The best music doesn’t give a fuck what you think. That shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone reading a zine that tends to skew towards the more extreme side of metal. It’d be pretty damn near impossible to make a killer death metal album if you were worrying if this lyric or that idea is going to offend your neighbor. Can you imagine making a black metal release worth its salt if you spent the duration of the writing and recording process checking to make sure every decision was Pitchfork-approved?
No, the best of the best doubles down as a middle finger to the establishment and to conventional wisdom. When you stop worrying if there’s too much black metal in your thrash or too much punk in your death metal, when you cast aside the ephemeral bonds of what society considers appropriate song topics, when you truly free yourself to make music that you want to hear and laugh in the face of everyone telling you to do it a different way, that’s when the good shit happens. Deep down in the heart of Texas, Wülfskol is doing it the right way. Translation? They’re doing it the Wülfskol way.
Since releasing their demo in 2016, the guys in Wülfskol have carved a name for themselves through 2018’s debut LP, Hellshock, and 2021’s EP Satanik Death Militia, not to mention 2018’s split with Fetid Zombie and Charged Minds. The Wülfskol sound is one that defies genre classification, mixing elements from black, death, and thrash metal with punk sensibilities. It’s a formula that’s anything but formulaic and a rancid breath of fresh air in a world filled with too many cookie cutter bands. With Imprecation legend David Herrera helming the band on vocals, who would expect anything less? It was a total privilege to catch up with Herrera, bassist Shane Wilson, and guitarist Zike Lee to chat about one of the most exciting acts in metal today.
How did you guys get Wülfskol started? What made you want to form this kind of band and with this group of guys specifically?
Shane [Wilson]: I am letting Zike [Lee] and David [Herrera] answer this one mainly, since I was not there for the formation. I joined roughly in 2016 after being asked by our vocalist, David, about jamming. Myself and the rest of the guys go back to the early 2000s, and Hell I would even say the late ’90s from us playing in various bands that played shows with each other. Joining Wülfskol with these guys was a no-brainer, we all have good history with each-other and know each other’s work ethic.
Zike: Myself, Dave, and Hekterror [Hector Tenorio, drums] worked together already on a few projects: Bahimiron, Black Boned Angel, and Fire Born Disciple. I had a band at the time and Dave thought it would be Kvvl to sing a few Misfits songs at a show. I suppose that’s how the ball got rolling and the fire lit under David’s ass.
David: I was talking to Zike on the phone about wanting to get a band together that had a Misfits/Samhain element to it and wanted him to help me build it. It was something I needed to do and Zike was someone who understood those dynamics. I told him I thought Wolf Skull would be a cool name, but didn’t want a two word name so I just mashed it up into a hybrid of those words. The umlaut was my nod to Motörhead. I thought it would be really killer to have a backbone of “Earth AD” mixed with death and thrash metal.
What got you guys into extreme metal originally? Who are some of your influences both within and without extreme metal?
Shane: I was in seventh or eighth grade and was living at my grandmother’s house. There was an older kid who lived across the street from me, I think he is about three or four years older than me. This neighbor came over one day with the Serpents of the Light album from Deicide and also showed me his Once Upon the Cross Deicide shirt. Mind you this is pre-internet days when you just couldn’t Google anything and everything. I was already listening to your usual heavy metal bands at this time for that age and once I hit play on that disc, I had this hunger and thirst that grew inside me urging me to find more music like this. So I opened up the booklet for the CD and read the thanks list in the back and sought out those bands, and then came across the Metal Maniacs magazine as well as discovering the local metal stations ran by Bill Bates and Wes Weaver, which were called Sweet Nightmares and From the Depths. These both came on super late on school nights but I (like many others from Houston) would stay up to try and record most or all of the show on a cassette tape to go back and listen to it over and over. Those two guys played a very important role in exposing me to this great music. Influence list can go on forever, but as far as playing: Nikki Sixx, Lemmy, Eerie Von, Peter Steele, etc. My music tastes are spread across the board pretty wide.
Zike: For me it’s got rock and bust balls, no matter what genre. I listen to everything from E.L.P. to Katharsis and everything in between. But Danzig would be the main catalyst, along with the first wave of black metal.
David: I was turned on to it in 1985 by a guy who went to my school. He transferred from California and he was into Dark Angel, Exodus, and Metallica. He gave me a couple of tapes to listen to that had all those bands on it, but it was the B-side that had Celtic Frost, Slayer, and Venom on it that pulled me in. I was bit. I fell into that world and never looked back.
