Bolt Thrower Amp Settings – Get Their Death Metal Guitar Tone! 

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Bolt Thrower was one of the most prominent death metal bands to come out of a non-Scandinavian country. They enjoyed a 30+ year career and sold over 100,000 records in the USA only.

Sadly, after the passing of their drummer, Martin Kearns in 2015, they disbanded in 2016.

Although they’re no longer playing festivals and huge shows, the legacy, the songs, and, most importantly, the crushing guitar riffs remain. Here’s a quick guide to what they used to make death metal history and what you can use to recreate their tone with nowadays gear.

Bolt Thrower’s Guitars

Barry Thomson and Gavin Ward have been in charge of the six-string mayhem Bolt Thrower is known for since the mid-‘80s. They’re both playing BC Rich and Jackson guitars. These are pointy, aggressive, high-gain instruments that have metal written all over them.

Gavin Ward’s guitars are the now-discontinued BC Rich Virgin and the BC Rich Beast. This last one can be found in three versions. The first is the most non-metal one from an aesthetic point of view, the B.C. Rich Warbeast Extreme Exotic comes with a spalted maple top, which isn’t exactly a death-metal favorite if you ask me.

That said, the 14” radius of the 24-fret ebony fingerboard, the no-heel neck joint (with neck-through construction), nyatoh body, dual Fishman fluence active pickups, and original Floyd Rose 1000-series tremolo scream metal in every direction.

If you have the budget and want that all-black look, the same guitar is also available in a really cool matte black finish.

Although not available from the biggest stores online, the BC Rich Legacy Beast is available from the manufacturer at a more affordable price than the Warbeast. It’s still made of nyatoh in a neck-through configuration, and features the Floyd Rose 1000 tremolo and the ebony fingerboard but comes with Seymour Duncan pickups as a factory standard.

Another difference is that the Legacy series is made in Indonesia while the Extreme series is made in Korea.

On the other side of the stage, Barry Thomson rocks a BC Rich Warlock, one of the best-known shapes created by the brand. This means you have a ton of options to choose from. You can go from the Khaler-equipped USA Handcrafted model to a more affordable, limited edition, Stranger Things Warlock model in black and with a 3-digit price tag attached.

Another guitar played by Barry Thomson is the Jackson Kelly, another heavy metal machine with a pointy body and menacing looks. That design can be found in all its glory as the Jackson USA Select Kelly KE2, with a more affordable price tag as the Jackson Pro Series Jeff Loomis Signature Kelly KE, and in its most inexpensive expression as the Jackson Kelly JS32.

All of them feature a double-locking tremolo and the dual humbuckers you need to make the kind of death metal Bolt Thrower is known for.

Bolt Thrower’s Amplifiers

You might be scratching your head with a hard pick and saying… I don’t see any effects pedals in this rig description. Where did all the stomp boxes go? Well, this is because the approach to tone Bolt Thrower’s guitarists employed for their 3-decade career is non-conventional.

Indeed, Barry and Gavin make their guitars sound as crushing and powerful as they do by letting the preamp duties in the hands of digital technology and then going through solid-state power to round up their tone.

Wait; what? I can see you scratching that head with the pick again.

Well, many metal guitarists have done this in the past, especially those who have survived the ‘80s. You see, back then, the hippest of the hip was to have a rackmount full of colorful gizmos. Yes, next to most 4×12 Marshalls you’d find a fridge-sized rack where guitar tone was generated.

From that time, we inherited the ADA MP1/2, the Marshall JMP-1, and the Mesa Boogie Triaxis preamp among many others.

Well, these guys didn’t even go as far as having a preamp made by an amp brand. On the contrary, they were both using the same setup, a Boss GX-700 into a Marshall 9040 power amp boasting 200 watts of pure solid-state tone.

Yes, the grinding mids and piercing highs you get from their guitars are all in that solid-state power section uplifting the digital sound.

Of course, the GX-700 is no longer being made by Boss (you can see more about it here and the right settings here) but the Japanese giants have come a long way to make a floor version of their GX technology. This is the Boss GX-100.

If that seems like a too bulky price tag for you, the Boss ME-90 could do the trick as well.

I know I disappointed you, you were expecting to find a zillion-watt amplifier with more tubes than the computer that sent people to the moon. Well, I’m sorry, but in metal, solid-state technology and digital preamps have created some of the heaviest tones yet.

(Otherwise, just ask around what solid-state amp Dimebag used during Pantera times!).

Finally, just plug that multi-effects unit into a big, clean, solid-state amp, like the Orange Super Crush 100 or the Seymour Duncan PowerStage 200, and crank the volume.

Dialing-In Bolt Thrower Death Metal Tones

Let’s dial in some cool tones you can replicate at home and play your favorite For Victory riffs all night long. Bear in mind that I’m starting from an already high-gain tone coming from a guitar with spicy humbuckers.

If you don’t have that kind of a guitar, add 3 points to the gain knob.

  • Volume – 8
  • Gain – 7
  • Bass – 8
  • Middle – 3
  • Treble – 7
  • Presence – 5

The Bottom End

Bolt Thrower put out some of the best death metal albums in history before disbanding recently. Moreover, they were the inspiration for many death metal bands coming from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Use the advice above, dial the tones, and have fun learning the super powerful, intricate, headbanging, crushingly heavy riffs that made this one of the best death metal acts in the world.

Happy (death metal) playing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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