Everything is relative. Some people bag on Lars, others appreciate both his drumming and the part he’s played in advancing and maintaining metal’s relevance over the course of 40 years. Currently, there are those going nuts adhering to stay-at-home/quarantine/isolation measures in contrast to those loving staying/working at home and/or doing next-to-nothing. There’s a segment of folks who will trump up the experience of listening to music on cassette tape while most enjoy being able to hear music properly. Then, along comes Werewolves.
The three-piece death metal outfit (featuring Dave Haley, Matt Wilcock, and Sam Bean) was purportedly put together in a week, wrote their The Dead are Screaming debut in a weekend and recorded, mixed and mastered the record and inked a three-album deal with Prosthetic in the two months following. Sounds like territory ripe for the sort of off-the-cuff “Marduk-meets-Mortician…idiocy” this quick-accomplishing project touts itself as. Well, as much the background story related throughout the bio and press materials attempts to highlight Werewolves as a low-brow, Neanderthalic romp, you shouldn’t believe the self-denigrating hype. It’s logical to think that flashes of Psycroptic, The Antichrist Imperium, The Berzerker, The Senseless and Akercocke would worm their way into Werewolves given who’s involved. It’s also logical to think that Mssrs. Haley, Wilcock, and Bean would be able to turn their brains off in the grasping to achieve that treasured musical idiocy. Both accounts ring true, but not to the desire and lengths the creators have envisioned.
A mid-range grandiosity oozes from Wilcock’s guitar tone that shines a light on the tensile, drag strip picking velocities and jumpy melodies. In accompaniment, Haley’s drumming attacks like automatic weapon firing out Morse code recollections of heinous crimes in grizzly detail. And rest assured, Bean’s vocals are as playful and psychotic sounding as anything he’s accomplished previously. Yes, in contrast to the day gigs of its creators, Werewolves is quite rightly a caveman knuckle-drag. However, even the album’s most straight-forward moment of steadfast hammering (“No More Heroes”) possesses a degree of technical involvement that moves the song beyond sloping foreheads pounding out four chords through a used Metal Zone pedal.
“Establish Dominance” may be a rudimentary traipse in the eyes of schooled veterans with a library of extreme metal riffs on the tips of their brains, but existing commonalities are sculpted by contrasting icy cold black metal riffing and precision-laced, minor-key death metal. These elements are further accented by palm muting, ascending/descending chord markers and smatterings of grind that connect with those perpetually searching for control within their chaos and songs purposefully stitched together from meaty riff collections.
“Know your Place” is piston-pumping death/grind that zeros in on the listener with chunky wrist flicking and an infectious chorus section, sounding like something that might emerge from a collaboration between Shane Embury and Kevin Sharp. “Dogknotted” spins a yarn that might have come from the maw of Mitch Harris’ Menace project, if Nasum had gotten their hands on it. “Beating Those We Despise” and “Showering Teeth” truck along with herky-jerky harmony/melody runs that collide above Swedish and Norwegian airspace. Their simple chord progressions may be lunk-headed on their own, but things get expansive with the addition of explosive double bass, additional guitar textures, and gut-punch vocals. “Gnaw Their Bones” has moments that drone on notes/chords/riffs longer than need be, but redeems with catchy parts that come across like Sick of it All getting in touch with their ‘90s Floridian sweatpants boners similar to how “Irate” cranks along like Morbid Angel tearing around Tampa in a Z28 on a humid summer night.
There’s definitely more going on than meets the eye and more than what listeners are initially being lead to believe. Given the known capabilities of its members, Werewolves do exhibit restraint that has prevented The Dead are Screaming from falling into the realm of the overly progressive and overwrought. But it’s absolutely not at the point where you’ll be cursing your opposable thumbs because you can’t take the skill out of someone with a skill-set.