Worship the Merch: Bolt Thrower


Bolt Thrower merch is practically mythical: as rare as unicorn shit and twice as fragrant (at least when you buy “vintage”). It’s only sold at shows, and Bolt Thrower rarely play shows — definitely no real tours or North American appearances. When Bolt Thrower played Maryland Death Fest in 2009, the merch booth got cleaned out within minutes. T-shirt prices on eBay regularly fetch hundreds of dollars. People want the gory goods; Bolt Thrower are content to leave them wanting.

So when 85 Bolt Thrower shirts appeared on eBay within the span of a single hour last week, it felt like the sky had ripped open, heaven shining through to free us from years of misery and lousy shirt choices. Designs from every era, every tour — one-offs and more-common album art-based designs — you name it: it was up for sale. Naturally, cruel fate conspired to crush my hopes yet again: all the shirts were size XL (I’m a medium). CURSE YOU AND YOUR FAT FUCKING FANS, BOLT THROWER!

But the appearance of such a large collection allowed a rare glimpse of the breadth of delicious designs out there. As a card-carrying Bolt Thrower nerd (they really should issue cards), I went nuts and saved an unhealthy amount of shirt images to my hard drive. These are a handful of the best.

— Aaron Lariviere

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Bolt Thrower – “For Victory”

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I would kill someone for this shirt — preferably someone shitty, or someone who hates Bolt Thrower, which is a clear enough indicator that they’re shitty. It’s the classic Cenotaph EP artwork with a badass slogan up front, with the ultimate shirt-back phraseology. Of course you don’t compromise, Bolt Thrower. Of course you don’t.

Here’s a classic design, the artwork for one of my personal favorite records ever: The IVth Crusade. And printed on a ratty hoodless sweatshirt! Who doesn’t want a ratty hoodless sweatshirt with sweet mini BT logos printed on one sleeve?! Your search for the ultimate babe-repellant ends here.

For the lover of overpriced Dutch beer: No Grolsch, No Glory! Grolsch may be better than Heineken, but it’s still glorified hobo-swill compared to real beer. Bolt Thrower probably drink a lot of hobo-swill. I would begrudgingly drink nothing but Grolsch for a year if it meant I could have this shirt.

Here’s an odd duck: interesting logo choice, looks almost pagan metal, and — hot damn, daggered sleeves! I have no idea where the runic back design comes from, but the protean demon faces/feces look subterranean enough to date back to the early days. And we all know long-sleeves are the proper choice for the headbanger of discriminating taste.

War Master v1 — so fucking cool. Those early Warhammer/Games Workshop days definitely have their charm (even though this artwork wasn’t officially sanctioned Warhammer art, it was done by Pete Knifton of Games Workshop). The barbs on the impaling spear are a nice touch.

The ultimate Bolt Thrower fan doesn’t shy away from shirts featuring lesser albums; the true fan embraces them as proof that they celebrate the band’s entire catalogue. So Karl Willetts sat one out and let Dave Ingram of Benediction fill in on Honour – Valour – Pride: no big deal. Sure, Karl is better (WAY better), but Bolt Thrower at their worst is still better than, well, anything else. Sorry, Jungle Rot.

Simple, classic monochrome up front; the Chaos Eye and traditional bejeweled logo are all you really need. The back is just perfect. Blood graffiti reads: “Enter the realm of chaos — your nightmare has just begun,” and the runic demons return with a death metal version of the “…And Justice” font. I get all kinds of badass splatterpunk fiction and early ’90s horror-movie vibes from this. No sleeves = NO LIMITS.

War Master v2 — whoa there. So apparently the titular War Master is a mashup of Voltron and the Shrike? With a font that’s all Star Wars meets He-Man? So, every nerd thing ever, rolled into one. The deeper hue of the front image really brings out the blood, which makes a strange juxtaposition with the cornball back. Think of it as the two sides of Bolt Thrower — songs of war, nerd-game art — rolled into one spectacular shirt.

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Bolt Thrower – “Anti-Tank (Dead Armour)”

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