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While I have always had a problem or two with Wolves In The Throne Room that have kept me from loving what they do, I can never deny that their sophomore record 'Two Hunters' is a total masterpiece. With its epic songwriting and enormous wall of sound-style production, the album was a perfect record to get lost in, or even have some spiritual reawakening to. Naturally, I have found the live renditions of these songs to be of some interest; 'Live At Roadburn 2008' mostly focuses on 'Two Hunters', adding in a few new twists to the tracks to make this a more unique and valid experience. True enough, these tracks translate well enough onto a live setting, although as far as this performance goes, I am led to believe that Wolves In The Throne Room is a better band in the studio.
Wolves In The Throne Room takes three of the four songs on 'Two Hunters', as well as one track from the debut, and segues them together in an hour of music that shows off some of the band's best material. 'Vastness And Sorrow' opens with a refurbished intro, relying more on a steady buildup rather than going straight into the metal. The use of feedback to promote feedback is brilliantly done, and what parts where Wolves decides to change up their sound in the live context are all exciting to hear. On the other hand, so much of this performance sounds like a slightly muddied version of the studio recording. Sure, that implies the band is playing up to par, but it makes me automatically prefer the studio than this.
The band's performance here is fairly straightforward, although it sounds more like a muddy demo of 'Two Hunters' than a concert experience. True, with the live audio only, we are only getting half of the concert experience here, but I do have to note that at no point here, does Wolves In The Throne Room show much in the way of showmanship or much willingness to interact with the crowd. Of course, people are there for the music, but a big part of concerts is to be there in front of musicians that the concertgoers respect and care about. The only speaking that Aaron Weaver gives here is a sullen introduction to the song titles, band name, and a complaint to the lighting crew towards the start. Perhaps I'm just being too nitpicky here, but the stuck-up attitude I always got from their interviews is conveyed here as well, and although it may be unfair to say it impacts the enjoyment of the performance, it really does.
'Live At Roadburn' is a good live album, if even only for the parts where the band modifies their songs. Besides that, it's a decent rehash of the band's material in a live medium, and while Wolves In The Throne Room's personality as an act can get in the way of my appreciation for the sometimes excellent music they make, this is a respectful release.
Since I first heard their debut “Diadem of 12 Stars” a couple of years back, I have slowly evolved into quite a fan of the band Wolves in the Throne Room. Metal and nature are two very great loves in my life, so what better than a band who hails from the wilderness of Olympia, Washington with lyrics of forests and riffs of evil?
Being such a fan of the music (and of collecting music) I was psyched when I heard they were releasing a limited edition live album. I immediately ordered my copy of one of the 150 that came in a gold vinyl format accompanied by a silk-screened poster straight from Burning World records in the Netherlands.
As soon as it arrived I threw it onto my record player and turned up my stereo. The album starts out with frontman Nathan Weaver introducing the band in an almost shy and irrelevant fashion as if he found no need to credit the band for the ancient nature portrayed through the band’s music.
After asking to turn down the lights, there begins a sort of raw hum, which then blasts into “Vastness and Sorrow”, the second track on their second studio release: “Two Hunters”. The performance of this song is absolutely top-notch, with the band sounding completely on top of things. The rawness and energy heard here was clearly not captured in the studio when recording the album a little more than a year earlier. The song carries on in its raw and perfect intensity without skipping a note or beat, and finishes with the crowd cheering.
The band clearly does not wait around to talk once again, and immediately starts to begin the introduction to the next song; The first part of “Face in a Night Time Mirror” from their debut album. The song starts off slow, but quickly evolves into the fast and raw intensity you’d only expect from WITTR. Once again, the track is performed perfectly and sounds much more “alive” than any studio recording could brandish. An interesting thing about this live version is that the female vocals are absent, and instead Nathan growls the verses. While this reviewer loved the way vocalist Jamie Myers sang the verses in the studio version, I’ve got to admit…the shrieks of Nathan make this song much more…well…for lack of a better phrase; “KVLT”.
After flipping the LP, the fourth song of “Two Hunters”, “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots”, begins with a calming and deep atmosphere with gentle guitar strums. After a minute of calm, the band comes in full-force with a rush of blast beats and tremelo picking only to transfer into a different time signature that introduces the vocals of this song. The song is performed once again, without error as the band executes this 18-minute long epic in full force. After sorrow-filled riff-after-riff and more tempo changes, the song flows onward like an ancient yet powerful river. The song breaks down at it’s lowest point with the crowd cheering for more, which the band delivers in the most epic and apocalyptic part of the song; the final verse. At this point one can feel the intensity and meaning behind the music. The lyrics themselves portray the weariness the protagonist feels toward the way the earth has become; polluted and spoiled. They want this unnatural reign of poison to end, and let the earth begin anew in a clean organic birth. As the music comes to an end Nathan shrieks one final line that is indistinct but full of the dark and ancient meaning the music stands for.
This entire album is a beautiful execution of the beauty and sorrow found only in Wolves in the Throne Room’s special brand of black metal.
The DVD that accompanies the record is also a gem. It’s a filming of the same exact show you have just heard on vinyl, but includes a sort of bonus track. The song “Cleansing” from “Two Hunters” is added as track 3, bumping “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots” down to track 4. “Cleansing” is also played almost flawlessly and while not being as powerful as the other three songs played during this performance, it still sounds like it could cause the earth to split and swallow human waste alive.
The DVD is very well-filmed, and not having the opportunity to see these guys live yet, it was very cool seeing them perform. There is also an “extra” on the disc that is sort of an explanation of what the Roadburn festival is.
Over-all, this is quite an impressive performance, and possibly one of the best I’ve ever heard/seen. The band is in top form and the production is fantastic. Nathan’s vocals shine on this release specifically, for they are unrelenting, savage, and filled with raw emotion not captivated in the studio. Even if you’re not a huge/familiar fan of this band in particular, anyone who enjoys black metal with lots of intensity, beauty, and atmosphere should look further into this limited package and support a band that shares an ideology quite uncommon for their form of music.
Listen to Wolves in the Throne Room. Listen to the sound of nature’s revenge.