Wolves in the Throne Room
Confession: I saw Wolves in the Throne room live about two years ago opening for Jesu and I wasn’t that impressed — talented musicians sure, but just retreading the same aesthetic ground that so many other black metal bands were currently furrowing. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention. That was then, and then was nothing… like this. Fuck me, man, Black Cascade is just a stunning piece of art. The trio of musicians who make up Wolves in the Throne Room hail from Olympia, also home to fellow iconoclasts like Calvin Johnson, Bikini Kill, and the Kill Rock Stars label. And though indie mecca Olympia might seem like an unlikely locale for such ferocious black metal impulses to fester, think about it a little more, and it makes perfect sense. Constant rain and cold, gray skies contribute to an overall nihilistic viewpoint and the lush forests and greenery of the Pacific Northwest are a constant muse, easily the beautifully still equivalent of the gray forests immortalized by countless Scandinavian black metal outfits. Wolves in the Throne Room take the nature worship of black metal bands like Emperor and amp it up to the nth degree, where the end result becomes this violent sonic pastoral. Eschewing corpse paint for shadows and Satanism for primordial mystery and environmental consciousness, Wolves in the Throne Room presents the future of black metal in four 10-15 minute sprawling speedfreak dirges (see what I did there?) that combine a verdant back-to-nature ethic with futuristic compositional sense and old-school tube-amp recording. And check out the song tiles — “Crystal Ammunition” — fuck yes!
And just like a really fucking good movie, fourteen-minute tracks whiz by like one-minute Ramones masterpieces. These songs are deftly constructed with a painterly eye toward mood and tactile texture and maximum intensity. Each song continually shifts soundcolors and tempos and sheets-of-sound riffs, but it sounds so fucking seamless and unforced, whereas for so many other bands it’s like goddamn awkward riff collages. Deathspeed gives way to expressive ambiance to grinding hategroove. It’s complex, man, I can’t quite get it down in words. These wisps keep eluding me. Black Cascade stunningly evokes the frostbitten fleshy thunder of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas with endless charging warhammers, subhuman screams, sine waves of subsonic hum, and this monstrous sound strains within the fuzz-laden constraints of tube amps. You can pretty much hear the needles pinging into the red.
And though the overall vibe is one of ill-will/depression-fear, within the surging waves of angry id and monstrous venom, you can detect eyes wide, and a heart brimming full of a quiet beauty that will be here long after you and I are gone. In a word, essential.
Southern Lord: www.southernlord.com