Oakland doom rockers Blackwülf have been prowling in the same sonic pack as forefathers Pentagram and Bedemon since they formed in 2012. Like their predecessors, they match denim-jacket groove with vintage Sabbathian heaviness. When their new track “Dead to the World” ominously opens, it sounds like the day of reckoning. When the track crashes to life 40 seconds in, the riffs never relent. With Bedemon/ex-Pentagram guitarist Geof O’Keefe cosigning the release by adding his own inimitable six-string wizardry, “Dead to the World” conjures the power of mid-’80s doom without reducing Blackwülf to a worship act. Singer Alex Cunningham wails decidedly contemporary lyrics, where the only thing worse than tyrannical power is silence in the face of it. “Dead to the World” represents all of the strengths of their third record, Sinister Sides: Vocal hooks, searing leads, and riffs that honor the history of electric blues through the lens of American doom. All while ignoring noise ordinances.
Below, check out thoughts from Blackwülf guitarist Pete Holmes on the American presidency, collaborating with O’Keefe, and how the band approaches live gigs. But first, press play and stream “Dead to the World” before Sinister Sides is released by Ripple Music on February 23rd.
What’s the lyrical focus of “Dead to the World,” and how does it relate to the album’s themes?
Pete Holmes: “Dead to the World” is a no-apologies attack on our President. His continued demeaning hypocrisy and woeful miscalculations on the basic goodness of our people and our democracy earned him the full vitriol of Alex [Cunningham]’s lyrics on this tune. Like many bands before us and now, Blackwülf has never backed away from political issues, human issues, global issues. We presently find ourselves as a band at war against this machine. The album’s larger themes are closely ties with the lyrics of this song: essentially, an eight-song journey into the darker, more “sinister sides” of current global political agendas and the increasing deceit of human priorities and their toxic effect on both personal relationships and on our planet. Super fun stuff.
How did you recruit Geof O’Keefe to become part of the Blackwülf pack?
PH: Geof contacted us a year or so ago after hearing the band’s Ripple Music release, Oblivion Cycle. Out of the blue, we get an e-mail from this doom legend from Pentagram and Bedemon, two bands that we absolutely adore. And Geof is totally down to earth and wanting to trade records with us; he sends us his Pentagram package, rare vinyl with signatures and a super nice note. Thus begins a great friendship formed around a mutual love of old school heavy rock. It became only natural for us to invite him on a few tracks when we were recording in San Francisco in May 2017. We were very honored to have him in the studio with us for a session. He’s an outstanding guitarist with great tone and an incredible vibrato technique.
For those who haven’t seen you live, what can they expect from the band’s stage performance at SXSW this year?
PH: Performance-wise, we always aim to please. Out sets are usually loud and honest blasts of aggressive riffs channeled with a heavy groove. If you’re the kind of person that likes a good, old-school first-pumping hessian stomp, you’ll probably find something to like. We’re very pleased to announce that we’ll be joined by Geof O’Keefe for a few tunes in our sets on our Texan run of shows, so people will get a chance to hear him rip as well. We’re stoked to get down there to rock with the great bands that comprise our label and our community, especially on our Official SXSW Ripple Music showcase at Valhalla on Friday, March 16th.