THUNDERBOLT was conceived out of the ashes of another band called SKUNK. In fact, SKUNK was more of a learning experience, rather than a real band. Erwin Suetens had just gotten his first guitar and his grand-niece An ďAnimalĒ Broeckx knew the basics of drumming, so they hooked up with David Suffys (who had just gotten his first guitar as well) and started to jam. David soon left (due to his studies Ė he would eventually surface in a band called VIRGIN) and was replaced by Anís boyfriend, Eric Van Den Eynde. After a chance meeting with Erwin, Serge Bastaens joined on bass, and SKUNKís line-up was rounded out with the addition of vocalist Philip De Liser. After a while, An and Eric left, due to differences in opinion with the others, concerning the matter of how to run the band. As of December of 2002 Eric Van Den Eynde surfaced in Symphonic metal band ANGEL IN TWILIGHT.
Anyhow, in September of 1984 Philip De Liser (vocals), Erwin Suetens (guitar) and Serge Bastaens (bass) completed SKUNKís line-up again with the addition of guitarist Olivier Mathei and drummer Dirk Van De Velde. Actually, they met Olivier in De Gans, their favourite pub, while Dirk was recommended through mutual friends. And, as the bandís style changed from ďpunkyĒ to more of an overall Hard Rock feel, SKUNK became THUNDERBOLT in September of 1984.
By December of 1984 Olivier Mathei had already been replaced by Peter Michielsen. The ties with Olivier werenít entirely broken though, as he became the bandís guitar roadie from then onwards. Eventually (in early 1990), Olivier also formed another band, SENTINEL. SENTINEL released two 4-song demos : Out Of The Dark (1993) and In Quest (1994).
On March 22nd 1985 THUNDERBOLT played live for the very first time, at the Ahoy venue in Wijnegem. More live experience was gained at a small festival in Boechout, on April 20th , as well as on April 11th at the Cultureel Centrum in Berchem. The setlist that night read like this : Intro - Hot Night - Ancient Eyes - Nightchaser - Message Of Love - Sheís Gone - Evil Dreams - Fascinating Lady - Wishing Well (FREE / GARY MOORE) Ė Stormchild - Running Free (IRON MAIDEN) - Paranoid (BLACK SABBATH) - Let It Go (DEF LEPPARD) - Wild Thing (THE TROGGS) - Sheís Gone (encore). As you can see, the various bandmembers were clearly inspired by the likes of BLACK SABBATH, GARY MOORE, IRON MAIDEN and JUDAS PRIEST, and THUNDERBOLTís own repertoire turned out to be in the melodic Hard Rock vein as well, including some speedier passages here and there. Also, on some occasions JUDAS PRIESTís Breaking The Law couldnít be ignored either.
In May of 1985 another line-up change occurred : vocalist Philip De Liser was replaced by Wim Opdebeeck. As a result the bandís style slowly started to change from traditional Hard Rock to a more aggressive and up-tempo kind of Heavy Metal. Besides, the lyrical content of the songs started to shift from (primarily) love song stuff to more death & destruction type stuff. Songs that were created with this new line-up include Battlefield, Death On Two Legs, Legion, Pleasure Screams, Itís Up To You, The Watcher, Thereís No Tomorrow, Never Trust Your Shadow, Lost In The Memory, In For Treason and Hunt Ďem Down. The band also continued to play live, mostly in and around Antwerp, including gigs at Jeugdhuis Kruispunt in Edegem (September 13th), JH Frelus in Deurne (October 11th) and at the Josto Bunkerfestival in Borgerhout (October 19th).
In early 1986 THUNDERBOLT acquired yet another vocalist : enter Dennis Nagels. After intense rehearsals with Dennis, THUNDERBOLT was finally ready to hit the stage again. Then, even before the first gig was booked, Dennis suddenly disappeared from view and THUNDERBOLT was back at square one. The least one could say is that Dennis was quite a character Ö On the other hand, Dennis surfaced in AXEL before the end of 1986 already. Eventually he would join CROSSHEAD as well.
In late 1986 longtime guitarist Peter Michielsen called it quits as well. He was soon replaced by Alain Smits. And a replacement for vocalist Dennis was found in Lieve Brusselmans, sister of CROSSHEADís bassist Hans. This new line-up didnít stick it out for a long time either, as Alain started to get tired of playing metal, and wanted to pursue his musical career by playing Jazz. New vocalist Lieve didnít exactly turn out to be the white blackbird that the band was looking for either, and things only went downhill for THUNDERBOLT from then onwards.
Filip Lemmens (ex BLIZZARD, ex HEAVILY MAD) offered to audition for the vocal spot (he even proceeded to sing a couple of tunes during rehearsal) but in the end he had to back out because he was too busy pursuing a career in the army, leaving him hardly any spare time for rehearsals, let alone gigs. This was yet another blow in the face for the already struggling outfit.
THUNDERBOLT came to a complete halt on May 1st 1987, when guitarist Erwin Suetens announced that he was leaving. Erwin had been asked to replace Chris Van Nauw in a band called FAIRCHILD, an offer he couldnít resist. It was an easy decision, really : by joining FAIRCHILD Erwin would be part of a complete band again, and thus being able to play live again.
Erwin stayed with FAIRCHILD until January of 1988, when he left due to irreconcilable problems that arose between himself and vocalist Dirk Seghers. Erwin then teamed up with vocalist Filip Lemmens again, in a project called RIOTíS EYE, with the other bandmembers being guitarist Chris Van Nauw (ex FAIRCHILD), bassist Patrick Anthoni (ex KING VAIN) and drummer Wim Leys (ex CROSSHEAD). It would only be a matter of a couple of months before this project called it a day though. From 1989 onwards Erwin continued his quest for fame and fortune with DOUBLE DIAMOND, in which he eventually (in 1992) teamed up with Filip Lemmens again. These days Erwin is still shredding, as part of FIREFORCE, once again with Filip Lemmens behind the mike.
Drummer Dirk Van de Velde was never heard of again afterwards, but bassist Serge Bastaens continued playing and surfaced in RUBICON later on.
Looking back, THUNDERBOLT never recorded a proper demo, let alone any vinyl. Although several songs have been recorded on an ordinary tape recorder during rehearsals ...
Erwin Suetens, Lieve Brusselmans
November 14th 2009