by RS Frost
Comprised of three stalwarts of Australian extreme metal, WEREWOLVES are set to release their debut album, ‘The Dead Are Screaming’ in April through PROSTHETIC RECORDS.
This death metal machine is driven by Dave Haley (PSYCROPTIC, RUINS, BLOOD DUSTER, ABRAMELIN) on drums, Matt Wilcock (THE ANTICHRIST IMPERIUM, THE BERZERKER, Abramelin, ex-AKERCOCKE) on guitars, and vocalist/bassist Sam Bean (THE SENSELESS, The Berzerker, The Antichrist Imperium, ex-MITHRAS). These three gentlemen have been staples of extreme death metal in Australia for the better part of two decades, both in their shared projects and their individual musical ventures.
Given the profusion of the members’ respective outputs, it comes as no surprise that Werewolves absolutely delivers the goods, but not in the way some may expect. Whilst previous efforts from these musicians have been, more or less, of the more technical leaning variety, ‘The Dead Are Screaming” is a 32-minute-long cacophony of callous, fast and raw metal… as the band themselves put it:
“Filthy knuckle-dragging blackened death metal grind for you to lick your palms to, you fucking freaks”.
After hearing the album, and consequently playing it on repeat, I invited Inner Missive alumni Matt and Sam to discuss this new project and what Werewolves have hidden under their fur.
I’ve been led to believe that the album came together quite quickly and somewhat out of the blue. How did this project come to be?
Matt – In the simplest way possible! Dave mentioned to me that he had some studio time available and he half-jokingly said something along the lines of "If you wanna do a ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ style album, I can track the drums for it.” So, with that, I had a long weekend coming up, and in four days I wrote nine "songs", if you can call them that. I sent them to Dave, he thought it was hilarious and he booked in to record the drums two weeks later. We had a bit of a chat about vocals and bass and it was a pretty obvious choice for me that Sam would be the right person.
I messaged Sam and asked, "Do you know anyone that wants to do bass and vocals for an album of unbridled caveman brutality?” Fortunately, he said he might know someone. He then learnt the bass parts, wrote vocals and recorded both in another two weeks. That was it, from nothing to album in about a month! It still makes me laugh.
Sam – As Matt said, he and Dave had already decided to bang something out and just needed some random lunatic to do bass and scream his idiot head off. When Matt asked me if I was interested, I was like “I’m gonna have to think about that… YES. YES. Please, YES.” I didn’t think about it too long. The idea of banging out some tunes without being too complex or logical or ambitious suited me. It was the first time I had done music with a band just for the sake of it.
What are some musical influences behind the songs? What was your musical state of being over that long weekend?
Matt – Well Dave and I are both proper into ‘Panzer Division…’ and that album was kind of the influence to making this record. It doesn't necessarily sound like MARDUK, it was just the ferocity of that album we were going for. There are a few different styles in there, black/death/grind, maybe a bit of punk. The whole premise was to not try and be clever, just smash it out, keep it simple and nasty. Writing so much material in such a short time put me in a bit of a strange headspace. I'd get one song down, then hit record and start the next one wondering what the next one would sound like. I tried not to second guess things, just get it down when it felt OK and then move on.
Sam, in our interview for The Senseless you seemed to be rather disenfranchised with metal music and the metal industry at large, so I’m curious as to why you agreed to be a part of yet another project, and one starting from scratch at that?
Sam – These guys make doing a band fun and easy. Matt knows his way around the studio and getting a performance, and Dave knows his way around the music industry, and they are both at the top of their game musically in Australia… if not the world. Every other bit of music I do is almost over-thought and crafted for years at a time, it’s refreshing to bash something out quick-smart, and it’s not intimidating to do a band where you’re not carefully plotting out the next few years. It doesn’t matter if we haven’t made something that will shift units and pits, just as long as we crack ourselves up with how moronic we can make a song. I piss myself laughing whenever we chat as well, even when talking death metal business, which helps.
