">

Wolves In The Throne Room

support ORM + Afsky
author AP date 27/04/17 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Originally booked for Christiania’s larger Grå Hal venue, the decision to move this concert to the intimate confines of Loppen was no doubt welcomed by most attendees. The long-due return of Wolves in the Throne Room to Denmark would thus be even more up-close-and-personal than the last time they graced our shores, while the venue’s wooden interior might have the potential to enhance the band’s earthly and spiritual style. Needless to say, the room is already quite busy when yours truly arrives with an eye to securing a good vantage point for the opening act and beyond.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Afsky

Afsky is part of a rising tide of atmospheric black metal that has swept over Denmark in the past few years. With just one EP to their name — a self-titled effort released in 2015 — the Copenhagen-based quartet is one of the less prominent members of that movement but honestly, hearing the material played live tonight, they sound more seasoned than that. The outfit’s short existence is only betrayed by how focused the four musicians look and while that focus translates into a razor sharp delivery of the songs, one wishes that some of it would be diverted into staging a more impassioned performance. Afsky has the advantage of belonging to a genre that embraces a sullen and introspective demeanour of course and since the five tracks (beefed up by the two singles “Vinteren bæres ind” and the as-of-yet unreleased “Skær”) they air are so spellbinding and feature such skilful musicianship, it is easy to forgive the band its need for building confidence. The fourth song, “Frosten knuger sjælen i grav”, is the consummate highlight, wooing me with a grandiose minor-key lead before a classic guitar solo sets in. But really, each song has its own standout characteristics, whether in the form of some hi-fret bass picking in “Vinteren bæres ind”, gnarly Norwegian black metal worship in “Skær” or the wealth of drumming texture and cool little fills in the final piece, “Velkommen til dødsriget”. Afsky thus manages to raise an eyebrow and capture my imagination and once the minor creases have been ironed out, the band can rightfully call itself an equal to the likes of Solbrud pioneering this genre here in Denmark.

7

ORM

ORM is another Danish black metal constellation that has been picking up momentum of late, having unleashed their eponymous début album last month. That release was marked by a concert smothered in build-up and hype and so perhaps inevitably, the presentation of an otherwise magnificent piece of music fell somewhat short of the expectations I was led to have. But with less pressure on them now, being a support act, ORM seizes the opportunity for redemption with a riveting show tonight, coming across as more present and energised than last time. The two vocalist-guitarists, Simon Sonne Andersen & Theis Wilmer Poulsen, look positively hellbent, hovering over and twisting themselves around their microphones, and when the band enters one of its many instrumental passages, they join bassist Troels Cort Nielsen in arching back, lost in the sprawl of songs like “Ancient Echoes” and “Apotheosis”.

By playing their songs with nerve and intensity, the band succeeds where they failed the last time — namely, in replicating the transcendental atmosphere of the “Orm” LP live and having it permeate the venue. The melodies, frosted with the melancholy of old Nordic folk music, sound grander than ever, while the rhythm section, completed by Adam Schønemann on the drums, is rolled out with paralysing force, so that the band and audience alike seem to sink deeper into a trance with each passing minute. Indeed, there is something quite ritualistic — even atavistic — about ORM’s showmanship tonight and it bodes well for future performances by a band, whose stock is well and truly on rise.

8

Wolves In The Throne Room

No other artist can be said to have exerted quite as much influence on the atmospheric black metal genre and its offshoot, ‘blackgaze’, as Olympia, WA’s Wolves in the Throne Room. In the live setting, the band has an almost mythical reputation of being more akin to a séance than a concert, and certainly on the basis of the proceedings tonight, the simile appears to hold water. Such a reputation is upheld first and foremost by abstaining from too much touring — six years have passed since the Wolves’ played in Denmark — but also by details like subdued lighting and the lingering scent of smoky, wooden incense in the room. To complete this mysterious image, the five musicians totally withdraw themselves from any sort of crowd interaction, yet paradoxically, few bands have felt as intimate to me as WITTR.

Skeptics might argue that with songs that are so drawn-out and based around cascades are not designed to be played live. But when the Wolves’ are this ravenous, such critics must budge. Any preconceptions one might have of unmoving silhouettes are swiftly annulled by an astounding rendition of “Queen of the Borrowed Light”, all through which the five musicians thrash and attack their respective instruments with a ferocity bordering on the primal. Honestly, I had forgotten what expressive personalities the two brothers and founding fathers — guitarists Aaron & Nathan Weaver (also vocals) — are, so the experience of watching them now for the third time is no less exhilarating. But with the addition of a third guitarist in Kody Keyworth, as well as the two session musicians William Hayes and Trevor Deschryver (on keyboards and drums, respectively), the performance feels more intense than ever — it’s all-consuming and completely arresting.

Of course, the main propellant of WITTR’s hypnotising character remains their music, and the additional emotion it channels in the live setting. And since most connoisseurs would agree that the most transcendental pieces of the band’s repertoire are found on their two earliest albums, 2006’s “Diadem of 12 Stars” and 2007’s “Two Hunters”, the creeping realisation that those records constitute two thirds of the evening’s setlist brings with it a growing sense of euphoria amongst the audience, which culminates during breathtaking portrayals of “Vastness and Sorrow” and “I Will Lay My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots”. And the fact that the brand new piece aired, “The Old Ones Are With Us”, seems to mimic those sweeping masterpieces in terms of morphing, evolving and eventually coming full-circle is a promising sign after the relatively disappointing “Celestite” and “Celestial Lineage” LPs. It is rather telling that those records are represented by just one track tonight, while the focus rests firmly on the mesmerising, less experimental style the band professed until “Black Cascade”.

Once the evening has drawn to its conclusion thus, I feel more certain than ever that Wolves in the Throne Room are unmatched in the atmospheric black metal genre — particularly in terms of rendering it for live performances. The melodies are so rich and spiritual, the atmosphere so intense and the band’s aura so enigmatic that watching it unfold, one inevitably feels part of something much bigger than oneself.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Queen of the Borrowed Light
  • 02. Dea Artio
  • 03. Vastness and Sorrow
  • 04. The Old Ones Are With Us
  • 05. Prayer of Transformation
  • 06. I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots

Comments
comments powered by Disqus

Legal

© Copyright MMXVII Rockfreaks.net.