What is black metal if not a giant, malevolent statement about freedom, a manifest against social norms and the mundane? While it may often seem like a simple musical genre, the spirit of black metal has long evoked the ferocity of an austere existence, deprived of superficiality and locked in reluctant solitude.
Being a philosophy and a lifestyle, black metal succeeded in producing new ideas and never ceased to amaze me. Black metal was never exactly an American genre, its sound, original concept and scene had the epicentre in northern Europe.
With that in mind, I headed to the ancient city of Athens to be the witness to this show that I will talk about in the next paragraphs.
Wolves in the Throne Room is a black metal band established in 2002 in Olympia, Washington. The band’s core lineup has primarily consisted of brothers Nathan Weaver (vocals, guitar) and Aaron Weaver (drums, other instruments), and since 2017 Kody Keyworth (guitar) is also considered a permanent member. The band has released six full-length albums to date, as well as a number of EPs. They have stated one of the founding concepts of the band to be channelling the “energies of the Pacific Northwest’s landscape” into musical form, and they are considered one of the pioneers of the Cascadian Black Metal.
Wolves in the Throne Room is consistent in this shapeshifting allure, as their lyrics and compositions are majestic sound-waves consecrated to the wild, primordial nature. They are considered as one of the most potent and highly regarded bands in metal today. On September 22nd the band released ‘Thrice Woven’, on their own label Artemisia Records.
Being the authors of a textural sound, WITTR approach music with trustful energy like entropy in its purest state, imminent sense of darkness and introspection, all being precisely articulated by well-crafted vocals, drumming, and dense guitars that operate above the standard set by the genre.
2007 marks the year of the first chapter of their trilogy; it is the year when “Two Hunters” was released. “Black Cascade” and “Celestial Lineage” followed at equal intervals.
The newest album, “Thrice Woven”, released in 2017, encapsulates nature so perfectly. The music on this record is beyond explanation. It is evolutionary and uplifting. From the riffs to the vocal performance to the drums and to the bass, there’s not one element that works individually, apart from one another. Each instrument complements the other perfectly to create this unsettling atmosphere that’s unavoidably palpable and regenerating. So, no wonder that this live performance was a tribute to nature, and perfectly resonated with the soul chords of the auditorium. About “Thrice Woven” a lot has been said. I only want to underline the guest musicians on this release: Swedish star Anna von Hausswolff, Steve Von Till (Neurosis), Turkish harpist Zeynep Oyku. Peter Beste and Nico Poalillo.
The opening was “Born From the Serpent’s Eye”, also the first song of the newest full-length “Thrice Woven”, this being the moment when the atmosphere changed in the whole club. Something beyond understanding, like an alien but also collective consciousness it has taken over the whole space. I think this is one of the things I really appreciate in extreme music: it manages to embody and channel an ideology without the need for common propaganda.
With a guitar tone that seemed to me somehow Burzum-esque, full of layers upon layers of hazy riffs and atmospheric passages, “Queen of the Borrowed Light” descends slowly upon the auditorium, like in a fairytale. Minimalist yet soft notes are heard throughout as this song has a rather warm and meditative feeling compared to typical black metal.
The labelling “Cascadian black metal” may not be the proper one for this band, at least after this live performance. WITTR tends to be more brutal while other bands are more atmospheric and they are way more likely to focus on traditional black metal themes like the occult. The name “Cascadian” refers to the region where a lot of these bands started.
Everything was very well balanced, between faster parts and some slower tracks like the killer piece “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots”
The show was an atmosphere-drenched homage to a bygone era.
As a friend told me before the show, this was a bucket list concert and that labelling was well deserved. And it was that sort of experience when you become aware of the true nature of things, things that you usually overlook. A sort of journey to the true self. And it’s not over yet. 🙂