Going over the track info for the album, it becomes clear that the lyrics for this release are coming from a place of pure unbridled aggression, made apparent by titles such as ‘Establish Dominance’, ‘Know Your Place’, ‘Beating Those We Despise’ and the succinctly scripted ‘Irate’.
Part of the band’s official bio reads:
“Nine songs, one hundred megatons, zero mercy. The audio, which we’ll loosely term ‘music’, is for fans of MARDUK, MORTICIAN, and people who like to bang their heads against each other until we scream.”
This is simply followed by an entire line of the word “hate”.
I’m curious as to where these lyrics are coming from, given that Sam is now a far cry from his violent cretin self of the early ‘00s.
Sam – The music is base caveman death metal horseshit made by halfwits for halfwits, and I wanted something dumb and obnoxious that would suit it. If any real meaning has slipped in there it was totally by accident. Matt played me some ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ and sometimes I’d try and go for that vibe. If I ever got stuck he was like “What would Will from Mortician do?”
Are you perhaps treating these lyrics as some sort of cathartic release?
Sam – Nah, I’m pretty chill. I do yoga three or four times a week. I’m not seething with anything, except maybe satisfaction. After twenty years of death metal, I can crack out diatribes in my sleep dude. I really totally can just pull a rant out of my arse, just like that. Check it out, HATRED BURNS INSIDE MY HEAD MY TEETH ARE BULLETS I SHIT LEAD. See? Easy. People make this death metal thing too hard.
The cover art for the album was created by Tasmanian, or as Sam would put it, “Taswegian”, artist Mitchell Nolte. How did you guys find, and come to work with, Mitchell?
Sam – I think fellow Taswegian Mafia member Dave knows him and recommended him. When Dave makes suggestions, we go with them. It was only after he started painting the cover that I realised he’s actually super talented and does heaps of metal bands. I thought it was just some regional nepotism, which I totally respect.
How much input did all parties have in coming up with the final piece of art?
Sam – Fairly equal. Mitchell checked out the lyrics and, once he stopped laughing, whipped up five or so drafts. They were all amazing but our decision was pretty unanimous. Decision-making is easy with us, let me tell you.
The album was produced by none other than Joe Haley (Psycroptic, Ruins, THE AMENTA) who has quite the track record in regards to production, featuring the likes of ABORTED, DISENTOMB, DAEMON PYRE and ETERNAL REST to name a few, as well as Psycroptic’s five most recent albums.
Matt – Joe initially recorded the drums, obviously he does the majority, if not all, of Dave's drum tracking and a whole lot of production for different albums so he was the main choice straight away.
Sam – Like I said, nepotism.
What was the tracking process like for everyone? I’m assuming you all tracked your parts separately?
Matt – Dave and Joe just got the drums down as they've done dozens of times before so that was all good, I recorded guitar and went over to Adelaide and recorded Sam's bass. Jack Hartley of SHATTERBRAIN recorded Sam's Vocals. I reamped everything with Sam Johnson at Holes & Corners and Joe mixed it. Easy!
Sam – Yeah, Matt flew over to Adelaide to help me with my stuff. I was dogsitting in a house over here, getting over a bout of vertigo, trying not to spew everywhere. We did the bass in the lounge room, straight into a small mixer and his laptop. I had learned the songs from Matt online and quite often he was hearing the bass lines for the first time when he pressed “record”.
How much input did you all have in the mixing/mastering stages?
Matt – Very Little! Joe did a "first mix" and we said yep! That'll do!
Sam – I think the first mix was too violent, if that’s conceivable. He pulled it back a tiny bit. But yeah, he pretty much aced it first go.
And are you happy with the outcome?
Matt – Totally, it’s ferocious! It does what it says on the tin!
Sam – Surprisingly, yeah. There’s a real vibe that comes out when three capable people bash out material without their brains getting in the way. It’s really got something, it kinda surprised us all.
When Matt first showed me the album a label deal had yet to be signed. How did you come to release the album through Prosthetic Records?
Sam – Dave was on tour with Psycroptic in the US and shopped it to a few labels. We got an immediate response from a few but Prosthetic’s offer was the best. It also helps that Dave knows them and gets along with them, the relationship factor is pretty important.
