Wolves in the Throne Room take deep drink from old streams on crushing return ‘Thrice Woven’

Photo by Peter Beste

The “return to roots” record has become a pretty big thing the past few years. Bands that veer away from their sound or lose the plot altogether use it as a sort of reset so they can rediscover their magic. At other times, bands simply decide to go drink from the old streams again and immerse themselves in what brought them to the game in the first place.

The term Pacific Northwest Black Metal essentially was coined to describe bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room, a group whose sound galvanized that region and created followers not just there but the world over. Who emulated their style. Their atmospheric black metal was a revelation, a sound that would define a period of time in metal’s evolution and bring to the world some of the most inventive, unforgettable records in history. As time went on, the band slowly veered into different territories, adding more ambiance into their music and going full tilt into that zone on 2014’s “Celestite.” You know metal listeners. That record caused panic attacks the world over, as people bemoaned this experimental turn as some sort of betrayal of their original sound. Well, you big babies, the band has gone back to their roots on the thunderous, chaotic, yet still airy sixth record “Thrice Woven.” Black metal returns as the primary source of power, but the band—guitarist/vocalist Nathan Weaver, drummer/bassist/ synth player Aaron Weaver, guitarist/vocalist Koby Keyworth (there are other guests on the record we’ll get to later)—hasn’t abandoned some of their ambient, folk-fed tributaries that traveled the past few years. It’s as close as one is going to get to a, say, “Two Hunters,” but the DNA is slightly altered. The band may have rediscovered their violent fire, but this still is a band markedly different than when they started.

“Born From the Serpent’s Eye” begins with mandolin plinking and the fog slowly rising. The track eventually bursts to life, as the melody swells, and enormous growling makes the ground shake. Strong guitar work leads the way over pace changes and blistering power, and then everything seems to drop off all at once. Yet, the song reemerges as Anna Von Hausswolff’s entrancing vocals bring a sense of mystical beauty that showers with magic and leads to the final eruption. The leads rush, synth drapes over the canyons, and a last woosh is taken out with a last gust of chorals. “The Old Ones Are With Us” has a nice surprise at the front, as Steve Von Till narrates, noting “Winter is dying,” and elements of nature are emerging from the frost. Then it’s into spacious black metal that glides, creaky growling, and the melodies glazing the ground. Eventually, the track goes into folkish territory, where Von Till rejoins and huskily sings a reprise of his opening monologue, making this feel like WitTR meets Harvestman. The soloing rages out of that, as synth melodies sweep like heavy winds, and the track crushes bones until the end.

“Angrboda” starts with guitars buzzing like angry saws, as they cut through the flesh with ease, and the growling scrapes the surface. Riffs spiral before the tempo begins rousing and punishing, and the music rolls through the mist. The track then hits a quiet section, as noise hovers, water drips, and a synthy haze hangs over everything. Guitars then push back in, as the band hits a hypnotic loop that runs to the end. “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” is the shortest track, a 2:34 transmission that pairs Von Hausswolff with Turkish harpist Zeynep Oyku, as noises charge, a storm-like wind picks up, and the lovely, woodsy singing carries you into cosmic spirituality and toward the closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon.” Riffs burn right away, while the growls are hissed, and melodic fire is stoked and ignited. Hypnotic melodies mix into the scene before the song halts. A rush of air and fire crackling carry us through to the next part, which is dressed in methodical stomps, horrifying shrieks, and guitars spilling like a roaring wave. The pace keeps thrashing, finally giving way to the chaos slowly fading and waters lapping the shore repeatedly until dissolving into the ground.

It’s great to have Wolves in the Throne Room back, reclaiming their spot as one of the leaders of US black metal, though “Thrice Woven” offers more than just nourishment from old roots. The band has changed and matured, and their identity has shifted over the years as they’ve explored their artistic souls. Yes, they hold the torches aloft again, but in a way that heads toward their future and not back to their past.

For more on the band, go here: http://wittr.com/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.wittr.com/collections/featured-items

For more on the label, go here: https://artemisiarecords.bandcamp.com/