There aren’t any thrash bands in Indiana, or so I thought. It’s interesting how you discover information, especially when you weren’t looking for it. One day I happened to come across the tag “Indiana thrash” and it led me to the blackened speed bastards Wraith. 15 minutes later my mind was triumphing at the thought of a thrash band in Indiana. After doing some research it occurred to me that the band originates in the Indiana section of the Chicago metro area, but hey that’s like 3 hours away, still pretty cool. Shortly after this discovery the band released their debut Heed the Warning which Indy Metal Vault provided in-depth analysis of. All signs point to the album dropping like an atomic bomb and we got in touch with the band once again to see how metalheads worldwide have responded to Wraith’s entry onto the playing field.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey fellas, thanks for chatting with us here at Indy Metal Vault. According to research, y’all have been together since 2016 and recently released your debut LP Heed the Warning in addition to 2017’s self-titled E.P. Prior to forming Wraith, how did the three of you come into contact with each other? Did you play in previous bands together or know each other through the scene?
Matt Sokol: Mike and I were in a band previously called Hedlok for a few years prior to forming Wraith. We have been playing music together for a long time so when I was looking for someone to play drums it was kind of a no brainer to ask him to join the band. Not only is he a monster drummer,but he comes up with some really cool guitar parts as well. Chris and I have been friends since high school. We both liked metal a lot and hung out quite a bit when we were in school. He also has a sick right hand when it comes to playing guitar so a lot of times we would get together and hangout in his garage and just listen to/jam the early Metallica stuff together.
Chris Petkus: Matt and I met in high school. I would guess one of us was wearing a metal T-shirt and a conversation started up. We started to jam in my garage which was a hot spot for our friends to hang out. We would jam for hours and see who could come up with the best riff. Some of my best memories took place just hanging out in that garage jamming with friends. I met Mike through Matt when the two were in Hedlok. I really didn’t know Mike until I joined Wraith, but I consider him a brother now.
Mike Szymendera: I have known Matt since around 2009/2010. We met through mutual friends and were in another thrash/metal band called Hedlok. I met Chris through Matt, and we have been lovers ever since.
IMV: One thing that I immediately picked up with Wraith’s music is a very earnest “back-to-basics” approach that’s reminiscent of Discharge or Motorhead. How did the band’s musical influences shape what would ultimately appear on your albums?
Matt: I think that the band sounds the way it does because a lot of our influence comes from the early metal and punk stuff. Mike and I were both punk rockers before we got into metal so we still have an ear for simple but powerful elements when it comes to music. Chris digs the early thrash stuff and Motorhead type shit in addition to the two of us really liking a lot of blues. I think the combination of metal, punk, rock n roll and trying to write shit we want to listen to shapes the sound that Wraith has.
Chris: Matt and Mike have this amazing chemistry when it comes to writing songs. It’s almost like they know exactly what the other is going to play. And I think that’s because they have very similar tastes and have been in a band for so long. They are definitely the ones that bring that punk attitude and rawness to the sound. I come from a more metal and rock n roll taste and when we began writing we embraced each ones strong points. We each brought riffs that we thought were cool, that goes for Mike as well, he had a fair amount of riff writing on Heed. We would bring these riffs to practice and dissect em. I think that’s the great dynamic in Wraith. Everyone has a hand in the writing. And if someone says “hey I think your riff should do this instead of this….” It doesn’t result in a fist fight haha it’s more “oh shit you’re right!”
Mike: Long story short, I grew up on punk rock. It sounds cliché, but punk was basically a gateway into crossover, thrash, and really metal in general. I played in a few punk bands back in the day, so I still have that punk mentality when writing songs in Wraith.
IMV: October has been a busy month for Wraith, having played at the third Punks for Paws festival in addition to performing with Ringworm at Reggies. How was the crowd’s reaction at these shows? Any awesome bands that you played alongside that Wraith fans would enjoy?
Matt: I think that the crowd reaction is slowly but surely building. The problem with the modern era of music is that is so accessible to people all over the world, but sometimes it doesn’t find the right audience at home. I think for us, we find ourselves getting a lot of attention overseas and from other parts of the US, but our area is slow to pick up on our style of music. We play both punk and metal shows and we always seem to be the in between band. To be honest, it doesn’t really bother me much. I am glad that people from other places dig it as much as they do. As far as other bands, I would say we always play with cool acts! Bloodletter in particular is one band that we played with recently and they’re pretty badass.
Chris: I think the crowd reactions have been pretty good the last few shows. To expand what Matt said, I think we have a bigger fan base out of our hometown and even a bigger fan base outside the US. In the last year we’ve shared the stage with The Varukers, Whipstriker, and Steel Bearing Hand. Two great Chicago everyone should check out are Molder and Bloodletter.
