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Wolves In The Throne Room – Thrice Woven


Wolves In The Throne Room - Thrice WovenBlack metal has traditionally been the preserve of Satan, and the occasional Nazi; its blastbeats and shrieking were never going to be suited to tender love songs, after all. But in the quarter of a century since the infamous Norwegian black metal murders and church burnings, it has evolved and enhanced itself. Obviously Old Nick’s still a popular subject (and there are still Nazis, sadly), but Wolves In The Throne Room have taken black metal’s love of nature and ancient things and ditched The Dark Lord entirely.

While initially black metal was speed metal for goths fused with the energy of punk, nowadays the influence of prog and post-rock have become entangled in its dark web. And Wolves In The Throne Room are masters of this tricky balancing act.

New album Thrice Woven boasts only five tracks over its 45-minute running time (and one of them’s only a couple of minutes long, leaving even more space for the others to grow), with each track going on its own different journey. Sure, there are blastbeats and screeching. There will ALWAYS be blastbeats and screeching somewhere in the world, and Wolves In The Throne Room do it bloody well. But Thrice Woven isn’t an exercise in transgression; how could it be when compared to the scene’s origins? It’s an exercise in atmosphere, and it creates one so thick you could cut it with a sacrificial knife.

“Winter is dying, the Sun is returning”, a taped voice declaims over the opening to “The Old Ones Are With Us”, a rite of Spring bearing little relation to Stravinsky. Wolves In The Throne Room create an ancient sound; the sound of prehistoric forests and receding glaciers, of bone, ash and fire. There’s even a touch of Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Swans to some of their music, though it’s never quite as abstract as either of those two bands. Frantic riffing gives way to quieter, more contemplative passages, and “Born From The Serpent’s Eye” and “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” both feature the divine vocals of Anna Von Hausswolff for a complete change of style, though never of tone.

For an album that goes to so many different musical places, it’s remarkably focused and consistent. This is a fully-realised artistic vision, dark and beautiful, by turns frightening and exhilarating. Enormous music to make you realise your tiny place in the universe. Like the beauty of Nature herself, one can only look on in awe.

-Justin Farrington-

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