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US band Wolftooth, in four short years, had their third full-length out in 2021 on Napalm Records. Right place, right time, for their take on the classic proto-Doom/Heavy Metal legacy of bands like Cirith Ungol, or something more? Comrade Aleks looks to find out, with the help of guitarist Jeff.

Interview with Wolftooth.
"The Trad Doom scene started something of a renaissance from the late 2000s on, and this "new wave" is still rolling forward, with a roar, on the shoulders of bands who have managed to earn credibility during that period. However, one gets the impression that the genre in all its incarnations still remains in the deep underground, and only a limited circle of veterans of the movement can count on some kind of success. So the story of Wolftooth can be considered one of that very conditional success, by today's standards. The four musicians from Richmond, Indiana hadn't been part of any large bands before, and they released their first, self-titled album in 2018 themselves, offering notable material that combines the heaviness of Traditional Doom and the energy of classic Heavy Metal. A rare combination that proved so much in demand that the second album 'Valhalla' was released in 2020 by Ripple Music, an honest label with a good reputation. Two strong, well-received albums in three years is a decent result already, and some bands might choose to take some time and relax, but Wolftooth are back with another, more powerful, full-length titled 'Blood & Iron', and this time they are on Napalm Records! Guitarist Jeff Cole outlined his view of these events. "

Wolftooth: Jeff Cole (guitars), Chris Sullivan (vocals, guitars), Johnny Harrod (vocals, drums), Terry McDaniel (bass).

Hi Jeff! I'd like to congratulate you on the 'Blood & Iron' release of December 3rd through Napalm Records. The band's been active for about four years, so this looks like a sort of success. Did you set some goals for yourself when you were starting Wolftooth in 2017?

No, not at all. We had all played in different bands for 20+ years and just wanted to start a band to jam on the weekends for something to do. We had no idea it would take off the way it has.

Actually I've only found that you and Chris Sullivan played in bands before. How does your experience with Shroud and Darknes help you in Wolftooth?

I was in two different bands with Terry and Johnny in the late 90's. As far as my experience in Shroud and Darknes I would say they both helped me develop songwriting skills and helped me figure out what works and what doesn't.

Do you see the band's current status as a result of hard work or was it a complex thing, a concatenation of circumstances, like the current renaissance of old school Heavy and Doom Metal, being at the right place and in the right time and so on?

I think it's definitely a right place right time kind of situation. We write music for ourselves first and foremost. We really had no idea that there was a new surge of old school metal until after the fact. We just do our thing and write music that gets us excited.

I speak about success, but we both know that Wolftooth is on top of the underground scene, and it seems to be a scourge that bands who play this kind of music are doomed to remain in this darker part of the scene where all top places are occupied by certain bands for years. Do you see a chance for Wolftooth to break through and get higher, to a mainstream level? And do you really care about it?

I think we have the potential to. It's not a primary goal of ours but I will say that being able to make a living playing music would be a dream come true. Whether or not our style of music would be accepted at that level is the question. I think we are capable of bridging the gap between mainstream and the underground.

Do you see measures to cross this gap? Healthy ambitions are always good thing, a sort of sport spirit?

Yeah, I think touring and continuing to do what we do and developing our sound will all contribute to that.

Wolftooth's line-up has been the same since the band's founding: how well does it work for you? Does each member have his role in this machinery?

The lineup works great. We have all been friends for many years to begin with. We have all played in bands with each other over the years so there's already a sense of familiarity among us. Everyone in the band has a direct influence on what makes Wolftooth sound like Wolftooth.

Black Sabbath, Manilla Road, Pentagram are a few names which people usually mention describing 'Blood & Iron'. Can you mention some less obvious influences which drove you during work over this material?

Yeah Iron Maiden, Dio, Thin Lizzy, Saxon, Judas Priest…it's all in there.

Wolftooth - 'The Voyage' (Official, 2021):

'Blood & Iron' was recorded and mastered by Jeremy Lovins, I know that he helped you with the self-titled debut and sophomore album 'Valhalla'. But I don't know any other bands which he recorded… How did you get in touch with Jeremy and what made you return to him again?

Jeremy is an old bandmate of our drummer Johnny. They played together in a band called Kramus years ago. He just happens to have a studio at his house and is a really good engineer. He understands what kind of sound we're going for and is an integral part of capturing what we're trying to do as a band.

