Released: 2009, Southern Lord Records
Reviewer: Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Wolves in the Throne Room (WITTR) is one of those rare bands that’s impossible to talk about without discussing the driving philosophies behind the music. Brothers Nathan & Aaron Weaver are renowned for their ascetic lifestyle and advocacy of radical environmentalism, which are central to the “post-black metal” music of WITTR. While black metal is traditionally apolitical and revels in self-empowering individuality (and/or nihilism) above all else, WITTR is far more interested in expressing the agony of nature to the unenlightened metalhead. BLACK CASCADE is consequently a very difficult album to review from a more “technical” standpoint; WITTR’s music is much slower and organic than the output of their traditionalist peers, and is something that really has to be ‘felt’ to be understood. Feeling somewhat at a loss for words to write, I found myself looking up other reviews of the album and being amazed at how other reviewers seemed to have a similar problem. One universal theme sticks out; BLACK CASCADE attempts to speak from the heart of the wounded earth, and the evocative results are very compelling.
Initial listens to BLACK CASCADE reminded me of my first experiences with Opeth. Again and again, the same question ran through my mind – how can anything so grotesque and ugly be so profoundly beautiful? WITTR’s music incorporates atmospheric and drone elements into a warm, mossy permutation of typically icy black metal production. Tremolo frenzies and loose blastbeats are everpresent, but they do not intend brutality or malice. Instead of the expected coldness, there’s a refreshingly uplifting quality about this music. With Nathan Weaver’s piercing shriek hovering in the mix like a disembodied fog, evocative melodies and hypnotic rhythms weave a compelling tapestry of intoxicating passion.
WITTR is not a typical black metal band, and therefore will probably not appeal to the typical black metal fan. Just because they live in on a farm and are environmental advocates does not mean they can be casually labeled as silly hippies and discarded; that would do a grave disservice to a truly innovative band. In order to enjoy BLACK CASCADE, one has to be a little more open to what black metal is supposed to accomplish. While it doesn’t lack at all for headbanging moments, the point of this album is to provide a transcendental experience for the listener, not provide a vent for gore-bellied anti-religious angst. Those with an open ear towards what could become an entirely new musical movement would do well to check out BLACK CASCADE and the transformative majesty within.