo is a type C, being one of the first women in extreme metal as well as a Type A due to her distinct distorted bass tone.
  • Loudness War: Avoided for the most part, as even the remastered versions of their older albums are mixed reasonably, but Those Once Loyal plays this completely straight.
  • Meaningful Name: The IVth Crusade was not only the fourth album, hence the "IVth", but also refers to the Fourth Crusade and the capturing of Constantinople.
  • New Sound Album: IVth Crusade was clearly more doom / death, with more downtuned guitars and slower song-pace.
  • Rated M for Manly: Every one of their songs is about war and violence. Yeah, they're a Darker and Edgier Sabaton note .
  • Shout-Out: The cover for Realm of Chaos uses the artwork from Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader.
  • War Is Hell: Their main (and almost sole) lyrical theme.