Mike: No wild riots or anything at the shows, but I think it’s obvious that a majority of the crowd was into it. Two bands that really stick out that we played alongside were Molder and Bloodletter. Both are from the Chicago area, and I would highly recommend checking them out!
IMV: I’ve noticed since Heed the Warning’s release that the album has been released in a variety of formats on a variety of labels. Rapid Fire Records handled the cassette pressing with World War Now Records! taking care of CD pressing. This is in addition to a self released pressing, all of which can be purchased through your Bandcamp page. From an outsider’s perspective it looks like the album is selling like hot cakes. With this information in mind, would it be fair to say that Heed the Warning has been a commercial success?
Matt: I would say that we have had some really cool opportunities in regards to our music with the release of Heed the Warning. To call it a commercial success would be a bit of a stretch, but it has been shockingly popular haha.
Chris: We have been lucky enough to be able to release Heed The Warning through different outlets. We are extremely thankful for that. Rapid Fire has been very good to us and we hope to work with them in the future. I wouldn’t say that Heed is a commercial success but it’s definitely doing better than we imagined. We are getting orders and messages from all over the world. We have one particular fan in Poland who keeps asking when we are coming to play out there hahaha.
Mike: I will start off by saying that I did not think that we would sell as many copies as we have so far. It’s been a lot different than any other bands I’ve been in in the past. I don’t want to toot our own horns, but I personally think that Heed the Warning is something to be proud of and that it has deserved all the recognition it has gotten. When the orders first started flowing in from our website, I was shocked. We were shipping orders to Belgium, Japan, Canada, random parts of the US, etc. I think this is partially in part due to the record in general but also due to Chris’s amazing marketing skills. He has been contacting all sorts of people and it has definitely paid off for us.
IMV: Hands down, “Endless Winter” is definitely my favorite track from Heed the Warning. To call the lyrics relatable would be an understatement and the way the band comes together at the 1:55 mark really seals in the dread that only a long winter night can evoke. The 2017-2018 winter season was pretty rough for us Midwestern denizens. Did these harsh conditions serve as any type of influence when producing “Endless Winter”?
Matt: Funny enough, I was actually sitting at work during the bad snow storm in February when I wrote the lyrics for “Endless Winter.” I was staring out of the window watching all this snow pileup and I had just kind of had enough. Of course, I made it a little more sinister than the reality of a snow storm, but it was 100% influenced by that terrible winter last year.
IMV: Another interesting track on the album is “Fire.” I just find it amazing that bands are able to create such compelling music from a criminally simple concept. What all went into creating a song about fire and calling it “Fire”? How did the idea come up?
Matt: I don’t recall there being any real source of inspiration for the song “Fire.” I mean, fire is pretty badass and it seems to always be associated with hell, evil, the devil etc. For me, I think I just was kicking around ideas and that one stuck so I ran with it.
IMV: Heed the Warning was mastered by Joel Grind. How did Wraith come into contact with Joel Grind. How do you feel the band has grown in your time working with him in the studio?
Matt: Toxic Holocaust is a huge inspiration for us so working with Joel was awesome. When Mike and I were in Hedlok we had the opportunity to fly out and record with Joel, but because of our financial situation at the time we were unable to make the trip. We were all pretty bummed about it, and I think we all felt like we wouldn’t get the chance again. Sure enough, when we were writing Heed I reached out to Joel and he said that he would be happy to work on the able with us. We actually never spent any time in the studio with him. We tracked it all at my house in Northwest Indiana and sent him the files. I communicated with him a lot in regards to sound and he was really really helpful when it came to sending multiple versions over and making sure we were happy with it. I think that someone like Joel has the perfect ear for what we were going for. I would love to be able to track with him in the future, and it sounds like that could be a real possibility down the road.
Chris: When Matt told us he was in contact with Joel about mastering the new album I was ecstatic. Toxic Holocaust and Joel Grind’s other projects have been a huge influence on each of us. We actually never spent any time with Joel in the studio. Rather we recorded the songs and sent over the files. I think just knowing that Joel Grind was going to master the album really pushed us forward to write the best possible songs.
Mike: We have had Joel’s contact info from thinking about recording with him in the past. With his projects being one of our main influences, I thought it would only make sense for him to put the final touch on our first full length. I feel that it has been great to have Joel’s name on the record, and he really knew what we were going for when he mastered the record. We are definitely going to try and work with him more in the future.
IMV: Once again, thank you guys so much for your time. Before we go, does anyone have anything they would like to add?
Matt: Just want to thank you and everyone else that supports us and local metal music. Cheers!
Chris: We’d like to thank you and everyone who has given Heed The Warning a spin. We appreciate the support, Cheers!