Wolves In The Throne Room — Thrice Woven
Three years have passed and Wolves In The Throne Room return with a new album — technically longer, if you consider that their last offering, Celestite (review), was a complete departure from the group's typical fare. After "pulling an Ulver," as I call it, Wolves In The Throne Room return to their black metal roots, but they did not utterly abandon the synths and atmospheric qualities of the previous album in the process.
The album's opener, "Born In The Serpent's Eye," starts off as very standard issue black metal, although immediately the record's high production quality is noticeable. Thrice Woven is easily the band's best sounding album to date, combining the crystal clarity of Celestite with the buzzing, archetypal black metal compositions of older works. Wolves In The Throne Room were never cartoonishly low-fi, but the raw, feedback laden sound has been dialed back in these much more refined recordings.
In addition to the much improved production values, the material also highlights an evolution in the project's song-writing. Fusing the atmospheric moods of of Celestite with the classical elements of black metal — the buzzing guitars, blast beats and wretched vocals — results in some long tracks, but they are segmented into sections rather than just long pieces in a very narrow style. "Born In The Serpent's Eye" opens with a slow, acoustic strum before the electric guitars assert themselves, and a brooding passage with haunting vocals over a sparse synth backing track breaks the black metal segments up into two distinct sections.
Each track manages to transition back-and-forth, between melodic, reserved passages and very fundamental black metal riffing and rhythms. This keeps the material from blending together too much, though it will say that these composition choices may infuriate the more "kvlt" fans who expected something close to Celestial Lineage. The acoustic guitar also makes additional appearances, and "The Old Ones Are With Us" also includes a spoken-word intro and outro, setting the tone of a forest ritual in service to unspecified ancient spirits. The next track, "Angrboda," is more straight-forwardly black metal than anything else on the album.
The album lists 5 songs, but "Mother Owl, Father Ocean" is a short interlude that clocks in at just over 2 minutes in length. Ingoring this, the lengthy remaining tracks on Thrice Woven still make the record feel too short. The final track, "Fires Roar In The Palace Of The Moon," may be 11:29 in length but the song ends with a long fadeout to the sound of waves on crashing on a shoreline. Generally speaking, brevity is strictly a positive thing: albums that feel too long are chores, whereas records that feel too short leave the listener wanting more. In this case, the latter is quite the the feeling I am left with — another track would have not gone unappreciated. Thrice Woven is the only instance I can think of where brevity was a strike against a record — it's good enough to make me angry when it ends — and that is a bizarre feeling to contemplate.
Ultimately, I am still very pleased with Thrice Woven, don't misunderstand me. Wolves In The Throne Room didn't phone in this release, and when considered with their past work it makes sense that a group that has released music for over 13 years would want to continually evolve — I just wish this album was about about 10 minutes longer, with a bit more black metal. Still, Thrice Woven is very good and far from any sort of failed effort. If nothing else, I have to respect Wolves' ongoing dedication to doing whatever they want, and not simply re-treading old, well-travelled ground. I hope we don't have to wait another 3 years for more material from this band; this is a great album, and I highly recommend metal fans give it a listen.
If tasked to describe Thrice Woven with a single word, "efficient" would be my choice. This is a very concise album, merging disparate types of music together into a perfect amalgam of styles. This is a veteran performance from Wolves In The Throne Room, flexing toned black metal muscle and expertly fusing melody and atmosphere into the mix. My initial reaction is that Thrice Woven might prove to be my favourite album from this project.
Release date: September 19th, 2017
Record label: Artemisia Records.
Nathan Weaver — vocals, guitar
Aaron Weaver — drums, synths
Kody Keyworth — vocals, guitar
- Born From The Serpent's Eye
- The Old Ones Are With Us
- Mother Owl, Father Ocean
- Fires Roar In The Palace Of The Moon
Published: September 23rd, 2017