I love the Wülfskol sound. It’s a really killer mix of different elements across extreme metal. How exciting is it to combine what you love about different styles of metal into your own unique sound? As a fan, it’s always awesome to see bands that don’t feel the need to play strictly within one box.
Shane: Thanks for the compliment. We all grew up on the sounds of Slayer, Motörhead, Samhain, Misfits, Venom, etc. We have the mindset that we do not need to re-create the wheel and we do not like jumping bandwagon of the current “IN” thing. This is what we like and it is what we are going to fucking play. It did take a while for people to see and “get” what we are doing and it has been awesome seeing the response to it now that it is finally clicking with them. We are not a band for everyone and that’s ok.
Zike: [Laughs] Dave and I joke about this a lot on ‘who did I listen to for influence on this song’ part of a song. I won’t tell.
David: I’m happy to hear that you connect with what we’re doing. It’s a lot of fun doing this stuff. I’m pleased with how it’s grown, when I listen back on our beginnings it blows me away at where we’re at now. Everyone in this band worked hard to get to this point. I feel we got something original going on, I’m excited to see what the next chapter will reveal!
What’s the process for writing the music in the band? Do you guys use a similar process every time or does it depend song to song, album to album?
Shane: I am going to allow Zike to handle this one since my role is so minor in this process. I usually give feedback and maybe some suggestions here and there before the final version hits the album.
Zike: There’s not a process, really. [Me], Hekterror, and Shane bash and arrange parts, then Dave comes in and gives it his hoof stamp of approval or it gets thrown on the shelf for another time.
David: The guys handle that department. Zike usually comes up with the riffs and everyone puts their personality into it. Most bands I’ve played in use this formula. But yeah, once the song is crafted I’ll go in and start working on patterns. Sometimes the lyrics come to me quick and sometimes they take a year or two. Kinda like one of our new songs, “Twist the Knife.” That thing kicked my ass. It took a while for me to come up with patterns and lyrics that I liked. There’s a rare version of it called “Midnight Schizo” that I could not get into. I knew I could do better so I killed that song. It took a few years to become what it is now.
How do you guys come up with the lyrics for the band? Is there anything you turn to for inspiration?
Zike: ( crickets)
David: My inspiration comes from ’80s extreme stuff. You know, Slayer, Possesed, early Sodom, early Bathory and Venom.
What draws you guys to the Satanic themes? As a kid growing up in a fairly religious household, that kind of always naturally drew me toward the opposite side of life and was a pretty big part of why I even got into extreme metal back in the day.
Shane: The short answer for me to this is that it is part of what the true underground metal has been about for years, right? It is part of that youthful rebellion that drug me into it.
David: Yeah, that’s the shit that always moved me. It’s what I write about. I’ve always
done evil shit. All the way back to my beginnings in Imprecation. I will always write about this stuff, as well as social violence.
Your debut, Hellshock, is a killer record that I really dig. What was that first record’s writing/recording process like? How happy were you guys with the final result?
Shane: From what I recall, the guys had a few demo workings of the songs when I came into the band and we just fine tuned them with a little re-working here and there and off to the studio we went. We actually recorded this album at my house. Mike BBQ, who has recorded all of our official releases, had a mobile set-up at the time. He set up his console in my living room, drums were set up in the master bedroom, bass, guitars, and vocals [were] done in [a] different room. This entire release was self-funded from start to finish. We are very big into the DIY part of this music. Sure, help is always nice to have but the satisfaction of doing it all yourself is rewarding.
Zike: It was a very lo-fi recording process by Mike BBQ with audio alive mobile unit. A few steps up from the ‘Zike’ releases ( A previous project of mine). All live except vokillz/leads/effects. Really stripped down approach. Came out crushing.
David: The writing process was pretty much as I described earlier. To tell you the truth, that
session was kind of a blur to me. I remember recording that stuff in Shane’s house. It’s been a while, but I remember it was around Halloween. I’m cool with the record, it’s a good beginning for us.
I really love the cover to that one. It’s a sinister and totally wicked piece of art. Who did that and what kind of direction did you give them? I really love it when artists push boundaries with their album work and yours is always crazy good.
Shane: Daniel “Sawblade” Shaw did this one. It was a concept him and David worked on. Artwork to us is just as important as the music.
David: I told Sawblade I wanted a cover that paid homage to AC/DC’s Powerage album but instead of Angus on the cover I wanted a possessed nun with tentacles coming out in place of the wires. The font had to stay the same as well, for maximum AC/DC effect. Sawblade exceeded my expectations, and it’s one of my favorite pieces he’s done to this day.
