Review : Wolves In The Throne Room - Black Cascade
AvclubWolves In The Throne Room began their second album, 2007’s Two Hunters, by pulling a hazy cloud of stately doom-drone over themselves before launching into black-metal convulsions. Their third full-length, Black Cascade, boasts plenty of layers and meditative breakdowns of its own, but they feel more like the lingering smoke and shrapnel kicked up in (as the band promised) a newly aggressive and live-sounding rampage. The swell of guitars that begins “Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog” comes as close to good old raw ampage as anything the band has done yet, and “Ahrimanic Trance” begins unceremoniously with a piercing squeal of naked feedback. Guitarist-vocalist Nathan Weaver slimes his hydrochloric-mucous shrieks a little higher in the mix this time, and Aaron Weaver’s drums muscle forward too—in fact, they do more to build suspense in the marauding intro to “Crystal Ammunition” than the band’s customarily mournful, ominous guitar work. Black Cascade makes it a little harder to just sink into the gloom, but the payoff is hearing Wolves become a more thoroughly powerful metal act....full text
CokemachineglowIt rains a lot in Olympia. I mention this because it rains during the first few seconds of Wolves in the Throne Room’s Black Cascade too, and it’s grounds for a pause. Chet mentioned in his review of Two Hunters (2007) that the band makes an effort to tap into their surroundings when creating their art. They use the well worn tropes of black metal as kind of elemental signifiers, to the degree that the blast beats and shredding aren’t really dissimilar—harmonically, structurally, or in mood—to the ambient and diaphanous passages. But the sound of the local rain is the real sound of Olympia, those elemental influences actually on record. There’s a lot about Wolves in the Throne Room that sets them apart from more famous Olympia bands: their volume and choice of genre, of course, but also their adherence to exacting musicianship, their insistence on taking themselves seriously, a sense that professionals are at the controls. But I hear Olympia all over the place. The band’s militant environmentalism, while out of place in the genre and the subject of much comment in the press, isn’t as far outside the mainstream in Washington’s capital city as other cities, as is their desire to remain as far off the grid as possible. More than that, they posses a striking singularity within their idiom, surely a product of the town’s willingness to nurture the idiosyncratic and odd rather than the pedestrian. And, while WITTR have certainly put in the sweat to get to this mountaintop, there’s the bed of their convictions to consider. It’s almost as if the band’s very beliefs in the socially transformational power of those convictions automatically makes art of such emotional transformation. With results like Black Cascade, one has to wonder.
I went to college in Olympia when WITTR were finding their feet, and while they were always pretty good, they weren’t this good. This shouldn’t be taken for a slight, because few of their peers can make a record as startling as Two Hunters was. A vision of black metal for a post-shoegaze world, it had crescendos recalling Godspeed You Black Emperor, unsettling ambient passages alongside female vocalists, and the requisite out-of-mind metal screeching. On the prog scale it definitely skewed wood-nymph, but it also completely destroyed. The subtler elements have been trimmed a bit on Black Cascade; not necessarily erased, just more thoroughly worked into the band’s aesthetic so their appearance doesn’t bring as much attention to themselves. Where Two Hunters began with six minutes of ethereal noodling, “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog” (a title cribbed from a German Romantic painting) wastes no time staking out Black Cascade‘s territory: tremolo picking, blast beats, and screeched vocals. This is where the band is in their element, especially when it gives way to a tense, modular middle section with synthesizer overdubs and half-time beats. In fact, the synth-padding that occurs throughout this track (and most of the album) should give the listener a big clue that Wolves are much more interested in the hypnotic, trance-like properties of black metal than anything else. (As if song titles like “Ahrimanic Trance” didn’t already give that away.) Even when the band rages full speed ahead, the overall effect is cinematic and expansive, rather than punishing and violent....full text
PopmattersWhat polarizes many in the metal community about Wolves in the Throne Room isn’t necessarily their music but the band’s message. Traditionally a stubbornly apolitical musical form, black metal’s preoccupation with nihilist, misanthropic, pagan, anti-Christian and Satanic themes made it abundantly clear activism was best left to the hardcore punk crowd, with most artists focusing more on arresting, poetic imagery in their often introspective lyrics. When Wolves in the Throne Room came along in 2006, however, the trio of bearded musicians from Olympia, Washington ruffled a few feathers with their fierce environmentalism, tales of living a self-sufficient life on a farm and shockingly Romantic idea one can use this extremely dark, melancholic style of music to achieve a sort of spiritual transcendence. For some who choose to adhere to the idea that sticking rigidly within the structure of a specific metal subgenre can in itself be a form of liberation, the notion of these hipster-looking fellas from a liberal arts college town trying to stretch the boundaries of black metal was a little too much to bear.
Once you get past the band’s rosy-hued views, though (an easy thing to do considering their screamed vocals are indecipherable, and their lyrics are never provided), the impact of the actual music is undeniable. Continuing right where underground legends Weakling left off on their first and only full-length Dead as Dreams, Wolves in the Throne Room’s sprawling Diadem of 12 Stars was epic, atmospheric and hallucinatory; its extended, swirling jams of blastbeats and wave after wave of distortion proved to be as emotionally wrenching as they were viscerally powerful, resulting in one of the finest debuts of 2006. Released a year and a half later, Two Hunters illustrates a much bolder step, emphasizing dreamlike atmospherics more than aggression, its soaring passages overwhelming listeners with its densely layered melodies, achieving a shoegaze-like majesty....full text
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