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Thursday, March 12, 2009

CD Review: Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade

Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
2009 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

To this point in their remarkable career, Olympia, Washington's Wolves in the Throne Room has proven they're not your typical black metal band. Their previous effort Two Hunters was a veritable masterwork of charred reinvention that succeeded in such stridence it was their devotion to granular earthbound textures which made the album so undeniably powerful.

Following up such a watermark for any band would never be considered an easy task, yet it stands to wonder why Wolves in the Throne Room has slightly waned from the grandeur distancing themselves (along with Nachtmystium, Fear of Eternity and Agalloch) apart from the worldwide black metal clique on Black Cascade.

Certainly Wolves in the Throne Room remains one of the contemporary elite of this genre merely for the canal-washing ambience sprinkled amidst the prototype triple-timed death pleas on Black Cascade customarily found in Burzum, Marduk and Leviathan. The fact "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog" and "Ex Cathedra" rips and shrieks more uniformly with Scandinavian black metal influence leads to wonder if Wolves in the Throne Room has paid a price for their individuality from the royally devout of the genre and a token atonement has been offered accordingly. If such a thing as conformity exists in the most extreme form of metal, then Wolves in the Throne Room has a tendency to rank and file on these two tracks.

Fortunately, "Ahrimanic Trance" exhibits far more of the group's trademark character, blowing oxygenated ventilation through their massive composition as Wolves in the Throne Room changes tempos from breakneck anger to a valiant gallop, fusing gusty air projections into antiquated recording machinery, namely a vintage '73 Neve Console cast violently upon two-inch tape. In the means of utilizing analog, "Ahrimanic Trance" becomes both post-modern and traditional even as each stanza reveals a new texture said tape might've strained to possess in another day and age.

Repetitious loops characterized in today's black metal are a plentiful theme on Black Cascade. In some ways, the pounding ostinato of "Crystal Ammunition" creates hypertense agitation before Wolves in the Throne Room completely alters the scheme with luxuriant layers of distortion. At first coming off primitive and redundant, the majesty conveyed immediately thereafter is gracefully ground out in "Crystal Ammunition's" succesive, trance-weaving bars. By the time the song swirls into the album's first truly organic experience courtesy of a demure and droning acoustic interlude, you can expect Wolves in the Room to come out of their swoon with their feet tapping hedonistically on the pedals. Nevertheless, the methodic crescendo of "Crystal Ammunition" is one of Black Cascade's finest moments.

Though Black Cascade's dabbling with tried and true black metal motifs is slightly worrisome, no doubt this band is consistently inventive and devoted to creating genuine art amidst a tenebrous canvas of normally-implied hatred. Once again, Wolves in the Throne Room manage to provide quixotic wisdom and ambient dignity to one of the ugliest sounds filtering from belligerent amps, no matter which blackened forest of the perversely co-inhabited inspires them.

Rating: ****


All About The Music said...

Great review man. I've really dug Wolves In The Throne Room too. Southern Lord has a ton of great stuff!

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

thanks, brother, I'm high up on this band and Southern Lord has been way consistent; one of the best labels in the underground...I mean, Boris alone...

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