In Memoriam: William Nicholas Tolley, 1974-2017

William “Bill” Tolley wasn’t just the drummer of Internal Bleeding, pioneers of American brutal death metal and precursors to slam death metal. He was also a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). He tragically, and heroically, passed away Thursday, April 20, 2017, in the line of duty while fighting a fire in New York. Internal Bleeding’s Chris Pervelis wrote this eulogy in his honor and memory.

Bill Tolley, Internal Bleeding drummer (courtesy

William “Bill” Tolley, 1974-2017

Written by Chris Pervelis

William Nicholas “Bill” Tolley was an incredible human being who I had the privilege of calling band mate and friend for 25 years. Trying to write something that does his spirit justice is a monumentally impossible task.

Bill loved to make people happy — even with people he disliked, or didn’t get along with, he’d attempt to find some kind of common ground, so that things would go smoothly. This desire to make people happy is what drove Bill, whether he knew it or not.

It’s why he made music, because he drew so much positive energy from the band’s fan base. His intense desire to please them and make them truly happy drove him to be the best he could be at his craft. And in my opinion, he was one of the best in the metal scene. He developed a groovy, cymbal slashing style that emphasized creative backbeats and a sense of timing that today’s mathematically driven drummers could never achieve. His drumming is the basis of the slam blueprint that Internal Bleeding laid down in the early 1990s.

His intense desire to make people happy drove him to become a fireman as well. He would just tell you that he always liked fighting fires, but those who knew him understood that he couldn’t bear the thought of someone losing a child or cherished possessions to some sort of horrific fire event. On 9/11, Bill was a volunteer firefighter 50 miles away from New York City, and while everyone was running out of that hellhole, Bill was running in to help others — in an effort to save them and allow them to continue their lives and find happiness. He absorbed the pain and misery of that day because he didn’t want us to have to deal with it. That speaks volumes about his character.

Most importantly, Bill would go to incredible lengths to make his wife and beautiful daughter Bella smile. I have never seen a man (much less a big, bad metal head) love a family more than he loved his. He went to great lengths to provide them with a home filled with laughter, smiles love and happiness. Even when the demands of such a dangerous job would cause family strain or difficulty, Bill would struggle mightily to keep them happy. He spoke with me about it all the time and how upset he could get when he saw sadness in his family’s eyes.

Bill wouldn’t want us to mourn or be sad about his passing. If he could, he would try to figure out a way to make us smile, laugh and find happiness in our lives.

His life, deeds and actions are a testament to that. And it shall never be forgotten.