Metal, Hardcore, Punk, Death Metal, Thrash Metal... whatever

Metal, Hardcore, Punk, Death Metal, Thrash Metal... Qwerty and miserable, always wanting more.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Word Eater; Bolt Thrower, English class and surprisingly, the Cro-Mags.


I first heard Bolt Thrower in 1990 on the US cassette release of the Earache Records Grindcrusher compilation. The licensing of Earache releases to Relativity/ Sony distribution opened up the world and ears of metal fans across the US; thrash metal was out, death metal and grindcore were in, and I was no exception to that change of mind. The loosely slayer-esque, down tuned, syrupy-yet-metallic riff that opened Bolt Thrower’s “World Eater” was as terrifying as it was refreshing. I was a fan from the first time I heard it and as an added bonus, I could play it on guitar.

In the spring of 1991, I was in English class with a young teacher named Ms. O’Leary. Her brother, apparently, worked for some division of Sony and sent her a box full of promotional cassettes. On occasion, these would get distributed to us in class. I was lucky enough to be rewarded with a promotional copy of Warmaster, Bolt Thrower’s first true masterpiece one day after answering a question about literature; the record wasn’t out in the States yet. I listened to that tape on the bus in my Walkman nearly every day.  “What Dwells Within” became my favorite song at the time, mostly because, again, I could play the main riff on my guitar without too much of a struggle, and man did that riff hit all the sweet spots in my teenage brain.
I ended up with a lot of these by 1992

That fall, which I believe was slated as a Halloween show, Bolt Thrower was supposed to play Buffalo, but it was cancelled shortly after flyers were distributed. Heartbroken by this, and not really digging their follow up IV Crusade in 1992, I pretty much only stuck to Realm, Warmaster and The Peel Sessions records and stopped paying attention to Bolt Thrower’s continued output.

In 2005, my little brother began talking about how great Bolt Thrower was and told me that not only was their new record, Those Once Loyal incredible, but that all of their albums were “pretty consistent.” He agreed that IV Crusade may not have been their best, but that I should re-examine their catalogue.  By the end of that month, Bolt Thrower was back in my life in a big, big way; but where were they? They seemed to stick with European touring. As the years plowed on and my listening to Bolt Thrower grew and grew, the opportunity to see them seemed to get less and less, but their popularity stateside seemed to be growing; and then it happened:  
"Due to the fact that we are not real festival lovers or great fans of flying, the chances of us ever coming to the States for a one-off show was always very small. But after years of relentless emails from Ryan we've finally given in. It's hard to believe that it's been 14 years since we last played in the US, so we are very happy to announce that we are finally coming back. Bolt Thrower will be playing Maryland Deathfest VII, on May 22-24, 2009, at Sonar, Baltimore, MD."
HOLY SHIT. My first marriage had just fallen apart and I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands and a new found voraciousness for music and shows. So, with my brother and our friend Bob, we went to Baltimore to witness the mighty ‘Thrower along with other greats Asphyx, Hail of Bullets and Napalm Death. We waited in line for like 3 hours to get t-shirts, and I bought the last 2XL sweatshirt that the merch guy told us he was holding for UFC fighter Josh Barnett, but as he hadn’t shown up yet and I had waited, it was mine. The setlist was everything I wanted it to be:  At First Light/ World Eater/ Cenotaph/ War/ Remembrance/ Mercenary/ Entrenched/ The Shreds of Sanity/ War Master/ The IVth Crusade/ No Guts, No Glory/ In Battle There Is No Law/ When Cannons Fade/ ...For Victory/ Killchain/ Powder Burns.
The author taking it all in at MDF 2009
We heard rumors that they may play an additional set the following day (they did, replacing Pestilence), but we had already left and I figured that I would never get to see them again, and even though they did announce shows in 2013, that was right around the time my daughter was born and I had no desire to be gone for an extended period of time away from my family. But then, a couple years later, my Bolt Thrower Luck changed.
My friend Ewan sent me a message on facebook to let me know he was booking the gig of all gigs in London, Ontario, just a few hours from Buffalo; Bolt Thrower and Razor, with the Cro- Mags as the after show. My jaw was already on the floor when he told me that he’d put me plus one on the guest list. Bolt Thrower. Cro-mags. FOR FREE. I rode up with the drummer of my band at the time and his friend Mark. We got to the show a little late and MY NAME WAS NOT ON THE LIST. I had an acquaintance from Buffalo give me his spare ticket at the door, thankfully, but my plus one was going to be shit out of luck, but after a couple of calls to Ewan, he apologized and got us all sorted for both shows. War / Remembrance/ Mercenary/ World Eater / Cenotaph/ Anti-Tank (Dead Armour)/ Warmaster/ Forever Fallen/ This Time It's War/ Rebirth of Humanity/ The IVth Crusade/ No Guts, No Glory/ ...For Victory/ The Killchain / Powder Burns/ At First Light/ When Cannons Fade. We didn’t know it at the time, but it would be Bolt Thrower’s second to last show ever.
Photo by the author

Photo by the author
In a smaller club called Rum Runners attached to the venue was the hardcore show/ after party. I spent most of that show talking to my friend Kyle, who is always a pleasure to “shoot the breeze” with and mostly missed the openers. Around 2 am the Cro-mags hit the stage- yes, TWO FUCKING AM, but they played “Crush the Demoniac” and I enjoyed the set, as I hadn’t seen them since March of 1998, but I don’t think I’m an after party kind of guy.
Cro-Mags photo by the author, the singer looks like plastic
A few months later, Kiddie Kearns, Bolt Thrower’s drummer passed. He was three years young than I:
 “With the heaviest of hearts, and still numb from shock, we have to share the very sad news that on Monday 14th September Bolt Thrower lost our powerhouse drummer, Martin ‘Kiddie’ Kearns.
After the first rehearsal for our upcoming tour of Australia, Kiddie suddenly felt unwell which continued throughout the night, and the next day he passed away peacefully in his sleep.
He was a fantastic Dad, husband, son, friend, but to us he was always ‘Kiddie’, the same 17 year old Coventry kid whose drumming style and personality blew us away when he first walked into our rehearsal room 20+ years ago.
Kiddie enriched our lives, and the Bolt Thrower sound. He leaves a massive hole in the lives of everyone who knew him and will be very sorely missed by many.
Karl, Jo, Baz, Gav & the loyal BT crew”

A year later, Bolt Thrower announced they were no more and the metal world was sad again for the loss of Kiddie Kearns. Still, I am glad I got to witness them slay the crowd twice, also how cool is Ms. O'leary for giving me that damn tape? They say teaching is a thankless profession, but I am very thankful for my 11th grade English teacher.