2021’s Satanik Death Militia was another great release and your first bigger one after the 2018 split with Fetid Zombie and Charged Minds. Was the writing/recording process there similar to the debut? With there being some time between the LP and EP, was it difficult to get back into the swing of recording with Wülfskol or was the band still pretty active between releases?
Shane: The writing process for SDM was pretty similar I would say. The main difference though was that Mike BBQ had his studio ready to use. We are always tossing around ideas for songs, some make it to release and some don’t. I don’t believe we have scrapped entire songs, just re-work them and use them later on. With David being in Imprecation, and all of our other commitments, sometimes it does take time between the releases. We are always working though…got to get that “What’s next” itch taken care of.
Zike: At this point BBQ had his studio so we could explore a bit more.
David: Like Shane said, same formula as before. The thing about this EP is that it was the savior of the band. We almost didn’t make it to that point. I left to focus on Imprecation, Shane took over on vocals, and Angel took over on bass. I’m not sure what happened during my time away but when I rejoined it was all different. I think Shane had to take care of personal stuff so we kept Angel in the band. Anyways, the recording we had done was a mess. It had no depth to it. It was pieced together like fucking Frankenstein. It was the audio equivalent to hammered dog shit. We pretty much chucked it in the trash when our engineer Mike BBQ asked me what I would think about doing it again but scrapping all the fat. I liked the idea and we picked the 6 strongest songs and started over. We coaxed Shane to rejoin the band and made a killer record. I am super proud of that recording.
I wanted to ask about a couple songs on that EP and get the lyrical and musical inspiration behind them. What’s the story behind “Mortuus Cult?”
David: That translates to “Dead Cult” and yeah it’s a song about bringing pain into the world. The birth of Satan’s child and the beginning of the end.
How about the origin of “Dogs of the Inverted Cross?”
David: That song was my love for Possessed’s Seven Churches. I was listening to “Evil Warriors” and the idea for the lyrics just started to come out.
What’s the story behind “Reaktor 4?” That’s my favorite on the record!
Shane: Great pick! “Mortuus Cult” and “Reaktor 4” are my favorites from this album.
David: I was listening to Voivod’s “Overreaction” and got inspired to write some nuclear meltdown stuff. Also, watching that series Chernobyl on HBO helped for inspiration as well. That stuff fascinates me.
How much of an active scene do you guys have down there in Houston? Do you feel that it has shaped the development of the band in any way?
Shane: The Houston scene comes and goes, just like I’m sure every other scene does. However, the last few years it has been really good. We actually saw a pretty nice jump in attendance at shows after everything opened back up after COVID. Hopefully that momentum will continue.
David: We’re pretty active around here. Playing onstage is always healthy to strengthening a good band. Don’t wanna do it too much, but just enough to build a local crowd of supporters. I never want to overexpose our band.
You guys have had a really consistent lineup. What makes you all work so well together and how do you keep a healthy band dynamic?
Shane: We have had our hiccups here and there but ultimately this lineup is Wülfskol. Recently this year we have taken on an additional guitar player, Steven, from the local band Discarnate Horizon. He has a sound that will mesh well with us. I partially answered how we can do this in an earlier question but, not to sound cliché, we are like brothers. We’ve known each other for years, roughly 20+ years, and it works. Of course like any brothers we fight and bitch at each other but at the end of the day we still have our focus, Wülfskol.
Zike: We’re brothers. We party like brothers, we bicker like brothers, always busting each other’s balls. It helps keep the aggression alive.
David: We’re longtime friends, and as the others stated, a total brotherhood.
Lastly, what’s next for Wülfskol? What are you guys up to in 2023 and what goals do you have for the future?
Shane: Man, where to begin!!? 2023 we will be releasing a split with another Texas band, Hexella, entitled BURN WITH US. This will be released via Goat Throne Records on vinyl, tape, and cd. Play some more live shows, I think we are going to focus more on out of town shows this year than playing locally, with a few exceptions. Besides pushing the new release we will finish writing the next album. To also follow tradition, we will be shooting a music video for a new track called “Demon of Lust.” HAIL THE WULFMACHT!
Zike: I’ve seen so many talented bands work so hard, put something out, play a handful of killer shows- then shrivel up and die. I have a 1978 Flying V, a 1982 Marshall JCM 800, that translates to-we ain’t going nowhere but we will continue to put our shit out our way and to kick ass at shows, no holds barred!
David: As it has been mentioned we got this split with Hexella coming up on Goat Throne Records. We have also started the writing process for our next full length entitled Phantom der Nacht. Lots of good stuff happening!
Photo at top: Provided to Metal Plague by the band.