Wolves In The Throne Room

Thrice Woven

Written by: AP on 27/07/2021 22:57:20

As Wolves in the Throne Room’s long-awaited, seventh studio album lingers on the horizon, it feels appropriate for me to gaze into the past and fill this void in our repertoire of reviews. Indeed, none of the writers of this webzine seem to have paid much notice to the Cascadian black metal pioneers’ previous offering “Thrice Woven” when it landed in 2017, which happened to coincide with our main extreme metal aficionado and number one WITTR connoisseur’s retirement. But considering that its predecessor, 2014’s highly experimental “Celestite”, struck a deep divide between those of an open, and those of a more traditional mind, it seems vital to dig into a record that not only sought to assuage those who felt betrayed by “Celestite”, but also likely set the direction for the upcoming “Primordial Arcana”. I invite you to travel back in time with me thus, as I attempt to unlock the mysteries of “Thrice Woven”, an album that is simultaneously retrospective and forward thinking.

The thing is, pioneering bands in a genre need to reinvent themselves on a regular basis, lest they’ll be overtaken by those who are inspired by them and end up sounding dated in comparison. And as such, even though “Thrice Woven” is built around those vast tremolo melodies that sound like echoes reverberating through the untouched wilderness that surrounds the cabin in which some of the band’s earliest works were created, and blastbeats that sounds like the rumble of distant thunder, the album never gets stuck in the past. This is obvious already from the opening track, “Born from the Serpent’s Eye”, which eases in with a melancholy, acoustic guitar soliloquy by the first of many guest musicians featuring on the record — Earth’s former bassist Don McGreevy — and eventually collapses into a tranquil, dreamlike passage of gently chiming keys and the nigh angelic singing by the Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Anna von Hausswolff. She offers a stark contrast to the atavistic shrieks of guitarist Nathan Weaver that permeates the more traditional, more extreme parts of the song, and underlines the fact that while WITTR’s music certainly has its roots in Norwegian black metal, the trio’s spectrum of influence reaches far and wide into the drone metal of Sunn O))), the post-rock of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the experimental noise rock of Swans, and beyond. It is a song that truly embodies the organic style of the band’s music — both the underlying songwriting and the earthly tone that has been a staple of their sound since debuting with “Diadem of 12 Stars” in 2006 — and it bodes well for the rest of the album still to come.

As the crackle of a wood fire and the contemplative, baritone voice of Neurosis’ Steve Von Till usher in the second track, “The Old Ones Are with Us”, one starts to sense that the band wanted to accentuate this undercurrent of folk music that has always been there as a subtle nuance to a greater degree on “Thrice Woven”, and it is hard to argue with their decision. You would have to be a pretty stubborn and uncompromising fan to judge the Wolves’ harshly for introducing more dynamics and indeed texture to their palette… and even then, once Weaver and his colleague Kody Keyworth unleash one of their phenomenal signature leads around the 03:25 mark, those concerns are sure to evaporate within the few gasps for breath that one is able to take in the face of such grandeur. These long drawn, evocative melodies present themselves in their full glory on the following “Angrboda” — one of the two more archetypical WITTR tracks on the album in spite of its mysterious ambient passage, in which drummer Aaron Weaver puts his sticks aside for a moment in order to drip some ominous notes from his keyboard in the third quarter. It bleeds into a slow and heavy finale that lays bare WITTR’s doom influences, before giving way to another siren song by von Hausswolff and plucks of grand harp by Zeynep Oyku Yilmaz in the interlude “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” — perhaps the only song here that does not bring too much to the table.

That brief intermezzo is soon forgotten, however, when the final track and mantlepiece “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon” arrives to revisit everything that rendered 2007’s “Two Hunters” and 2009’s “Black Cascade” such timeless classics of the genre. Layer after mournful layer of melody is added with each passing minute to build a towering colossus of a song, one that first speeds into intense, pitch black extreme metal around the 02:30, then slows to a crawl in the middle, and finally brings the record to a conclusion with a grandiose, soaring crescendo, which slowly fades out into the calming, bubbling sound of a stream. It is an appropriate finale for an album that evokes the smell of rotting leaves and fragrant pine needles in a thawing forest, as Von Till so vividly describes in the aforementioned “The Old Ones Are with Us”; an album that seems to bring the listener closer to the earth from which they came by the sheer nature of the instrumentals and tone, which, admittedly, can sometimes feel somewhat flat given the analog-style production and the lack of a bass player in the band.

The spiritual connection that the three Wolves share with their native land and its mythology is what continues to distinguish the band from their many contemporary peers, and while it would be a stretch to elevate “Thrice Woven” to a pedestal equivalent to their masterpieces from 2007 and 2009, it is nonetheless essential listening for anyone with a taste for atmospheric black metal. Irrespective of its ambient and folk inlays, the album presents an excellent window into the origins of the genre, as well as restoring the trio to a more familiar path that was less likely to alienate some of their most hardened fans than “Celestite”. And now, four years later, as the successor “Primordial Arcana” looms on the horizon, one hopes that it also spelled the future direction for the band, one that the upcoming record might translate into another immortal classic of the genre.

8

Download: The Old Ones Are with Us, Angrboda, Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon
For the fans of: Altar of Plagues, Ash Borer, Drudkh, ORM, Solbrud
Listen: Facebook

Release date 22.09.2017
Artemisia Records

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