Several years ago, Jeff Cole – guitarist of Indiana metal outfit Wolftooth – suffered the unthinkable. He fell 14 feet off a roof onto concrete, fracturing his neck, severely damaging his back in multiple places, and snapping his right wrist in two. Doctors told him he'd be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life due to extent of his injuries.
Paralyzed and looking at a lifetime of disability, and at least several years of rehabilitation, the guitarist's musical future looked bleak. But despite the dire prognosis, Cole was determined to play guitar again, and soon.
After receiving surgery to fix his broken wrist and a brief period of recovery afterwards, it wasn't long before he had a six-string in his hands once more.
“I had pins in my arm holding it together with an external wrist jack,” Cole explains. “It took a while to get my wrist mobility back after it healed up. I tried to play guitar in my hospital bed with the pins in my arm, just to get things moving and see if it was possible. At the time being able to stand on stage again wasn't looking good.”
Of all his injuries, Cole's wrist healed fastest. “I did about six months of physical therapy for it,” he says. “It took another six months to stop hurting.”
But the recovery from his spinal injuries would take much longer. “I did intense physical therapy three days a week for a year before I was released from that. They told me to get a gym membership after that because at that point I was mostly doing strength exercises for my legs and back. I've been doing that ever since.”
Miraculously, in spite of the doctors' initial assessment of his injuries, Cole is not only walking again, but performing onstage once more with his band.
“I went from a wheelchair to a walker at first and then to two crutches and then to one,” he recalls. “After that I walked with a cane for a couple of years. Now I walk with the use of AFOs [ankle foot orthotics], which are basically a shorter kind of leg brace.”
Now, in an inspiring tale of recovery and perseverance, Cole has been playing live with Wolftooth in support of their brand-new record, Blood & Iron, which landed December 3.
Describing the sensation of performing once more as “amazing”, understandably, Cole explains: “The entire time I was in the hospital I was just focused on recovering enough to play guitar while standing up again. And being able to do it now is a true blessing. Performing has always been the part of the job that is the most fun. It has been a long arduous road, but I'm here and ready to melt faces!”
And showing the world that he's as formidable as ever on the fretboard, Cole has filmed a new guitar playthrough for Blood & Iron's powerchord-heavy eighth track, Garden of Hesperides, which we here at Guitar World are stoked to exclusively premiere. You can watch the inspiring footage above.
- Wolftooth's new album Blood & Iron is out now via Napalm Records.