Wolves in the Throne Room rip it up at the Rickshaw
At the Rickshaw Theatre on Thursday, January 6
Having recovered from their New Year’s hangovers, Vancouver headbangers were more than ready to rip it up at the Rickshaw’s first big shred fest of 2011, the night anchored by an appearance from Olympia black-metal troupe Wolves in the Throne Room.
If, however, you were still queasy from the previous week’s celebratory binge, openers Sick definitely didn’t help settle the stomach. While the trio’s slow-doom intro of molasses-drip drums and languid guitar fuzz woozily crept over the crowd, the outfit pulled a 180 almost immediately with a series of frantic blast beats and dizzying death-metal riffs that made up the rest of its 15-minute set. Initially, Sick’s vocals were so low in the mix that they were practically inaudible, but as soon as the soundman cranked the Shures, gut-rot grunts retched their way through the PA speakers for all to hear.
Up next was Prince George’s Gyibaaw. Oddly, while its torqued-up thrash was straight-up menacing, the quartet practically sweated out positive vibes. Singer J. Pahl, for instance, proudly recognized the Coast Salish territory the Rickshaw was built on, which garnered a round of applause from the crowd. While numbers like “Prepare for War” honoured metal’s heritage with speedy scissor beats and venomous licks, Pahl occasionally dropped his Flying V to play fluttery, genre-defying recorder solos.
Ahna was the oddity of the evening, if only because the band’s personal style differed from the black-Ts and tight-jeans aesthetic that defined the crowd. Floppy-haired, plaid-jacketed bassist Graham Christofferson looked like he’d been plucked straight out of a circa-’91 Tad concert, while the watery phaser effect on his instrument, which moaned like a lovelorn orca, had at least a few metalheads unsure if they should raise their horns for the group. The drone-violence duo did manage to plow out some seriously heavy tunes, however, as drummer Anju Singh’s bloodcurdling screech soared above the group’s sometimes sluggish gutter sludge.
While the balcony appeared to be closed, the floor and the seats downstairs were packed by the time roadies started prepping the stage for Wolves in the Throne Room. Given that the band is known for its eco-conscious beliefs—the Washington-state based farmers worship Mother Earth, not the Dark Lord—it was no surprise to see stagehands decorating the performance area with tree branches. A small table with two lit candles and the skull of some fanged mammal was brought to centre stage for extra spiritual weirdness.
Though singer-guitarist Nathan Weaver asked the audience to refrain from moshing just seconds before blitzkrieging into the epic “Ahrimanic Trance”, some people couldn’t help but be moved by the black-metal madness. Melancholic washes of trilled guitar melodies meshed with manic rhythms as a few beefy bros stripped off their Ed Hardy shirts and started a push pit. Most bizarre, however, were the nearby couples who cuddled to the chaos.
Yes, drummer Aaron Weaver hammered his kit faster than the beat of a hummingbird’s heart, and his brother’s demonic screech seemed destined to haunt your dreams, but the accompanying haze of distorted six-string ambiance on tunes like “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots” dreamily swept over the crowd like a romantic symphony.
After whipping their hair to their bafflingly beautiful back catalogue for at least an hour, Wolves in the Throne Room exited with fans clamouring for more. Regrettably, both candles were blown out by the time the Olympians left the stage.