Wolves in the Throne Room are one of the most well-known and highly regarded atmospheric black metal bands out there, largely responsible for putting Cascadia and the Cascadian blackened style on the map, so to speak. The band’s good reputation is well-deserved, as over the course of their career they have put out a wealth of high quality music.
Although I have placed this album last in the list, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad album. In fact, it’s actually a very, very good album. The reason it is last here is purely down to the fact that it’s stylistically quite different to the usual Wolves in the Throne Room fare. On Celestite, the band decided to produce 46 minutes of dark ambience and cinematic soundscapes. It still features the band’s inimitable and easily recognisable sound and melodies, just minus any traditional black metal content. This is an album to listen to late at night as you stare at the heavens.
6) Live at Roadburn 2008
I wouldn’t always include a live album in a list such as this, but I do really enjoy this one. I’ve probably listened to this more than many live albums, such is the quality of the sound and performance. I love the way it starts off, as the singer (presumably) is revealed to be softly spoken and unassuming. There is no pretentious posturing or pretence at being ‘evil,’ simply a demure introduction and a request for darker lights. Containing a choice selection of tracks from their previous two albums, I also enjoy the moment with the singer politely informing the crowd that they only have one more song left, before launching into the 20-minute monolithic and epic “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots.” For anyone who hasn’t encountered Wolves in the Throne Room before, this live album is as good an introduction as any.
5) Thrice Woven
So now we come to the band’s latest. This is a top quality album, and one that is only appearing in this list in fifth position because it is the one I am the least familiar with. Yes, I’ve listened to it many, many times since it was released, but the pales in comparison with how well I know the band’s other material, which I’ve had years and years to absorb and digest. My initial feelings are that it’s an incredibly strong release, and one that I’m sure will see it rightfully grace high placings on many a year-end list in 2017. My favourite track is probably “The Old Ones Are with Us,” which also features a guest spot from one of the singers of Neurosis.
4) Black Cascade
Each song on this album is a classic, and picking any one of them as the best is hugely dependent on mood, and would probably change every time. The same can probably be said for this entire list, in fact, albeit to a lesser extent. If I had to name one favourite, as of this moment it’s probably “Ex Cathedra.” Regardless, this is an exceptional 50 minutes of atmospheric black metal, carved up into four epic songs.
3) Diadem of 12 Stars
This is the band’s debut album, eleven years old at this point. This is where it all started, with an hour of material unceremoniously unleashed on an unsuspecting world. It essentially spawned a black metal sub-genre all of its own, the so-called Cascadian black metal style. A single listen should be enough to convince you of why this was such an important and wide-reaching album, as the songs just draw you in and immerse you with their blackened splendour. Eleven years old it may be, but it has lost none of its impact.
2) Two Hunters
This was a tough album to place, as I so dearly wanted to have it in the top slot in many ways. From the exceptional atmospherically building of opener “Dea Artio” to the already mentioned “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots,” this album is an essential black metal listen from start to finish. “Vastness and Sorrow” quickly became one of my favourites that the band have created, with “Cleansing” following close behind. This album is, quite simply, a stunner.
1) Celestial Lineage
So that brings us to the coveted top slot, and in number one position we have the band’s 2011 release Celestial Lineage. As I say, it was tough knowing whether to put this album or Two Hunters in first place, but ultimately Celestial Lineage won out. For a start, this album is home to the absolutely jaw-dropping “Thuja Magus Imperium.” Oh my. What a song! Every part of it is just amazing, but especially that riff - you’ll know the one. It gets me literally every time. Beautiful. The rest of the album is utterly first-rate too, whether this is the atmospheric grandeur of “Woodland Cathedral,” or the closing mood-builder “Prayer of Transformation.” This is a majestic and vast album from a majestic and vast band. If you only get one release from Wolves in the Throne Room (get them all!), then make it this one.