Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wolves in the Throne Room : 'Thrice Woven"

Normally when I review an album I write as I am sitting there listening to it for the first time. This is not the case here I have sat on this one for a few days. I can say Wolves in the Throne Room is back to a more unabashed embracing of black metal. In doing so this doesn't mean that are being enslaved to blast beats or ignoring some of the things from their more experimental leanings that have made them who they are . Six albums and fourteen years invested in this , they have a clear understanding as to who they want to be in the present moment and continue to invoked the feeling of their surroundings.  Sometimes you need to step away from it in order to gain perspective. This album owes more to Ulver and Darkthrone than it does Godspeedyoublackemperor!

The album opens with a calm before the storm as crystalline guitar rings out. They kind of black metal they burst into has a lighter feel to the intention it is being played with. The vocals are the most scathing part of it. The riffs eventually get as mean spirited as something Watain would do. This might be a reflect in their changing and more cynical attitudes toward the world changing around them.Then there is a jarring as as it drops out into female vocals. Very serene and siren like. Then a darker riffs evolves out of this interlude, with the female vocals floating in the background. When they sing about the old ones being with them on the following song there is a sense they are talking about the ancestral spirits of the land rather than some sort of Lovercraftian horror. The ominous sense is more one of enormity when facing a mountain rather than staring into an abyss. That earth based feeling is conveyed in the husky gravel of the more Tom Waits like narrative midway into the song that sounds like something Neurosis might do. "Angrboda" is a more straight forward blast drive charge of more traditional black metal. While this might bore me if it was another band, with these guys it's a welcome reminder than this is what they do. They do throw in bridges amid the blasts with a sonic twist to keep me interested and not numbed out. This casts a colder shade of gray into the spectrum they are painting the song with. Here and at other points in the album is breaks all the way down to very minimal arrangements augmented with sound effects. It is effective here is it sets the stage for the change in mood.

 "Mother Owl, Father Ocean is more of an ambient aside rather than a fully formed song, in the way this band conceives fully formed songs. It might be a fully formed song for the Cocteau Twins , but not for Wolves in the Throne Room. Five and a half minutes into the eleven minute closer things turn to a darker current. This offer the kind of dynamic shift I need as come of their so called cascadian passages can shimmer to brightly for what I generally look for , but when used as a contrasting color I think it works the best. They also manage to hit that sweet spot where they are just as heavy sonically as they are metal. This is along with darkness is among the more important qualities I look for in heavy music. The blasts in the last three minutes of this song are well deserved and make sense , as they have proven that this alone is not all they are about. I'll round this up to a 10 as I think it's solid triumph in the band returning to old stomping grounds in a way that is not mired in nostalgia for what was 14 years ago while still giving their early fans what they have been wanting.

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