As is often the way, an act as feral, savage and, to nick a term from my good friend and colleague Michael Stronge, debilitating, as Aussie extremists Werewolves are both onstage and in the studio are actually among the most urbane and witty when not toting their particular tools of the trade. Consequently it’s always a pleasure to chat to them and, when a chance came to chew the fat with bass/vocal wolf Sam Bean about the band’s storming new album, From The Crave To The Grave, the opportunity was taken with all the alacrity of a starving seagull eyeing some recently regurgitated chips…

So, the new album. It’s almost upon us. Excitement pangs at the thought or are you past all that now? “No, I’m dead inside, dead to everything… Endorphins stopped running through my veins about twenty years ago… No, I exaggerate a little bit. Of course nothing’s ever going to be as exciting as Earache Records putting out your first album (Sam, you’ll doubtless recall, was a member of The Berzerker, whose first album was indeed loosed upon the world by the famed Nottingham-based label in 2000), but we still get a little bit of a buzz from putting albums out. It’s that sort of buzz you get from sitting and watching your stats tick over… I think Matt (Wilcock, guitars) is on a mission to release a hundred albums before he dies and he’s just dragging us along in his wake!”

Last time we spoke you mentioned that as a consequence of the lockdown you’d amassed a lot of material; is this the new album the first of many from the band over the next couple of years? “We see this band as an album a year kind of thing; we also released an EP (Deathmetal) earlier this year and we’re throwing live shows into the mix as well now; Matt and David (Haley, drums) are the engines of the band and if anything I can see them amassing more material booking more gigs and finding more new things for us to do…”

You hinted there at touring. What are we to expect? ‘Everything we do with Werewolves we take a kind of ‘suck it and see’ approach and live shows will be no different. The first show in Sydney will be at the Crowbar in Sydney on June 25th, the day after the album comes out. And if we enjoy it, we’ll probably keep doing it. We’ve got three other shows across the country booked but the way we feel about this now is that we’ve all had our bands where we’ve ‘climbed the mountain’, and thrown everything it it. The only reason we do Werewolves is because it’s ridiculous fun to do, and that has to be the same with the shows. If it’s fun and worthwhile, and we look at each other after coming off stage and think ‘oh yeah – I’d do that again!’ then we’ll keep booking stuff in. If it all works and people enjoy it, then we’ll expand further. For me the ideal would be to play overseas festivals and then doing short runs off the back of that. I don’t see myself getting back into a van again for long periods. That shit was painful enough when we were in our twenties!”

Let’s get back to the album. In his review of your last album, What A Time To Be Alive, our man Mick Stronge described the record as ‘thirty four minutes of pure, unadulterated, debilitating filth’. Should we expect more of the same from the new album?” “Hahahaha! bullseye! Honestly I think we should put that on stickers and whack it on the front of every album! Yes is the answer to that question. We aren’t Kreator, we’re not going to do a Renewal, or a Cold Lake (I like both of those albums! – Outsider Ed), we’re not going to do a Morbid Angel Illud Divinum Insanus! I did suggest to the guys for the last album that we get a female screamer in and they looked at me and said… no. Matt had to sit me down and say dude, have you noticed there are no solos and there’s no ‘singing’ on our albums? We use Marduk and Mortician as our lodestars! I had fogotten… (laughs) So every album is us finding different ways to be hateful, horrible and brutal. We’ll keep nudging the BPM but I think we’ve found a wheelhouse that works best with maximum violence. We’ve set the range that we want to work in. Once you go above that, you lose the groove; You can have short burst of two hundred and eighty to three hundred BPM, but too much of it becomes a blur. The main thing that changes from album to album is… the first album saw us leaning back on our skills and throwing something together and being astonished at how well it came out; the second was ‘well, here we are an this is our sound’ and now the third album is us refining that a bit. We know what kicks arse and we know what it sounds like when we’re wasting time and we’ve managed to cut away some of that fat”.

