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Wolves In The Throne Room - Black Cascade - 60%

ConorFynes, August 23rd, 2011

What's being described as the third wave of black metal sees its roots not in any Scandinavian region, but rather North America. One of the leading bands in this USBM scene is Wolves In The Throne Room, a band that close to all black metal fans will hear about at one point or another. Fueled by a love for nature and hyped up due to their ties to eco-anarchism, I first thought that Wolves In The Throne Room was a band made popular by their ridiculous lifestyles, rather than the music itself. It was actually quite a big surprise then, when I heard 'Two Hunters', a sprawling album that first had me thinking it was great, but now has me thinking it could very well be a masterpiece of modern black metal. With an almost equally as impressive debut to go with it, I was just as surprised now to hear their third album 'Black Cascade'. This time around though, I am more surprised by how much this album doesn't match up to their earlier material. Although the essence and power of Wolves In The Throne Room is here in spades, it lacks the dynamic and epic vibe to it that made the first two albums so great.

'Black Cascade' seems to be Wolves In The Throne Room seeing one aspect of their sound that they liked the most, then focusing their sound around it. Here, it is their repetitive post-black metal element; the sound we heard on the earlier WITTR albums where the guitar chords would be given an unrelenting pace, slowly changing up and creating a real sense of black metal atmosphere along with the blastbeats and rasps. From that definition alone, its clear that Wolves In The Throne Room were never an original act for their black metal aspects alone. Instead, what made an album like 'Two Hunters' so great was that along with the black metal, they could seamlessly transit into some soothing ambiance, or at least moments where the blastbeats could take a rest and let the beauty shine through. 'Black Cascade' still has some of this dynamic to it, but in much less quantity. The most time listening to this album will be spend getting lost in repetitive chord progressions and WITTR's more straightforward post-black metal. And unlike 'Two Hunters', each song feels very much the same; think 'Vastness And Sorrow' from the aforementioned album repeated four times over with some changes here and there, and you basically have 'Black Cascade'.

Out of the context of the band's brilliant precedent however, 'Black Cascade' is still a fairly strong black metal album. The chord progressions here do go on for quite a bit longer than I would reckon some people would have otherwise been interested with, but it allows the music to hypnotize the listener in a way, and while the slowly changing progressions are very powerful, I do wish that the compositions were a little more eventful. The sound here is no evolution from the black metal on 'Two Hunters', it is almost too much the same in a way. I still think the guitars are beautifully layered, and that the sloppy blastbeats of Aaron Weaver are as annoying as ever. Each of these four epic compositions builds up to something though, and while it can never hope to compare to the fantastic pair of albums before it, 'Black Cascade' it still a worthy addition to Wolves In The Throne Room's catalogue, albeit something of a disappointing one.