The Return of Wolves in the Throne Room: “Thrice Woven” Review
Ever wonder why certain genres seem to flow from particular geographic regions? It goes beyond scenes and bandwagons – it the vibrations of the earth. Music, being a series of vibrational frequencies, is sensitive to these ley lines in the earth. Musicians who are particularly attuned to themselves and their instruments can tap into these and reap the rewards. Those that don’t give you that feeling they are playing against the grain of who they are. So what does this have to do with the new album by Wolves in the Throne Room? Thrice Woven finds the band firmly rooted in their surroundings. It celebrates that fact. The band is back to an unabashed embrace of black metal. In doing so, this doesn’t mean that are enslaved to blast beats or ignoring some of the things from their more experimental leanings that have made them who they are. Six albums deep and fourteen years invested in this, they understand who they want to be in the present moment and continue to invoke the feeling of their surroundings. There are atmospheric passages, but the focus is more on the drive of the songs.
Opening with crystalline calm, WITTR soon storm into their brand of black metal, which this time around has a lighter feel. This lighter feel lies in what seems to be the intention it is being played with. The vocals are the most scathing part. The riffs eventually become as mean spirited as a band like Watain. This could be a reflection on more cynical attitudes developed toward the world changing around them. The song takes a jarring turn, dropping down into siren like serenity of female vocals, with darker riffs evolving from this point. On the song that follows, they sing of the old ones being with them – in a sense they are talking about the ancestral spirits of the land rather than some sort of Lovercraftian horror. It feels like they are honoring an ancient enormity, such as one facing a mountain, rather than staring into an abyss. That earth-based feeling is further conveyed in the husky gravel of the more Tom Waits like narrative midway into the song. “Angrboda” carries the straightforward blast charge of more traditional black metal. Rather than blast beats for the obligatory sake of blast beats, they throw in bridges amid the blasts with a sonic twist casts a colder shade of gray onto the song. Here and at other points in the album, it breaks all the way down to very minimal arrangements augmented with sound effects. It is effective here, as 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. Five and a half minutes into the eleven minute closer things turn to a darker current. This offers the kind of dynamic shift I need as some of their so called Cascadian passages can shimmer too 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, 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 proved this alone is not all they are about. To me this feels like a solid triumph for the band. They have returned to old stomping grounds in a way that is not mired in nostalgia for what was 14 years ago, and are still giving their early fans what they have longed for.