I don’t for a minute think that you’re writing this stuff for anyone but yourselves, but do your label Prosthetic Records weigh in at any point with their opinions? Or do you present them with the finished article and that’s that? “We present everything as a finished article. We’re experienced enough now to not be too precious about the material. We not only open up to each other but also to the label the opportunity to change anything. And especially the way I go about the lyrics for this project is that I offer up everyone a veto which I encourage them to use. Prosthetic have only used that once; I wanted to call the last album Hate Speech, so that every time someone talked about the album on Twitter it would be ‘hashtaghatespeech’, but Dave as a booking agent has ran afoul of the cancel crowd before, and not only the guys in the band but the label said I was drifting into a tricky area. I said ‘guys there are some pretty raw lyrics on the album, don’t you want to change them?’ but they said no, you have to change the album title. Musically the label are down with it”.

Obviously I’m a very important man and I’ve heard the new album already, but our readers might not be so lucky so I’d like to go through the tracks on the new record with you and get you to give a bit of insight into the writing and recording of them. “OK, I’ll have to restrict myself on the use of the word violence, though”. (more laughter)

“Abuse. To me the first half of the song sounds like Hate Eternal and the second half is black metal. It’s probably the song I enjoyed performing on most. Lyrically, I don’t think there’s anything quite as vicious as kicking someone who is down but trying to improve themselves and threatening to hold a bool burning with all their self-help books. I fully acknowledge how nasty that idea is. I hope someone is upset by it”.

“The title says everything doesn’t it! Just kidding! NWA is what I think of when I think of that song. I think of all those gangsta rap groups that came out, talking about how big their dicks are, all that kind of shit… I like death metal with a bit of swagger, I don’t like all those poxy guys you get these days who are all self-conscious, shuffling around, staring at their shoes. Compared to our other stuff this sounds more like a traditional metal track; that thrash section… it could almost be like a track from The Haunted or someone like that. I thought it needed some really stupid lyrics to make it stand out from all the other bands doing this kind of thing”.

“Funky! That chorus where it goes half-time and starts marching… I find it really funky. It’s a really compact song”. It’s the shortest track on the album. I’m interested that you equate marching with funkiness. “Well, Dave’s marching, but Matt’s riff underneath it is almost Cannibal Corpseish and I found that when I added bass to it it lent itself to string skipping and slapping. It’s death metal so I doubt anybody will be able to detect the bassline in this song but to me that’s the main memory of it. The chorus has an underlying rhythm to it which I hope people will find catchy”.

“Anti-fascist. It’s basically a social credit score of minus one million turned into a track! It was a case of… Matt hit me with a song that was catchy as hell, and the chorus sounded like something you might hear on Heartwork by Carcass, it has that kind of melody to it before it gets back to the horror and blasting. And I had an idea percolating in my brain for a while that it’s OK to be in a death metal band and yelling about the horrors of the world in abstract method, but if you’re any sort of a man you are going to have to start calling out some entities and naming names; I think this is the song where we’ve gone closest to doing that. Obviously as an Australian, I’m not a fan of some of the actions of the Chinese Communist Party, their trade war and threats over the past few years… there we go – I’ve got it all off my chest now. I’ll probably get yanked off the plane in Hong Kong on route to our first shows in Europe!”

This is my favourite track on the album. “Thanks man. If I was to sum up this it would be our step up song. Obviously people will cotton on to the fact that it’s the slow song on the album, the breather between the two sides. To me it’s probably the darkest and most horrifying song we’ve done. The heaviest not in terms of speed but in terms of the subject matter and what we’re trying to conjure with it. I’m keen to see how the video we’ve shot for it goes down. Everything else we’ve done we’ve shot on mobile phones in bathrooms! For this one it took some proper effort. It’s one of the few songs where I’m not swearing like an Australian (laughs); so it’s probably the most likely of our songs to reach beyond the extreme metal crowd to a wider audience. Whether it does or not is a bit of a coin toss”.