With the impending release and a label to back it, Werewolves are planning to make their entrance into the live circuit in the near future, providing that the COVID-19 situation hasn't completely crippled Australia’s live music industry.
Matt – Well, we'll definitely be playing some shows in support of the album, but everything's pretty fucked for the foreseeable future, so if the world doesn't implode then we'll make some plans!
I was very interested in Sam’s perspective of the current health crisis, as he tends to have quite a unique way of viewing these types of things, as illustrated in our lengthy conversation regarding The Senseless.
Sam – I think everyone is so focused on day-to-day at the moment that no-one is looking six months to two years down the track. This changes a lot of things. We will be lucky not to see depression or war out of this. It’s funny, we’ve had the technology to isolate for ages, but it hasn’t really been used, I think we’ll see a big tech shift in the next few months. So I’m not really too worried about gigs. I feel bad for Dave; he makes his living from the industry, so the cancellations and quarantines have been a huge blow. Matt’s fine, his customers tend to be dead people so he’s probably going to get rich.
Sam, how are you feeling about the prospect of getting up on stage again and fronting this monster?
Sam – Half really excited, half shitting myself! The excitement part kinda comes from my Mithras experience; there’s nothing better than playing live with elite musicians, it’s the best. You’re not focusing on keeping the technical side together; you can really give out a vibe. The shitting myself part is for a few reasons… I haven’t played live since 2013 (with The Berzerker), and I wasn’t thinking about how difficult it would be to perform the bass and vocals live when I wrote them. It’s fucking difficult. There are no breaks for solos, so the ranting is pretty relentless. I need to rehearse hard, maybe grow another lung or something.
Speaking of The Berzerker, the band is, to the best of my knowledge, back together with plans of a new album being released this year. The personnel involved on this album are, for the most part, the same line-up featured on 2002’s ‘Dissimulate’, which includes both Sam and Matt. This is also the first time project mastermind Luke Kenny has done anything in the music world since 2008’s ‘The Reawakening’.
Can you guys comment on this reformation and the impending return of The Berzerker?
Sam – I’ll take this one. I think everyone’s expecting a full band return with a big label signing and lots of touring and videos and DVDs and special edition releases and all that. I can almost guarantee that’s not going to happen. If it does, no-one will be more surprised than me. People will get an incredibly noisy, brutal album of pure Berzerker landing in the middle of an incredibly chaotic time, and that’s it. Matt and I are involved, but Luke is also using Jason and Ed (from the ‘World of Lies’/‘Animosity’/‘Reawakening' albums). Matt and I pretty much had all our stuff done and submitted by the start of February because Luke was aiming for a March release. Last I checked, Jason and Ed are still trying to write and record riffs and the world seems to be grinding to a halt so I don’t know if the March release is still happening or what.
Matt and I also have a timeline for The Antichrist Imperium’s new album; we’ve got to meet label APOCALYPTIC WITCHCRAFT’s release schedule, so we’ve had to step away and attend to that and to the first Werewolves release. But if we get to the end of this month and have done our work, and Berzerker is still recording, we’ll probably step in and keep contributing to that. I can confirm that the songs I’ve heard so far are pretty crushing, especially sonically. Shit, I think Luke spent about two and a half months just working on production and sounds, you put this next to the other popular modern extreme bands and it sounds like a mugging.
From what I’ve been told, the second Werewolves album has already been completed, along with the third Antichrist Imperium album. Can you guys confirm any of this?
Matt – Werewolves part two is very close to finished, Sam's just gotta record vocals. There’s no rush of course, it’s gonna be at least 12 months before we think about the release.
Antichrist volume three is looking like it will be released in September, the recording process is all a bit topsy turvy given location etc. so some parts are recorded, some aren't, but we're on schedule and the material is killer. Sam's actually tracking vocals for that tomorrow! Sam – They’d finished their parts last year. I’m holding the whole show up.
Thank you both for your time and insight once again. Do you have any last words?
Sam – Any last words? What, you expect us to die or something? We’re not going to die. We’re too evil to die.