Sweden’s Wolfsblood goes for the jugular on their brutal debut album Vomit & Lice
It’s genuinely rare that an album comes flying out of nowhere and hits you like a hatchet between the eyes. In this age of relentless social media promotion, video diaries from the recording studio, track premieres, and all the rest, it’s hard to be surprised. But Vomit & Lice, the debut album from Swedish quintet Wolfsblood is a genuine thrill precisely because it arrives fully formed, with no backstory, and frankly the music is fantastic. Their blend of D-beat punk, rock ’n’ roll, and classic Scandinavian death metal is an explosive cocktail of fury, served boiling hot. Imagine a cross between Disfear’s Live the Storm and Arch Enemy’s Wages of Sin, with a dash of Motörhead circa Inferno thrown in, and you’ve got the idea.
Guitarist Richard Lion, formerly of horror/goth-metal band Tenebre, formed the band with singer Divina Levrini in 2012, along with drummer Stefan Elfgren of D-beat/hardcore act Moderat Likvidation, “a girl named Sanna on bass,” and Tenebre bandmate Fredrik Täck on guitar. Members have come and gone since then, for all the reasons people join and leave bands, which is why Wolfsblood are only now releasing Vomit & Lice, despite it being recorded in 2017.
“When I envisioned Wolfsblood it was a band with both punk and metal, hard and grim but with rock ’n’ roll attitude,” says Lion. They’re all of that and more; the album’s first track and first single, “Vernichtung” (German for “destruction”), kicks off with a blowtorch guitar riff and jackhammer drums, and Levrini’s guttural growls and unhinged screams are enough to make any listener take a step back. Other tracks like “Le Treizième” (French for “the thirteenth”) and “On Your Knees” add melodic/anthemic guitar accents, without dropping the intensity level a bit. In the album’s second half, Wolfsblood somehow get even heavier and more aggressive—“Contagious,” “Bury Your Heart,” and “Vengeance” are three-minute blasts of D-beat rage that still manage to pack fist-pumping hooks, shout-along choruses and fierce guitar solos into their short running times. The album’s final track, “Unalive,” is also its longest; it’s a doomy march to the grave that runs nearly six minutes, like a slow comedown after all the fury and screaming that’s come before.
The members of Wolfsblood love what they do, but have no delusions of rock-star glory. “I work at a hospital with the ventilation,” Lion says. “Stefan is between jobs right now, but used to be a kind of middle boss at the company that runs the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. Divina has no job and has a diagnosis which allows her to get [money] from the government, and Christian [Palm, bass] is doing computer stuff.”
The scene in their home city, Malmö, also leaves something to be desired, as far as Lion’s concerned. “The punk scene is big I would say, [but the] metal scene I think always has been quite shitty. Unfortunately Wolfsblood doesn’t fit either scene in Malmö…the punk scene is very left and we don’t belong there, not by their standards and not by our own. There are a few small places to play but they are all occupied by the PC-punks…and the larger places only book bands on tour, bigger bands.” Still, he admits there are other local bands he likes, including Korsfäst (berserk punk), Driller Killer (raging D-beat, around since the 1990s) and Hårda Tider (thick-necked beatdown hardcore).
In case Lion’s comment about “PC-punks” has you worried that Wolfsblood are some kind of right-wing thug outfit, have no fear. Remember, they’re from Sweden, where the mainstream right wing is equivalent to the US Democratic Party and the left wing is basically anarcho-hippie communism. He explains, “We are different, as individuals are, therefore we decided right from the start that we should stay out of politics. Anti-war, anti-discrimination, anti-racism…yes, of course…but we don’t have to sing about it in every song.” And no matter what they’re singing about, the heart of Wolfsblood’s message is always the riff. Every song on Vomit & Lice is a face-punching, ass-kicking rock ’n’ roll anthem, so crank it up.