Wolves In The Throne Room + Aluk Todolo
@ Heaven, London
November 30, 2017
Review by Demitri Levantis
Photography by Miguel del Melo
Picture the scene: a railway arch at the centre of a metropolis. A semi circle of brick, that has seen centuries of industrial and environmental change as the great city of London thrives and bustles about its business.
And with that flow of time comes the flow of progress. For said arch has in past decades become a haven and safe space for the city’s LGBT community. I am of course talking about: Heaven. The nightclub that has seen many fabulous performances from the Gay scene, the drag world and countless performance artists who’ve all solidified themselves into the works of progress that give the UK capital its versatility.
And on one cold Thursday night, that progress was taken to a whole new level, by having the most progressive band in the world of Black Metal perform for the London metal scene for the first time in over a decade.
Wolves in the Throne Room, a band who’ve made a name for themselves as the flagship of the Cascadian Metal scene, and given us symphony after symphony of Atmospheric Black Metal – commenting on the woes of environmental damage and how capitalism has wreaked havoc on the human and natural world.
Wolves were not alone in their visit, for first up on the bill were a French experimental Rock group who, as the title of their first album states, produced some of the finest in the ‘Occult Rock’, genre.
So there we all were, piling into the caverns of Heaven to get a glimpse of Aluk Todolo. And speaking as a percussionist, the drummer had one very impressive kit, which I think he employed to the finest form when the blasts began to ring out.
Aluk Todolo did not utter a single lyric, for all their repertoire is instrumental. Now this was a truly fine example of how it doesn’t require vocals to make good music. From the moment the band took off, my peers and I were swaying from side to side in rhythm as the band flowed like a mighty river into a cascade of audible exuberance.
The songs, composing one half of the band’s first album, were the kind that will soak into your skin and have you feel like you’re being lifted off your feet and brought back down in a kind of transcendental meditation – good listening gear for when you need to relax and feel calm.
I was calmed to a moment of bliss that only certain genres of music can do. And I was quite intrigued by the lightbulb that hung before the band, centre stage. It flickered and light danced forth making me wonder if the band’s instruments were powering this contraption. I wouldn’t be surprised as I know how environmentally conscious Wolves are, but don’t know if Aluk share the same views.
Either way, one stupendous piece of Occult Rock to start the evening.
As well as the progressive undertones to the choice of venue, it’s more appropriate to say Heaven was the place for the next band, as the acoustics and atmosphere generated by their instrumentation was best enjoyed in a place like this.
Black Metal is normally deemed an indoor genre of music because of the atmosphere created by the tremolo picking and blast beats. So it’s of no surprise to me that we now have festivals held in caves like Prophecy Fest in Germany. Therefore, such a band like Wolves are best seen under a bridge – no trolling puns intended.
So here they were, all the way from Washington state to give us a sumptuous rendition of finely crafted Atmospheric Black Metal.
The group took to the stage employing a keyboardist: Brittany McConnell to add depth to the myriad of wonderous screams and belts that echoed around the crowd from the word go.
Vocalist Nathan Weaver took us on a journey into a mystical land of environmentalism and ecological concern, as well as a set of numerous myths and legends from the evergreen forests of the United States and beyond.
It was beyond mesmerising watching a group whose composition made you feel like you were on a whole other world, one of an endless glade of greenery and everlasting life that bears the fruit of salvation for those eager to turn away from the horrors of modern life.
Whenever I listen to Wolves in the Throne Room, I feel I am appreciating the wonders and beauty of nature and the ongoing mythologies and folklore that comes with it, and I feel a greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world – so to see such a group perform live, I felt my musical palate had been wetted with a whole new type of concoction.
Mind blowing would be an understatement, for the band did not slip up once, and the tightness of the musicianship meant this was a band here to stay – one not to vanish into obscurity.
There was also an air about them that said the group were versatile. Say what you like about their recent Drone album (Celestite) but Wolves have proven time and again that they are a band not scared to step over the boundaries of Metal music to give us the kind of art you wouldn’t always expect.
In this case, I was given a performance like no other I’ve seen this year. Wolves in the Throne Room is a group I’ve waited to check out live for many years, so all that waiting definitely paid off.
A job well done Wolves, please come back and see us again soon.