Of Heroes and Heavy Metal: Honoring Bill Tolley

 

Now that 2017 has passed and memorials have been published for the various celebrities who died last year, there’s one who sadly went overlooked. Obviously I’m posting this for an audience who doesn’t look kindly on celebrity and its surrounding culture of worship, but this is a case where your respect is warranted.

On April 20, 2017, Bill Tolley, 14-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York, died in the line of duty. He left behind a wife and eight-year-old daughter. Local news always covers such stories, but news of Tolley’s death spread further because of his off-duty activities: he was the long-time drummer and only permanent member of New York death metal band Internal Bleeding. The band is credited as one of the originators of a style known as slam death metal, a subgenre of brutal death metal. Belonging to this sort of niche within a niche means that the band remained low-profile in an already obscure corner of the music world, and Tolley’s celebrity is a peculiar sort, but real nonetheless.

Fellow New York bands Suffocation, Incantation, Immolation, and Mortician always overshadowed them, but Internal Bleeding at least found a unique sound, fusing the heavier side of death metal with the punishing style of their city’s hardcore punk scene. Tolley’s drumming encapsulated the band’s approach: while he could play fast, more often he eschewed the flashy theatrics of blast beats for heavier grooves. Even the band’s nadir, 2004’s Onward to Mecca, in which they succumbed to the worst tendencies of their hardcore influences, was partially redeemed by the enraged and non-PC lyrics of tracks like “Infidel” (Infidel proudly — overthrowing your cause/Infidel proudly — and I’ll bathe in your blood).

I don’t expect most of you to appreciate this music and I’m far from the biggest fan of this particular style, but credit where it’s due. Internal Bleeding made their mark and remain better than legions of their belching imitators. Ultimately, it’s Tolley’s life off the stage that is most deserving of accolades. He was a loving family man and loyal friend. “The only thing that would ever get in the way of band practice was something with [his daughter] Bella,” says long-time bandmate Chris Pervelis.

It’s repeated to the point of being cliche, yet it’s true: fighting fires is heroic. It was a childhood dream of Tolley’s to don the uniform and protect others’ lives. As a volunteer he was involved in the rescue and recovery efforts at ground zero in 2001. I like to say that one of the perks of liking underground metal is that most of the artists are regular people with day jobs. This is one case where I’m glad to say a musician is no ordinary person.

Here’s to William Tolley, FDNY.


Donations can be made to the “William N. Tolley’s Children’s Educational Fund” here.

A news report with an interview of friend Chris Pervelis:

If you’re curious, here’s a typically pummeling track from their latest album, Imperium:

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There are 14 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I’m not going to click to play any song described as “pummeling,” etc., but thank you for memorializing the gentleman.

    • #1
  2. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’m not going to click to play any song described as “pummeling,” etc., but thank you for memorializing the gentleman.

    Whereas I can’t wait to click on a track described as “pummeling” but wait I must, since I’m at work right now.

    I remember this — I remember hearing that he left behind a little girl and I recall someone’s having mentioned on one of the news reports that he was in a band but I had no idea what kind of music they played.

    Thanks for telling us a little more about that and about Tolley.

    • #2
  3. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’m not going to click to play any song described as “pummeling,” etc., but thank you for memorializing the gentleman.

    It’s not for everyone. Thanks for coming by.

    kelsurprise (View Comment):

    Whereas I can’t wait to click on a track described as “pummeling” but wait I must, since I’m at work right now.

    Trust me, the wait will be worth it. : )

    I remember this — I remember hearing that he left behind a little girl and I recall someone’s having mentioned on one of the news reports that he was in a band but I had no idea what kind of music they played.

    Thanks for telling us a little more about that and about Tolley.

    I always like to hear about people who made a positive difference. It’s unfortunate it has to be under these circumstances.

    • #3
  4. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I listened to the music and can appreciate it (and I like the cover art). A worthy tribute, Cat. It’s nice to see you back.

    • #4
  5. Jason Rudert Coolidge
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    I’m up for a pummeling. I don’t know about the MILFs here at Corner Bakery though. Let’s find out. iPhone do your thing…

    • #5
  6. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    Jason Rudert (View Comment):
    I’m up for a pummeling. I don’t know about the MILFs here at Corner Bakery though. Let’s find out. iPhone do your thing…

    I liked it!

    Though I do feel a little bad about not having noticed that the cat was sleeping right next to the speakers.

    • #6
  7. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Thanks Cat.  That’s a sad one, but a better life lived than most.

     

    • #7
  8. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I listened to the music and can appreciate it (and I like the cover art). A worthy tribute, Cat. It’s nice to see you back.

    kelsurprise (View Comment):

    I liked it!

    Though I do feel a little bad about not having noticed that the cat was sleeping right next to the speakers.

    Cool, I’m glad and a bit surprised to see the music getting some love. Not a big fan of the cover art myself, but that’s normal when it comes to slam.

    Sorry for your kitty, Kel. Strangely, I’ve found pets aren’t much bothered when I play my music.

    • #8
  9. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Cat III (View Comment):
    Not a big fan of the cover art myself

    They do have one cover I quite like, for their third demo, Perpetual Degradation:

    Personally, I think they missed an opportunity by not naming this Roided-up Goblins Crucified on Lumpy Pyramids, but that’s just me. Also, of note is that Tolley provided vocals for this one.

    • #9
  10. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    OK, Cat III, thanks for another thoroughly original post.

    Plus I fervently hope and believe you won’t cross-post this on Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family website.

    • #10
  11. SpiritO'78 Inactive
    SpiritO'78
    @SpiritO78

    I’ll say this about death/slam metal, it is the most honest type of music available. The cover art describes perfectly the noises (um…angry) of the tracks recorded. One needn’t even listen to know what it sounds like. My hard rock tastes never advanced much beyond Metallica and Anthrax.

    I am glad you posted about lesser known musicians as a memorial. Thanks for that!

    • #11
  12. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I’m no fan of the genre, but that is no matter.

    What a loss for his wife, daughter, friends, colleagues, bandmates, and fans.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • #12
  13. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc
    @Metalheaddoc

    SpiritO'78 (View Comment):
    I’ll say this about death/slam metal, it is the most honest type of music available. The cover art describes perfectly the noises (um…angry) of the tracks recorded. One needn’t even listen to know what it sounds like. My hard rock tastes never advanced much beyond Metallica and Anthrax.

    I am glad you posted about lesser known musicians as a memorial. Thanks for that!

    Nice to see a fellow Anthrax fan here. You are correct, death metal and thrash metal are about as unpretentious as you can get in music. Better musicianship than punk but same raw gritty in-your-face, no-apologies attitude.

    • #13
  14. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    SpiritO'78 (View Comment):
    I’ll say this about death/slam metal, it is the most honest type of music available. The cover art describes perfectly the noises (um…angry) of the tracks recorded. One needn’t even listen to know what it sounds like.

    Slam is one of the styles of death metal I least glom to, but there’s something to be said for its adherents lack of pretensions regarding the music. It’s one-dimensional and that’s the way they like it.

    My hard rock tastes never advanced much beyond Metallica and Anthrax.

    Listened to Ride the Lightning again recently and remembered how great Metallica could be. A lot of people slag off Anthrax which shows me they haven’t listened to Persistence of Time.

    • #14
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