Has it been three or six years since you’ve heard from the Weaver brothers? The masterminds behind Cascadian black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room last emerged from the wilds of the Pacific Northwest with 2014’s Celestite. While amazing, it was far from a metal album. The brothers really flexed their ambient and atmospheric muscles on that one. It proved to be a bit polarizing, but WITTR are no strangers to keyboard warrior shit shows. 2011’s Celestial Lineage, a work of art that received high praise from many in the metal community,was the last time we heard the band’s raw, black metal side. But like many black metal bands who are capable of thinking outside the Kvlt box, WITTR have their share of detractors. However, we don’t have time to be narrow minded so let us assume that we are about to enter the wilderness alone, with intention, and mindful of all our senses.
On Thrice Woven, the bands sixth LP, Aaron and Nathan Weaver decided to add long time live guitarist and vocalist Kody Keyworth to the fold as a full recording member making it the first album with an added consciousness since 2009’s Black Cascade. There are a number of guest vocalists and session players helping fill the air with sound, which is nothing new for Wolves. Randall Dunn, who has worked with the band since 2007’s Two Hunters, once again helped produce the album alongside the band. The cover art, done by Denis Forkas, compliments the music not just in style, but is also a reference to the song “Angrboða,” the mother of Fenrisúlfr, who graces the cover.
Thrice Woven is a Sasquatch of an album. Extremely ambitious, grandiose, and mystical, and straight up fucking brutal at the same time. WITTR have always had a solid mix of black metal and darker, more meditative ambient sounds. Depending on what you are into, past albums may have had too much of one or the other. As much as I love sitting back with my cans on getting lost in Celestite, a part of me is always waiting to hear the familiar distorted guitar start to build underneath, but it never comes. On Thrice Woven it seems the band have found a brilliant mix of the two. The songs feel more straightforward without losing those long beautiful passages we have come to love from Wolves.
From the first notes of “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” the stage is set for a magical journey. The crisp acoustic guitar leads us into the clearing, but a fog is rolling in, signaling a changing of the weather. The shimmer of cymbals casts a momentary light over the field that is soon clouded over by the melodic blast beats and ethereal riffing. The speed continues to increase, the tremolos leading us down a winding pathway. Suddenly a fallen tree blocks our path, ducking under it and standing up to find ourselves in a clearing. The passage filling the air, courtesy of Swedish artist Anna von Hausswolff, it is as unnerving as it is soothing. Singing in her native tongue while chimes glint above her, she adds even more mystery to our trek.
“The Old Ones Are With Us” starts as we sit by our campfire at the edge of the clearing. With a voice from above (none other than Steven Von Till of Neurosis) calling upon nature to accept our offerings and grant us and our surroundings warmth, fertility, and life. Staring into the sky above, hypnotic doom laden riffs disarm our psyche, as an ode to Imbolc is cast out into the ether.
As we set out along our path once more, our laudation to “Angrboða” is in the air. But it soon quiets down as we hear the sound of water dripping on the forest floor from the highest trees. The low drone of the wind is the only constant while the clean notes once again allow us to feel safe for a moment. But it’s with a distorted crushingly slow riff that we start to sense the forest becoming less dense, the smell of the sea tells us we’re are close to our goal. “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” takes us to the forest’s brim running right up against a rocky beach. The voice of Anna von Hausswolff brings us to the foot of our altar, set just far enough out that our feet get wet at low tide.
“Fires Roar in the Place of the Moon” summons the hide tide and now we are fighting to stay grounded in our place of ceremony. But this is where it all comes together. The place where life and death are one. All part of the universal mystery. Our trance like state deepening and our ego ripped apart. In the end there is just ocean, the breeze and terrafirma.