Wolves in the Throne Room

support Wolvserpent
author EW date 21/10/11 venue Xoyo, London, UK

The profile of American black metallers' Wolves in the Throne Room has risen dramatically in recent times and with the release of "Celestial Lineage" the band are back out doing what oft seems contradictory to their environmental lyrical stance: touring. The onstage personas may appear to confirm a band who consider live performance a necessary evil that must be accomplished, but behind the shadows and minimal crowd interaction lies a band capable of creating the most evocative atmospheres.

Wolvserpent

First up however was the drone/doom duo Wolvserpent from the badlands of Idaho and of whom in the 15 minutes I caught (doors advertised as 8pm; first band starts at 8pm yet why?) it is fair to say very little was gleaned. When a band's one release is an album of two songs totalling 40 minutes you know times are to be slow, yet even in this short expanse of viewing time there emitted nothing of appreciable value from a pair droning along at minimal speeds. Perhaps best described as 'abstract', Brittany McConnell's slow, soft drumming settled behind the wall of drawling feedback being emitted from the guitar of Blake Green, with but subtle changes in tone and tempo the only notification any endeavours into the world of music movement had been undertaken. No doubt a prior listen to the band would have been beneficial as I am more than partial to a spot of droning doom but a blast (or should that be crawl?) of incongruous drone and limited audience reaction tell it's own story:

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Wolves in the Throne Room

The second pack of wolves to make their bow on the night are the current hot property of black metal, and like all good acts from that darkened hinterland, controversial. Eschewing all the common theatrics of the genre and rebuilding from scratch, the stage setup consists of a number of vertical backdrops depicting woodland animals interwoven with the kind of graphical imagery the band's logo is based upon, cold solid skyward-pointing blue lights projecting forth darkened visions of the band, and ample quantities of dry ice to suggest a new ice age is approaching, all suggesting Wolves mean business when they take to the stage. Opening with "Thuja Magus Imperium" from the new album demonstrates it's radically different sound without the presence of Jessika Kenney's soft female vocals with which to absorb ears, when soon after the repetitive lead riff kicks into life with an evil intent not yet revealed to me from the album. At 11 minutes long it is a gradual welcoming to the show but an impressive one, barring sound gremlins which are frankly part of the territory with a sound as coruscating at that of Wolves in the Throne Room.

Moving through "Ahrimanic Trance", "Cleansing" and this scribe's personal favourite, "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots", the perception one gets when watching the band changes more appreciably than does the performer's evident mood, which behind low-level light and mops of straggly hair is well hidden, as soaring, looping riffs are forced with all the might of Aaron Weaver's drum hammering into the psyche and set to stay long after the live adventure is complete. As some of the finest examples of WITTR's recorded output, these tracks epitomise the thoughtful nature of the band's diligent approach to strongly defiant and powerful atmospheres, a facet in contrast to the hit-and-hope of the majority of their blackened cousins, before they themselves become bookended by "Celestial Lineage"'s closing song, "Prayer of Transformation". It may yet to have revealed itself as a WITTR classic, but the essence of classic material exists in this song as one of the album's heaviest, which as a set closer confirms that even with the ambient dalliances found in the new opus, the band know just what it is that has confirmed their status as a must-see band.

From a personal point of view the experience still lacked the magical peak that I attained from my first and, frankly over-whelming, Wolves in the Throne Room experience, but there is no doubt the new tracks aired feel more comfortable live. To the end, it must be said a Wolves in the Throne Room performance always seems to evoke so much more than any other BM band...

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