Werewolves – From the Cave to the Grave Review

I’m surprised we never covered Werewolves before on this blog. Their debut record, The Dead are Screaming—picked up by Prosthetic Records one month into the pandemic in 2020—fucking rulez. To my surprise, I somehow missed the follow-up they dropped less than a year later. Thankfully, I had my eye trained closely enough on this band to catch third outing, From the Cave to the Grave, before Werewolves slipped by undetected once more.

Encyclopaedia Metallum lists similar artists to Werewolves in the following order: Cytotoxin, The Antichrist Imperium, and Akercocke, among others. I have no idea who The Antichrist Imperium are, but pairing Akercocke with Cytotoxin when describing Werewolves is remarkably apt. Considering more recent death metal upstarts, I’d probably add Dormant Ordeal to the roster of similar artists as well, on the simple basis that Werewolves write comparably destructive riffs as their modus operandi. Much like their colleagues, speed is a core aspect of Werewolves’ sound. Technicality, less so. Blunt force trauma, swiftly delivered, remains the Melbourne-based troupe’s preferred damage type, swapping out Cytotoxin’s irradiated scalpel for a spiked cudgel. It’s been a remarkably successful vehicle for Werewolves thus far, and there’s no sense in changing a damn thing after a mere three years of existence.

Some of the best attributes From the Cave to the Grave boasts, at least superficially, are the song titles. Opener “Self-Help Book Burning,” “Nuclear Family Holocaust,” “Oedipus Tyrannus” and “Pride and Extreme Prejudice” are all exceptionally good, and refreshingly cheeky death metal song names. It just so happens that those are also some of the best tracks offered, making From the Cave to the Grave a thoroughly back-loaded record. Vicious, fiery riffs couple with unhinged drum performances to create an immediately infectious set of hooks that snap necks quickly enough to break the sound barrier. Velocity defines From the Cave to the Grave, but thankfully Werewolves inserted a mid-paced number (“Harvest of the Skulls”) as a welcomed palette cleanser, handily breaking up the record just before monotony threatens an appearance. Additionally, Werewolves tightened their songwriting since their inception in 2019. Every track falls into the five-minutes-or-less category. More importantly, they all feel perfectly tuned to their relative runtimes, featuring smooth transitions (“All the Better to Eat You With”) and excellent pacing (“Crushing Heaven’s Mandate”). As a result, From the Cave to the Grave is a joy to spin over and over.

My biggest gripe with Werewolves regards the lyrics. Being provided the words to follow along reveals an entire album seemingly tailored for shock value or chest-puffery. Some of it is charming in a silly way, despite the attempt to appear tough (see: the line “how dare you buy our music” from “We Are Better Than You”). Some of it feels ham-and-cheese-fisted (see: “Step brother, what are you doing/Step son, what have you done” from “Oedipus Tyrannus”). In all fairness, I’ve always struggled with such literal approaches towards social, political, or interpersonal issues in metal. It’s often the most difficult part of the writing process so far as I’ve observed. As such, I appreciate Werewolves for tackling everything they could seek out in one thirty-four minute record. Perhaps a more focused approach towards one of the aforementioned subjects would’ve improved the album’s focus, and given its message greater impact. Otherwise, my next-biggest complaint is production. While mixed and mastered far better than Exocrine’s album I covered last week, the drums here are at times overwhelmingly loud, distracting from and occasionally drowning out the guitars. Some might dig that, but I prefer something a little more balanced.

Werewolves aren’t going to give the first flying fuck at a rolling doughnut that I took issue with some of their lyrics or production choices. This is death metal, after all; if there’s one thing Werewolves know how to do, it’s death metal. What matters here is that From the Cave to the Grave is chock full of bloodlusting riffs built for speed, agility, and murderdeathkilling. Give the album any opening, and consider your neck ripped apart. It’s that simple.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: facebook.com/werewolvesinhell | werewolvesdeathmetal.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: June 24th, 2022

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