Wolves in the Throne Room
posted on 9/2007 By:
Man has always held an innate understanding of his place in the natural world – hunter, protector, destroyer. The foolhardy and the brave set off to conquer the wilderness, yet few return; those who do come back as older souls, humbled by Nature’s might and majesty. Smart men have always known just how weak and powerless our race is against the sheer magnitude of that which is Nature, and they have done their best to live in harmony with that terrible, beautiful, unfeeling force which governs our existence. Even as we slash through her skin and dig at her bones, sap her spirit and sign her death warrant in oil and smoke, Nature perseveres; when our species has long since laid down our weapons and bowed our heads in defeat, the natural world will reclaim the bones of its assailants and crush them into powder under a fresh growth of new life. The terrible wonder and awe we puny humans feel in the face of such a thing calls out to be seen and heard and felt – thus, we write, we draw, we sing, we create.
Sometimes, we scream.
Metal in all its myriad forms is nothing if not expressive and emotional music, meant to affect its listeners far deeper than your average pop song or radio hit. It’s no wonder that this style of musical expression, as focused as it tends to be on death, destruction, and raw power, has embraced natural and elemental themes so thoroughly within its canon. Black metal in particular harbors an intense fascination and attachment to the ideas of nature and its pure pre-civilized state. Traditionally, such bands pay homage to the wintry forests and looming fjords of Scandinavia in their songs, but as the international scene is finally beginning to accept, not all quality black metal bands hail from Europe, and there is more to the genre than a freezing moon in the northern sky. By now, most of those who consider themselves “in the know” when it comes to the dark inner workings of the BM scene have heard of the enigmatic American entity that is Wolves In The Throne Room, and have more than likely been spinning their first full-length, Diadem of Twelve Stars, non-stop. Along with like-minded black legions Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega, WITTR have risen above the corpepainted masses as purveyors of a new, more adventurous branch of BM that’s been quietly bubbling beneath the genre’s filthy surface for a few years now. Case in point, Two Hunters (their second long-player and first for Southern Lord) utilizes elements that most black metal hordes wouldn’t be caught dead with. Clean female vocals, ambient and melodic melodies, sprawling compositions clocking in at over ten minutes – Archgoat, this sure ain’t…and aren’t you glad it isn’t? After all, there is no one quite like WITTR.
The album leads off with "Dia Artio", an ambient intro track that ebbs and flows at a freezing glacial pace; its droning fragility draws you down out into the undertow, then fades into silence. The next three tracks ("Vastness and Sorrow", "Cleansing", and "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rock and Roots") tread in more familiar WITTR territory; dense, multi-layered compositions, rife with fast tremolo picking and melodic parts, yet blackened beyond belief and positively ritualistic in their execution. "Cleansing" stands out as one of the more interesting tracks. It begins quietly, slowly; Jessica Kinney’s ethereal vocals rise above the washed-out fuzz and slow tribal drumming, and while she isn’t the most professional singer, a good amount of delay and the innocent, rough quality of her voice make it seem as if she were. She lends her vocal talents to the album closer, "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots", as well, and also to great effect. The song itself is an impressive twelve-minute epic that exemplifies everything that makes WITTR so great.
The production on Two Hunters fits the album perfectly – not too clean, not too grim, just right. WITTR’s decision to include female vocals on this release was a good one, and underlines the fact that this is a much more mature outing than their previous work. Two Hunters should do well to cement WITTR’s status as one of the genre’s forerunners, if they are not considered as such already. Is it better than their other work? Depends. Recommended? Of course. Essential? Definitely.
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