ne of 'Earache Records' early inductees, Bolt Thrower would become an infamous underground extreme thrash metal/death metal act. They obtained their name from a weapon used in the popular war strategy Warhammer Fantasy Battles. The group consisting of Al West (vocals), Barry Thompson (guitar), Gavin Ward (guitar), Jo Bench (bass) and Andy Whale (drums) released two attention grabbing debut demos In Battle There Is No Law (1987 and then re-released as an album proper a year later) and Concessions of Pain. On the strength of their sessions with BBC DJ John Peel on BBC Radio 1 in January 1998, they got a recording contract. Their debut 1998 album featured a blasting Hardcore Thrash mix with indecipherable lyrics from Karl Willets who replaced West. The album held the same title as their first demo. For their second outing, they moved from the 'Vinyl Solution' label to 'Earache' with Realms Of Chaos (1989) popping out soon after featuring artwork from Games Workshop-empire thus emphasizing their connection with fantasy and fiction.
Tours with musically similar Napalm Death, Morbid Angel and Carcass brought their music to a wider audience with The Peel Sessions 1988-1990 (1991), a compilation launched to capitalize on this success. Warmaster (1991) and Cenotaph EP (1991) gave them the nickname in the press of "War Metal" due to the repeated subject matters of battle and war depicted in their music. The IVth Crusade (1992) was a more intricate effort with their war like tendencies less obvious; the Games Workshop-empire dudes still brushing on the art, this time modeled after the 19th century painting, Delacroix.Spearhead (1993) followed up in much the same style - a blast of thrash metal/hardcore metal noise that went over more in Europe then America, as traditionally they have as a group.
...For Victory (1994) saw Willets and Whale leave, with Martin Van Drunen (ex-Asphyx/ex-Pestilence) move in to fill the vocal slot from Willets, while Martin "Kiddie" Kearns took up the drums for Mercenary (1998). Who Dares Wins (1998) was a "best of..." compilation, but a stream of new music came in the form of Honour Valour Pride (2001), featuring Martin Kearns back on drums.
Martin "Kiddie" Kearns died unexpectedly at the age of 38 on 14 September 2015. As a result of his death, Bolt Thrower cancelled their upcoming Australian tour. On September 14, 2016, the first anniversary of Kearns' death, the band announced on their website that they would not continue.
Throughout their career they were unable to clearly make the public and press understand their style, once saying that the "Death, grindcore, hardcore" and "thrash" labels failed to describe them and the band broke up in 2016 after the release of the "best of" compilation The Best of Bolt Thrower.
Footnote: The lyrics and artwork of their second and third albums were based on the "Warhammer Fantasy Battles" game, as well as its futuristic companion "Warhammer 40,000" with much of the art actually being provided by the game's publisher, Games Workshop.
Jo Bench is generally considered to be among the earliest female members of an extreme metal band.
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