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Wolves In The Throne Room / Aluk Todolo (live at Heaven)

London
30 November 2017

Wolves In The Throne Room live November 2017By the time I get to Heaven, Aluk Todolo are already on stage, kicking out a fine racket. I have no idea what to expect from them, but as I enter the venue I’m thinking “Neurosis”. And for the next few minutes, yes, they do sound a bit like Neurosis. An instrumental Neurosis, but Neurosis nonetheless. And this is, of course, no bad thing.

But as their set progresses, it becomes obvious there’s something more going on here than just sounding a bit like Neurosis. There’s more… more groove to it. In a krautrock, spacerock kind of way. But also a bit more black metal. By the end I realise they don’t actually sound very much like Neurosis at all. And this, too, is no bad thing.

Aluk Todolo live November 2017

Then Wolves In The Throne Room take the stage, as the venue fills with the sweet smell of weed. Now, whether this is just weed-flavoured incense or actual weed that they’re waving about is very much up in the air (literally), but as the opening chords to “Born From The Serpent’s Eye” chime out, it doesn’t really matter, because Wolves In The Throne Room are about to rearrange my head anyway.

Unlike previous Wolves gigs I’ve been to, I can actually see the band. You’d think this would detract from the atmosphere, really, but it doesn’t. Music of this intensity can probably get away with being played to literally any visual accompaniment you care to mention. But yes! I can see the band. I finally know how many people play what — a keyboard player, a drummer and three guitarists. No bassist.

Wolves In The Throne Room live November 2017

But this triple-guitar onslaught is paradoxically what adds a lot of the subtlety and depth to their sound. When they’re all playing harmonising black metal riffs, it creates a sound as full and dense as the forests of Washington State that inspire their eco-friendly riff collage and which, significantly, were also an inspiration to Lynch and Frost in creating Twin Peaks. Although there’s nothing so unearthly about Wolves In The Throne Room. This is all the Earth, all the time.

Thrice Woven is one of my favourite albums of 2017, and it’s a joy to see it come alive in front of me. The sound isn’t bad but isn’t perfect, and a little of the subtlety and nuance is lost. But even with instrumental passages where the guest vocal slots would be, this is magnificently magical music. This isn’t black metal as transgression, this is black metal as ritual, devotional music for the rocks and the forests. And for a short while, a room under a railway bridge in the middle of a densely-populated city becomes something entirely different.

Wolves In The Throne Room live November 2017

Wolves In The Throne Room continue to be one of the most interesting extreme metal acts operating today — and also a fantastic live outfit.

By the time I leave, I’m ready to hug a tree. But there aren’t any.

-Words: Justin Farrington-
-Pictures: Dave Pettit-

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