“Triplets is what I think of when I think of this track. Triplets form the basis of a lot of bands’ music. Morbid Angel and Deicide are triplet-heavy. It’s the bread and butter of old school death metal. We rarely indulge in it – but in this fuck yeah we do! The first half of it is a great big long galloping triplet from Matt. Lyrically it’s probably the one track where I’m the only person amused by it… Obviously I talk my way around the Oedipus Complex, which is the term for wanting to kill your dad and fuck your mum, and whilst if you present that as a concept to people they are disgusted – ‘ugh, filth! taboo!’, if you look at the PornHub statistics, stepsister and stepmum porn form one of the major categories, particularly in Australia, the UK and America. Which is why the lyric ‘stepbrother what are you doing/stepson what have you done’ seeks to tie this perversion which seems to be held by seventy perc cent of the male population that surrounds me and is younger than me to the taboo of the Oedipus Complex itself. A nice little kick in the balls to finish the song with!”

“I have to be honest – I’d run out of lyrics by this point and was just Magpieing shit together… The second half of it is blasttastic, I like that part, but it’s probably my least favourite track on the album because it sits amongst several strong ones”…

Obviously you can’t love every track you ever write – does each album throw up something like this that you don’t particularly need to hear again, or wouldn’t play live? “It depends which band. With the Berzerker there are probably a couple of tracks on each album that I don’t particularly care for, but with something like The Antichrist Imperium with each album we’ve done, every track saw us going ‘wow, we smashed that one!’. With Werewolves I usually find there’s one track on each album that I don’t massively feel. But that’s the magic of music, once it’s done and you send it out in to the world people will have their own reaction to it. Half the time it’s the songs that I really like that other people go ‘yeeeaahhh… that one sucks!'”.

I’m expecting you’ll have a bit of trouble with this given that you ran out of lyrics on track eight. Or is the writing process non-sequential? “The writing process is non-sequential. We don’t order the tracks until everything is recorded. Lyrically I’m totally happy with it. It’s vicious, it’s violent – it’s a Werewolves song through and through! I like it because it’s a brute of a song. That opening riff is shockingly heavy. I’m bald as can be but I can still feel my hair getting blown back when it kicks off”…

As a trio, how much does it take for you to get to the nine songs we hear on the album? Do you reject a lot or are you pretty good at targeting just what it is that makes a good Werewolves track without leaving too much debris on the studio floor? “We’re pretty good at this. It’s pretty lean. Not much gets left behind. This one was slightly weird because we wrote this album and the next album at the same time. Everybody is just about to hear album three but album four is instrumentally finished and the only thing that is slowing it down is me just taking my time getting lyrics and vocals together. As I say Matt and Dave are machines – I’m a completely different story! But to answer the question, there’s no real fat to cut and nothing gets left on the studio floor. That’s a little scary, but those two guys knock it out of the park every time. I think the only time there was a little bit of fat was on the first album, which Matt wrote in four days. There were one or two tracks that were chucked”.

“I’m probably most proud of that one. It’s my favourite – I don’t know whether it’s anyone else’s. Some of the moments there where Dave goes from blasting to half time remind me of an Australian band from the nineties called Damaged. The drummer for them Matt Sanders, AKA Skitz… one of the things he did really well was the way he came out of a really fast part, cut to half time but with his feet still flying along. When you do that right, it kind of feels like your head is in a vice. It’s a great feeling and there are quite a few moments like that during this track. The lyrics probably make the most sense on the album, which is a bonus for anyone who hasn’t washed out by the end of the album”…

And that’s it. An entertaining and informative look at the new album. Anything else you’d like to tell our readers? “Only that we are apparently a live band. We at the Crowbar in Sydney this Saturday; If you’re in Melbourne you have two options: we’re at the Northcote Social Club supporting Abramelin on July 8th and then at Max Watts supporting Psycroptic on August 5th. Adelaide people can see us at the Froth and Fury Fest on November 19th”.

From The Cave To The Grave releases tomorrow, June 24th. Read Michael Stronge’s review of the album HERE