We listen to music for a reason. Even no reason is still a reason. If we want mindless entertainment, we'll listen to mindless music. If we want something gnarly, and we don't want real life to provide that, we'll listen to gnarly music.

Hence my recent love for Bolt Thrower. Historically they've been a band I've respected more than loved. For years I thought that they wrote one song about one thing - war - and that that made them uninteresting (though enjoyable). Now I realize that's precisely what makes them interesting.

Trends are cyclical, so if you stick around long enough, you'll be hip again at some point. Bolt Thrower, however, are even better. They'll never go out of style because war never goes out of style. When people stop killing each other over religion and natural resources, that's when Bolt Thrower will become irrelevant.

War's been on my mind. The current issue (August '10) of Muscle & Fitness has a good feature on Tim Kennedy, a US Green Beret and MMA fighter. I like how, while deployed in gym-less locales, he trains with found objects. Conversely, the NY Times has an amazing article on Brendan Marrocco, an Iraq veteran who lost all his limbs to a roadside bomb. He's the guy in Metallica's "One", except that he very much wants life to go on. His story made a perfect, if challenging, backdrop to Fourth of July festivities.

So Bolt Thrower have started to make sense for me, even though they've always made sense. By making sense, I mean being something more than entertainment. Your favorite bands are more than t-shirts and plastic discs to you. You don't wear or own them; you feel them. I'm getting there with Bolt Thrower.


Bolt Thrower put out three official videos. They're truthfully all shit: live footage thrown together haphazardly. They merely show the band, instead of saying anything meaningful about Bolt Thrower or their songs. "Cenotaph" has some war footage, but it's spliced in with epileptic confusion. If I directed the video, I would have taken the opposite approach. Musically and lyrically, the song is stark: a few riffs, a few words.


Alone you stand - The final parody
Destined to silence - A memorial to mortality

Carved in stone - A tribute to the dead
For nameless victims - Whose litany is unread

Never Forgotten - War's memory lingers on
A dark reminder - To mankind's oblivion

This solemn image - Constructed with resolution
A monument - To war's terminal conclusion


Note how the word "Cenotaph" indeed stands alone at the beginning and end of the song. A cenotaph is a monument to someone buried elsewhere. A video portraying this should convey space and distance, repose and loss. Jim Jarmusch should direct it.

"The IVth Crusade", which is about religious zealotry (lyrics), and "Inside the Wire", which is about saboteurs behind enemy lines (lyrics), likewise get neutered visually. Their videos are live footage edited with little sense of rhythm. Still, it's good to see our heroes at work. (You might hear some Landmine Marathon riffs in there, too.)  One of the best photographs ever taken of Bolt Thrower shows the three guitarists holding their axes perfectly parallel.  (See top.)  It's quite the picture of military discipline. They're an infantry unit, and their orders are to convey the horrors of war - musically, not actually.

— Cosmo Lee

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"Cenotaph" (1991)

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"The IVth Crusade" (1992)

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"Inside the Wire" (2001)

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