Yep, and how did you communicate with him during the first stage of creating 'Blood & Iron'? How did you tell him what kind of sound do you want to reach with these songs?

We wanted to keep it raw. The last record 'Valhalla' was very clean and crisp. We wanted to try and capture a more visceral kind of vibe with 'Blood & Iron'.

'Valhalla' and 'Blood & Iron' were recorded during this huge pandemic with all kinds of restrictions, quarantines and etc. Did you manage to spend "normal" recording sessions? How important was it for you to play your stuff together and exchange ideas during recordings?

Both albums were a "normal" recording experience. We always write together and when it comes time to record, most of the time it's just one or two of us in the studio tracking at a time. We took precautions of course, but everything went well and according to plan.

What was the most difficult part personally for you during the work on 'Blood & Iron'?

Probably the time crunch we were under. Coming up with ten or more solos in a short amount of time can be a bit arduous lol. But I am satisfied with my performance on the album. We tend to shine under pressure.

Indeed, the guitar solos are one of the most tasty things on 'Blood & Iron'! Did you think to make some songs easier due this time pressure? You know – Wolftooth is tagged as a Doom metal band too and if you'd have a song without any solos… I wonder if people would be disappointed?

I don't know if they would or not. I do know there will be guitar solos on the next one too Lol!

Do you have a solo on this album which you are really proud of?

I like them all Lol. If I had to pick one maybe my solo on "Broken Sword" or the ending solo on "The Mare".

I bet you're satisfied with the way 'Valhalla' sounded, as 'Blood & Iron' keeps the same vibe and features as its predecessor. Do you feel you've found your place and your formula? Do you see enough room to grow in the future?

Yes, I think we've really hit our stride now. I think our sound has been firmly established on the last two albums. I always feel like there is room to grow for sure. We tried out some more classic metal riffs on 'Blood & Iron' that worked well and we'll be trying new things on the next one as well.

What role in this further growth might your equipment play? Did you feel yourself limited with your arsenal at the studio? How often do you update your own equipment?

No we never felt limited. We have a lot of things at our disposal. Software gets updated on a regular basis and we have plenty of choices between actual amps, sims and the like.

Wolftooth - 'Ahab' (Official, 2021):

Your first European tour has been announced and there are 19 dates already! I bet you have a lot of everything to prepare – visas, vaccination certificates and so on. It seems to be… an ambiguous endeavour, risking canceled gigs and festivals. Do you have some guarantees? I don't know… Really, looks cool but how do you see prospects of it?

We'll have to wait and see. All the shows are booked so we're keeping our fingers crossed.

You played your first gig in two years in November 2021, how did it feel? And how often did you actually play live before the pandemic?

It was great! As you mentioned it had been a long time since our last live performance. So, we were ready to get back on stage and feel that energy again. Before the pandemic hit, we were playing out several times a month and hitting some underground metal fests as well.

You also keep on producing, let's say, "intellectual" lyrics. I think that lyrics based on literature, myths and history lessons were pushed aside by a lot of modern bands for the sake of cheaper and recognizable trends. Who are the most effective Metal lyric authors from your point of view? Who inspires you regarding this?

Chris writes the lyrics, that being said I can say we grew up listening to bands like Iron Maiden and Dio. Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio layed the groundwork for fantastic lyrics about history, myth and legend. I think Chris approaches his lyric writing from this standpoint. We try to provide an escape for the listener.

And do you take in account… let's say... which tone to use when you record a song with an "epic" plot like 'Broken Sword', or heroic stuff like 'Ahab' or something more "peaceful" like 'The Voyage'? Do you discuss lyrics together before starting to compose a song or do you do your rock'n'roll and think about its content after the tunes are written?

We always write and compose the music first, the lyrics come after. Chris usually gets a vibe from the music itself and that inspires what he writes about.

Your home-city Richmond is called the "cradle of recorded jazz", how much of that is in Wolftooth? And how much of Richmond is in your stuff?

Yeah Richmond is home to Genett Records where some of the first jazz records were made. There's not much jazz in Wolftooth other than the occasional mode being incorporated into a solo or something. We're straight metal Lol.

Thank you for the interview, much appreciated. I wish you and Wolftooth a successful tour abroad in spring 2022 and further. How would you like to finish the interview? What's Wolftooth's ultimate manifest?

We don't really have an ultimate manifest outside of Stay Heavy and Play Loud! Thank you for the opportunity! It's been my pleasure.

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Interviewed on 2022-02-07 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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