Having departed entirely from the folksy black metal sound characterising their early releases, Wolves In The Throne Room understandably caught some flak with their previous effort, the experimental and ambient Celestite. Three years on and the band are back with a brand new album in tow and all ears were out for a return to the band that has arguably helped define the North American movement that is Cascadian black metal.
Fear not, as Thrice Woven is an unashamed return to form, picking right up where Celestial Lineage left off. The album eases in with ‘Born from the Serpent’s Eye’ before the full force of the band’s blackened assault is brought to bear, savage rasps and tremolo riffing. It’s a far more straightforward album in terms of its black metal, despite the folksy flourishes such as guest Anna Von Hauswolff’s vocals at the midpoint of ‘Born…’ and penultimate track ‘Mother Owl, Father Ocean’. Instead of coming across as bleak, however, the album ebbs and flows effortlessly, the fury crashing in waves after emerging from still waters. Second track ‘The Old Ones Are With Us’ experiments with spoken word passages, beginning with a reading over the sound of a crackling fire and the strumming of an acoustic guitar.
It’s by no means a short album - the album’s forty-two plus minutes are divided into only five tracks, yet at no point do things feel forced or dragged out, a crucial element in Wolves’ particular brand of black metal. Atmosphere is king here, and Thrice Woven has it in spades; but there’s also some far more straightforward black metal passages such as during middle track ‘Angrboda’, which sees itself veering between more folksy, acoustic passages and sections that wouldn’t sound amiss on a modern Satyricon record. Despite the more traditionalist approach and heavier reliance on second-wave black metal, Thrice Woven is still chock-full of epic tales of nature worship and heathen ritual, conjuring images of the mountains and forests of the Pacific Northwest the band calls home.
‘Born from the Serpent’s Eye’ is the strongest song on the album and also seems to be a neat summary of the entirety of Thrice Woven itself, encapsulated in nine and a half minutes. While the rest of the album is by no means bad, the heavier passages do have an air of repetition as the album wears on and it’s this that stops Thrice Woven from being a truly great album. The folk elements, while understated, help to provide variety and certainly do more to enhance the album and evoke the feeling of being surrounded by the natural world, away from the hustle and bustle of modernity. It’s a welcome return to their layered, atmospheric black metal roots with a more traditionalist approach to black metal meaning the album has far more in common with Diadem of 12 Stars than later works; but the folky flourishes coupled with the ebb and flow from chaotic to serene make it a worthy addition to Wolves In The Throne Room’s catalogue and any atmospheric music fan’s collection.
Standout: Born From The Serpent’s Eye, The Old Ones Are With Us