Wolves in the Throne Room probes the darkness

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Sometimes technology—or an intentional lack of it—can tell you plenty about a person. Take, for instance, Aaron Weaver, one of the two brothers behind veteran Pacific Northwest black-metal unit Wolves in the Throne Room. When the Olympia-based musician phones the Georgia Straight, he’s using Skype, and not just because the service is free to anyone with an Internet connection.

“I don’t even have a cellphone—I live in the dark ages,” Weaver admits right off the top. “In this day and age, we’re expected to be available at all times, no matter what our various endeavours are, and that’s really weird—it does weird things to your head. In our case, in some ways we are as deeply immersed in the technical world as anyone else. We record our music on computers, and I do my interviews on Skype. And when we’re in the middle of a tour cycle, I check my email at least five times a day, hammering out all the logistics. But when I’m at home, I like to put all that stuff aside and get back to a different vibration.”

Those who’ve followed Wolves in the Throne Room over its five-album career are well aware of what’s most important to Weaver and his bandmate-brother, Nathan. The two multi-instrumentalists proudly bill themselves as byproducts of the black-metal underground, but that can be confusing. Forget the punishing insanity of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, not to mention church burnings and ritualistic murders; WITTR is more about meditative heavier-than-heaven soundscapes, especially on the wonderful new outing Celestite.

A major stylistic departure from past records, but meant as a companion piece to 2011’s guitar-and-drum-powered Celestial Lineage, Celestite has the Weavers relying heavily on vintage synthesizers. There are moments of quiet beauty, with “Celestite Mirror” made for walking in the misty rainforests of Cascadia, and moments of menacing paranoia, including the horror-film-soundtrack claustrophobia of “Turning Ever Towards the Sun”. Impressively, the overall results suggest a fondness for acts as disparate as Neurosis, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Henryk Górecki, and John Carpenter. Think new-age music for those with hearts of never-ending darkness.

Thanks to the complete dominance of the synths, Wolves in the Throne Room fans are going to have to completely readjust their perception of the band, which is of little concern to the siblings.

“We could have very easily got into the mind-space of ‘What are people going to think? What’s going to be the reaction to this?’ but we didn’t,” says Weaver. “Instead, we just sequestered ourselves in the studio, and got into our space, our zone. The results kind of poured forth out of a pretty improvised recording process, which was different from the way that we usually work. Usually, everything is planned out—before we get into the studio, we’ve got the entire record demoed out, down to every last overdub. In recording Celestite we wanted it to be all about improvisation and happy accidents.”

Not by accident, Celestite has a strangely spiritual feel, which makes sense given the degree to which the Weavers are deeply indebted to the scenery and general majesty of the Pacific Northwest. Some things, as old as they may be, are more important than the latest toy from Apple or Samsung.

“Our music is very grounded in this very specific landscape, this very specific geography—the flora and the fauna that makes up the biosphere around here,” Weaver says. “I wonder if people that live in this region—who are surrounded by cedar and fir trees, who eat salmon, and who gaze out at the Pacific Ocean—don’t have an extra-special understanding of the music. What we are doing is inspired by things like the Cascade Mountains and by the Salish Sea—that’s what it’s all about for us.”

Wolves in the Throne Room plays Venue on Sunday (July 13).

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A. MacInnis
I thoroughly enjoyed their live show the last time they played the Venue. Never has a metal band that I've seen produced such trance inducing stuff; in fact, I got so zoned out listening to it that one of the Venue's more enthusiastic bouncers instructed me not to sleep (I was sitting upright on my stool but my head was down, eyes closed, listening intensely; his intrusion was most unwelcome).
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Rating: -4
celestial legions
I made it through Spivek's Calculus on Manifolds and Rudin's Principles of Mathematical Analysis by listening to this band. The very long songs seem to lend themselves to visualizing N-dimensional manifolds combined with a wall of riffs to block out distractions of street noise pollution. The lyrics to Astral Blood is full of epic mathematical imagery for example.
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Rating: -1
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