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I just miss the ambiance - 85%

Link5232, July 6th, 2009

If you don't already know about the hype, stories, or rumors surrounding Wolves In The Throne Room, it's possible that your knowledge of the recent trends of metal is in a dwindling state. Formed back in 2004 between two brothers Nathan and Aaron, Washington's Wolves In the Throne Room recorded a demo that saw them playing atmospheric yet punky Black Metal. However, come 2005, they added Rick to their band, the member who is noted for having given them their tradmark "earthly sound."

After two albums and a whole lot of touring, Rick decided it was time to part ways with the band. The Weaver brothers weren't finished though, and enlisted the help of Will Lindsay to join their ranks and would ultimately be the lead guitarist for their 2009 release of Black Cascade. But not only has WITTR evolved from the ethereal and omniscient band that brought you the overbearing Diadem of 12 Stars, they have evolved into their own monster, transcending the boundaries of typical Black Metal and eschewing the notoriety of being a secluded genre of music. Being dubbed the killers of Black Metal thanks to their indie exposure and "Pitchfork friendly" aesthetic, it's easy to see why WITTR is the leading supplier of "Indie Black Metal."

For those concerned with the music and not the image, though, Black Cascade sees WITTR treading waters they have swam before, but this time around something is missing from the formula. Instead of the rattling atmosphere found on Diadem's opener "Queen of the Borrowed Light" or the haunting and brooding "Vastness and Sorrow" from Two Hunters, "Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog" shows off once more that WITTR really know how to write a stellar tune. However, the issue of Black Cascade in it's totality is that the production isn't as romantic as their previous albums. Sure, for almost an hour, the three guys in this band rock your face off with a trance of music and hypnotic riffs, but the lack of emotion in the production has really swayed WITTR away from what made them special. Believe me, I could sit here and tell you all day how much I love Black Cascade, because I really do. The album exerts some of WITTR's finest and most mature song writing to date, but the issue lies in its production. What baffles me is that Randall Dunn, the mastermind behind the production of Two Hunters, is once again maning the boards for this album. Two Hunters thrived with an ambient, thick, open production, but Black Cascade manages to focus on an effort of closed in, suffocated Black Metal that doesn't get the room to speak as loudly as the band's other opuses. It's atmospheric, sure, but this album completely lacks the open ended "forest air" appeal of their supposed ecofriendly Black Metal.

Don't let the production fool you, though, as Wolves has truly written some great songs. Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog, the shortest song on the album at 10:33, shows that WITTR can write an endless amount of these droning Black Metal epics while still spicing it up with a faster drum section that can really elicit a hearty juxtaposition, proving Aaron is a master at connecting drum patterns in ways that typical Black Metal bands fail. No over abundance of blast beats here, oh no oh no. What you get is a slow discordance of chords buried very thinly over a very fast, almost hardcore inspired drum pattern. The albums masterpiece, Crystal Ammunition, shows off the diversity of WITTR's style and writing. Through the song is a burst of folk influence, as well as an ambient ending of total fuzz and shamanic ritual sounds that cull the imagery of a fire burning near their supposed forest home. Crystal Ammunition serves as a precursor to the future of a band growing more roots as the songs release, staking their claim in the world of Metal.

While Black Cascade shows off the overall tenacity of WITTR's writing style and their maturiy as a band, the group falters to show a destiny of atmospheric greatness. Being signed to Southern Lord doesn't automatically mean that these boys need to go and throw their morals away and dumb down their production. WITTR has enough exposure, and becoming more clean and crisp is just another track on the mainstream appeal train for the droning masses that can't appreciate the true art that WITTR creates on a record.