Few bands have exponentially grown between records quite like Canada’s Wormwitch. Their brand of crusty blackened thrash has taken on more influences (folk, melodeath, gothic rock) and emphasized a real sense of grandeur that has helped them stand out and define a unique sound. That evolution continues with their upcoming third record, Wolf Hex, out August 27 via Prosthetic Records. Everything Wormwitch do well is on display throughout on what should be one of the best metal records of 2021.
Wolf Hex is great because there’s not a single fucking bit of fat on the record. The whole thing feels like an episode of a T.V. show you just don’t want to turn your head away from. Vocalist and bassist Robin Harris been very clear about maybe not being upset at yourself, but very dismissive of the idea that the early stuff was just a guess, and that there’s been more focus on the band’s goals over time. With a lot of us having a lot of time over the last 18 months to figure out ourselves, what does Wormwitch mean to Harris in this moment?
“I was clinging onto Wormwitch for fucking dear life, basically,” he answers. “Because it was the only thing I had in my life that was cool, or it was something I was trying to make cool, anyways. And it’s interesting when I look back at it how I was fucking obsessed with Wormwitch, and how it represented me as a person. I can see how fucking stressful it was. [Previous album] Heaven That Dwells Within is the most stressful record that we’ve ever made. And I think you could tell.”
That had to be exhausting. So, what was the change that led to where he and the band are now?
“A little bit of candid info here is, basically, we almost didn’t make a third record,” Harris says. “We almost stopped the band because it got to a point where we just cared so fucking much about it that it was like an identity crisis. Because a lot of people liked Heaven That Dwells Within, and some people liked the first record as well. But the first record was fairly innocent. It was just the first metal record that I ever made. And then through the process of Heaven That Dwells Within, there was just arguments about the direction we wanted the band to go. And that record is so different from the first record, but [that second album], we obsessed over. So, this record, basically the band almost wasn’t happening. And we had sat down one night, Kyle [Taveres] and I, the new guitarist. We were watching old, live videos of us. After watching these videos, we were looking at these moments where you could see the guy looking to his friend and be like, ‘Oh yeah, this part’s sick.’ You could see. I was like, ‘What if we made a record that was only those parts? What if we just stop giving so much of a shit about it?’”
“We were like, let’s just do it,” Harris continues. “Whatever we want to do, whatever happens, whatever the record turns out like is what the record is. We’re not going to think about it. We’re not going to fucking try and warp it into being something specific so that we can fucking prove ourselves to anyone. We’re just going to write some riffs that we want to write that we think are cool, and we’re just going to do a bunch of shit. And the vocals we did, it was one day, and I just got fucking hammered. And we just did the vocals. And we did a bunch of it in our jam space. There was just way less pressure. And it was just way more DIY. We mixed it ourselves this time. I did the artwork myself. Everything was just like, fuck it. Let’s just make a record. And the difference has been just there’s no stress at all. It was all play, and I think you can tell.”
That playfulness works wonders on a sound that— in lesser hands— can feel too serious and clinical. Ironically, the looseness lends itself to a greater focus and attention to detail, even if they are a bit drunk and maniacal. That rabid nature worked its way into the album’s wolf and fleur-de-lis emblazoned cover, and Harris’ introspection about his place in the world. He explains:
“The wolf, in many ways, has to do with maybe a shift in how we view ourselves, or at least how I view myself. I don’t want to speak for the other guys. I write all the lyrics in isolation, and I do the artwork. And I’ve done that for all the records, so I feel very tied to them. I feel very much like these records are a very personal expression of mine in that way. And so maybe I have felt that more strongly than the other guys, which is sort of, actually, an interesting revelation to me right now [laughs].”
“The wolf…” he chuckles. “I felt super weak in the past, and there was a breaking point for me a while ago, a year, maybe more than a year ago where I was like, ‘fuck this, dude. I’m not going to accept that I’m weak. I’m not going to accept that I have no control over whatever is happening.’ I spent a lot of time lifting weights and reading as much as I could. JRR Tolkien and his whole legendarium [were a big part of that]. He’s incredibly interesting in general, as a person who fought in the World Wars. There’s a very intense focus on what it’s like to be a fucking man in this world. I latched onto the wolf as symbol, and not the lone wolf, which is the typical edgy fucking shit, but just the wolf as a predator, and a strong survivor, and a great symbol for masculinity. It’s just sort of a stark statement of strength, essentially, to me.”
The fleur-de-lis has a more feminine meaning, a yin and yang, so to speak:
“The inverted fleur-de-lis was, I grew up as a Christian, and that had a huge hold over my life for fucking almost 20 years,” Harris says. “I’m still dealing with the fallout of a Christian upbringing. One of the things that I had to realize recently so that I could stop hating myself, was to abandon the idea that I’m inherently bad somehow. However, my mom loved the fleur-de-lis. She thought it was beautiful, so it was all over my house growing up. So, I’ve always identified with that symbol. And my mom died when I was 11, just suddenly. I’ve always connected to her through that symbol, in a way. Inverting it is not a rebellion to her, but when I looked into what the symbol actually means and where it comes from, it’s the State, the Church, and the Holy Trinity. And I was just like, fuck that. Those two things on the cover are very much a rebellion statement, and a statement of personal strength. And that, combined with not giving a fuck about what people think about it, it’s like I’m just going to do what I’m going to do. And yeah. It runs through the record in every aspect, I think.”
Watch the video for “Abracadabra” here:
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Photo courtesy of Wormwitch and Prosethetic.