Recently, a dimwitted teenager and his equally dimwitted friends became responsible for sparking a 48,000 acre fire in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. The teens were caught, praised be, but sadly, their punishment does not include forcing all involved to be air-lifted to some remote mountain back country with nothing but a knife, some rope and a first aid kit to see if they can survive for a month with no help. Show arbitrary contempt for the wilderness that results in disaster, let the wilds decide your fate, I say. Instead, these young simpletons will continue taking full advantage of the ol’ “they’re just teenagers” trope and probably spend the rest of their lives paying around $25 a month to the Department of Forestry in an attempt to absorb the absurd costs associated with extinguishing their cretinous misdeed.
Nature, on the other hand, will eventually bounce back, despite our immeasurable appetite for bullying it to the brink. Nature is amazing in that regard. It represents the absolute perfect balance between kindness and cruelty, of beauty and roughness, and of abundance and dearth, and it always pushes back with equal or more terrible force. So yes, scorched lands will slowly recover, and humans will eventually return to its lush embrace and remember just how vital it is to feel living soil between our fingers and soft grass between our toes. We will walk on her paths, and we will smell of her blossoms, and we will drink of her streams, and we will suffer at the hands of her mightiest creatures hopefully as much we force them suffer our existence, and we will many of us die and rot in her earth, never to be seen again.
Black metal epitomizes untold things to those who are aware of its existence, but for some, it is nature that embodies its essence above all else, or at least the most lawless side of nature that freezes blood to stone and pulls steaming viscera loose via predators and scavengers alike. Even the boldest of the second wave bands that espoused anti-Christian sentiments continually likened themselves to “wolves in the wood” or poorly equipped fighters lovingly schlepping through knee-deep snow. Innate savagery and an impervious connection to nature’s primordial pool—yeah, that’s the ticket.
Wolves in the Throne Room has championed the grace and cruelty of nature since day one. They also rustled more than a few feathers over the years by getting tagged “Cascadian” and taking more of a hippie’s stance with the genre. But if you assume the Cascade Mountains aren’t as cool as the Carpathian Mountains and think celebrating the living side of nature is lame, I suggest you take a trip to the Pacific Northwest and try petting a ravenous wolverine while wearing a baloney beanie and see where that gets you. You will be mortally injured, in case that’s not clear, but you will die in a beautiful place, and your meat will fill guts, and your blood will feed the soil, and the force of the mountain’s waters will cut through your dead bones just as sharply as it does the earth’s stone, and it will be a glorious end.
Thrice Woven conquers because, much like the scorched primeval forest in the thrust of resurrection, it finds the band revitalized and reaffirming the raw, root level of the second wave of Norwegian black metal that inspired them in the first place. The intentional departure that was 2014’s Celestite aside, most everything outside of this record’s 2-minute Will-o-the-Wisp respite (“Mother Owl, Father Ocean”) is much more primitive and forthright compared to bulk of the band’s creations following Diadem of 12 Stars. The mellow, Shamanic element is still quite prevalent—on every song, in fact—but the extensive melody that was heard throughout Celestial Lineage is less blatant and generally achieved through tremolo riffing now. Opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” is the album’s most turbulent illustration of this. Apart from an exquisite interlude that features the angelic voice of Anna von Hausswolff, this song spends its opening minutes crackling with the sweeping fury of Seen Through the Veils of Darkness-circa Gehenna before dropping a riff around 3:25 that could make any discrust band blush.
The gratifying rawness continues throughout the record, particularly with regard to the more furious moments of Aaron Weaver’s violent drumming, and thanks to brother Nathan’s scraping vocals that are as intense and sincere as Gaahl rebuking confessional wine. If you remain unmoved by the wonderfully primitive manner in which closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon” belts out of its drifty interlude with a drudging clang and biting snarl, you are clearly spending too much time being dead and buried beneath the earth.
Newly enlisted guitarist Kody Keyworth infuses extra heft from his long-fallen Fall of the Bastard days, and the slow grip of his Aldebaran face adds a little more shadow to the record’s lumbering measures, especially toward the close of “Angrboda.” But the most surprising/really not at all surprising addition to the Weaver duo’s familiar Wolves strategy arrives with the perfectly appropriate inclusion of Steve Von Till’s voice on “The Old Ones are with Us,” a flashy Shamanic cut that emphasizes the band’s passion for atmospheric keys, and a song that features arguably the most beautifully MAJESTIC conclusions the band has done to date.
Just as certain as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, there will always be grim underlords and misery-loving malcontents pissing in ears over how Wolves in the Throne Room has chosen to express USBM, and these same illuminati will forever damn them for influencing a legion of invalid imitators as well. However, “legitimacy” anxiety and prevalence bugaboos—particularly those pertaining to black metal—are often indicative of those who listen to the style for reasons that skirt the actual music, and that is a laughable offense. Push all the peripheral distractions aside, get out into whichever backwoods boonies or thickets that surreptitiously tempt you from your respective megalopolises, get this in your ears, and you will find a record that welcomes the arrival of old spirits and celebrates the return of wild, primordial life, just as any great black metal record should hope to accomplish.
“He brought me up the same way—to reverence the music and the drama and the rituals of the old gods. To love nature and to fear it, and to rely on it and to appease it where necessary. He brought me up….”
“He brought you up to be a pagan!”
“A heathen, conceivably, but not, I hope, an unenlightened one.”