By Theron Moore

Midwestern metal machine Wraith proudly describe themselves as “no bullshit speed & thrash.” Toss in a little bit of blackened rock N roll and you’re cooking with gas. Last Fall Wraith supported Exciter on three dates in Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. Notest for the wicked, lead / rhythm guitarist Jason Schultz, whom I spoke with for this interview, is also connected to Northwest Indiana thrash/power/prog metal band Idol Throne. Two months into 2024 the band is gearing up to release a new record. In fact, Wraith just shot a music video for one of the tracks back in January at Reggies in Chicago.

Cosmic Monolith: First, please introduce yourself and what you do in the band?

Wraith:  My name is Jason Schultz, and I play lead and rhythm guitar in the band. Matt Sokol plays rhythm guitar, occasionally lead, and is also our vocalist. Chris Petkus plays bass guitar, and Mike Szymendera plays drums.

Cosmic Monolith: Wraith has made quite the name for itself recently. How long has the band been around and how did it originally develop?

Wraith: Matt started Wraith in 2016 as an outlet for songs he was writing at the time. He got Mike involved on drums, and those guys formed the core of that first self-titled record which released in 2017. Chris joined on bass in 2017, and I started playing with the band in a studio/live capacity in 2018.

The band released the LP’s Heed the Warning and Absolute Power in 2018 and 2019 and did a few smaller split and EP releases in between. I joined full-time in 2020, and we released Undo the Chains in 2021, and the Faster than the Devil split in 2022. It has been a crazy ride ever since, but we are having a blast writing, traveling, and playing music together.

Cosmic Monolith: Some of your records remind me of early punk, especially The Misfits. Have they been an influence on the band? I would imagine Venom played a big role as well.

Wraith: All the guys in the band have a love and reverence for punk rock, and back in the day Matt and Mike were involved in the local punk scene playing in bands, going to shows etc. Misfits, Bad Religion, Dead Kennedys, Ramones, to name a few, were huge influences on all of us, and I know that Matt and Mike channeled this into those early Wraith songs. It is a sound that we love, and it would be impossible to remove it from the DNA of what Wraith is. The Misfits are about all we listen to in the Fall months along with old AFI.

Cosmic Monolith: What other styles of music have factored into Wraith’s sound over the years?

Wraith: I always break down the Wraith sound as having a few main elements, and these came about largely due to the shared influences that we have. Apart from the punk influence, there is the rock and roll influence born from bands like Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Midnight and the thrash and speed metal influence from Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, and the like. We have also drawn influence from black and death metal among many other styles and sounds. These combine to define the “Wraith” sound, and we really enjoy the dynamic this creates on record and for our live show.

Cosmic Monolith: Do you remember the first metal or punk show you saw? Who was it and how old were you?

Wraith: I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but my first metal show was the Gigantour fest in 2005. I had been to some rock shows prior to that, but that was my first real experience being entrenched in the metal subculture for an entire day and seeing a ton of cool bands. I started playing guitar the year prior, and I was there to see Megadeth. It was a life changing experience seeing my heroes up there doing what they do. I knew I wanted to do that too in some capacity. 

Cosmic Monolith: It seems like blackened thrash / metal has become quite popular over the years. What do you think is behind the rise in popularity behind this particular sound?

Wraith: I think good black thrash has the fun element of rock and roll more front and center than some other styles. It is fun to listen to and it is fun to play. It is also cool looking back to the storied history of heavy metal and paying reverence to that while also trying to inject some new elements into a classic sound. The energy at one of our shows is electric and infectious. We feed off that, and a lot of that has to do with the sound and the vibe of black thrash and that looser element of rock and roll that pervades the songs.

Cosmic Monolith: Regarding the last question, how did the sound of Wraith naturally happen? Was it organic or was this something you all wanted to do?

Wraith: I think that core sound has been there from the beginning, but we certainly move in different directions sometimes depending on the idea that a member presents to the rest of the band. We always aim to keep things balanced, and on a record or in a live set we try to make sure that all elements of our sound are represented.

Sometimes we move in a more thrash direction like with “Cloaked in Black” or “War of Aggression” and sometimes we want to do a 2-minute rock and roller or punk tune like “Mistress of the Void” or “Disgusting”. I am usually a proponent of the Bay-Area by way of the Midwest sound of our most thrash-forward songs, but every member of the band has presented riffs and ideas in various styles over the years. We love that dynamic because it also keeps songwriting fresh as we never know what the other guys might be feeling at the time.

Cosmic Monolith: What comes first with songwriting? Is it a riff or a lyric(s)?

Wraith: Wraith songs always start with a riff. Whoever has a riff or a string of ideas they feel strongly about brings them in to the jam space and we work through different combinations until we have something that all 4 of us really like. If someone has a vibe that they want to capture (this is a slow grindy song, this is a fast thrasher), we also talk through that, and make sure any additional riffs or sections fit in with that theme. Matt writes all the lyrics, and has a tab of song titles, concepts, and imagery that he draws from, and we name the songs relatively early in the process which helps “set the scene” for what we want to do overall.

Cosmic Monolith: I heard there’s a connection between Wraith and Idol Throne, a band I saw at Blades Of Steel in 2023 that I’ve since become a fan of. Can you talk about this connection?

Wraith: I started Idol Throne with my co-guitarist Martin in late 2018 right around the time I started playing live with Wraith. I was coming off a period of being inactive with music due to work, school, and other commitments and I was looking to get back into playing in a big way. My musical background covers a lot of ground, and I knew I wanted to do a project that was very guitar focused and melodic, as my previous band was very heavy and technical.

We set the goal to make the band a mix of the 80s neoclassical Shrapnel shred sound, mixed with Bay Area melodic thrash like Heathen, and US Power Metal like Vicious Rumours and we put together our first record and our soon to be released 2nd record off that goal. It is cool for me because I have outlets for different elements of my musical personality, and I feel lucky to get to play with great musicians that love creating music as much as I do.

Cosmic Monolith: Is the goal of the band to score a record deal and tour nationally or stay local / regional? I would imagine all of you have full time jobs and possibly family to support. Touring might not be a realistic thing to consider at the moment.

Wraith: We all have day jobs and families, but we are also fully dedicated to the band and doing as much as we can in service of getting the music out there and getting the live show on the road. We’ve had a lot of success playing smaller runs, and traveling around the country doing one off shows and festivals, and we will continue to do that this year and beyond. I will add to keep your eyes and ears peeled for some cool stuff on the horizon that we can’t talk about just yet.  

Cosmic Monolith: What does 2024 hold for the band? Let’s hear it all, don’t hold back.

Wraith: We completed our new record and are working out the details in that sphere. Beyond that we are looking to play a lot, and hopefully get to many places that we haven’t had the chance to play yet. As I said before, keep your eyes on our social media spaces for some big announcements coming this year! Thanks to all our friends, fans, and supporters for believing in the band, and we hope to see you all at a show! 

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Author: Theron Moore

Theron Moore Biography: Moore’s first writing gig was SLAM Magazine (Stateline Area Magazine, Northern IL / Southern WI) in 1989. A year later he launched the zine, Louder Than God followed by For Those About To Rock and The Saint Vitus Press & Poetry Review (print). Moore has contributed poetry to Red Fez, The Saint Vitus Press & Poetry Review, Poetry Motel, Poesy Magazine, Tree Killer Ink, and Criminal Class Review. He’s contributed interviews, movie, news, and music reviews to Yahoo,, Wormwood Chronicles (2015 to the present), The Sludgelord, Metal Forces, and New Noise Magazine (2017 to present).