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Not their best or worse - 80%

Orlok666, October 23rd, 2011

Wolves In The Throne Room, the band who helped to put the whole idea of Cascadian Black Metal on the map of metal is one of those bands who I can't help but feel mixed emotions about. Although I think Two Hunters is one of the best black metal albums in the whole nature black metal thing, the rest of their work has been inconsistent (although never terrible) and it must be stated the gradual development of them from intelligent artists to egotistical artistes in interviews has left a bad taste in my mouth. Despite this, I am willing to look past the statements made in interviews, etc. and judge the music for itself. This is due to the fact that I feel musically and lyrically Wolves has always had an interesting approach and one that I enjoy. It's one of those cases of a bands artistic output standing above their dubious ideologies, somewhat similar to the feeling I have for NSBM projects as well.

This album is their fourth full length, and it is their first to have more then four very long songs. I found it didn't really make a huge difference regarding song lengths, as the general flow is similar to older albums. Most of the tracks are quite good, but I found certain pieces had riffs and melodies that sounded reused from previous recordings. For example the odd ambient piece "Woodland Cathedral" felt a bit like a less enticing "Dia Actio" from Two Hunters, and seemed to drag a bit in the boredom factor. Wolves have however on this album managed to create a better flow in their music from acoustic to black metal sections, and the flow from ambient into black metal is better and smoother. It seems they've taken a page or two from the Agalloch and October Falls book. There is a lot of usage of melodic lead riffing over the trem picked main guitars, often these melodic passages are done with a slightly shoegaze sounding guitar, which while not original does work well with their sound.

The production is a bit rougher than previous recordings. Feeling a bit thiner, and reminding me a bit of a band like Winterfylleth or some of Drudkh's mid period productions. There is much more usage of keyboard which often brings a bit of a Negura Bunget feel, just lacking the exotic folk elements. I have to say though, one of the ways this album wins with me is that much like with Two Hunters and Black Cascade the album goes by fast for a bunch of long songs. It never seems to drag, and each song has its own personality. Wolves at this point in their career have mastered the balance between minimalistic trance elements and creative songwriting.

The main reason this album hasn't recieved a higher score is that I do feel that though Wolves has indeed progressed on here, there are a few too many moments of haven't I head that for it to generate the desire to rate it highly. Also though it starts off with and ends with some great tracks (except for the last track which is boring as hell), the middle section of the album is a bit less engaging, so it's not perfect for sure.

I would say this is another quality release (despite some clunker songs) from this band, who regardless of personal opinions regarding them I feel is at least one of the better bands from the US in this genre. Regarding the Cascadian scene though I would suggest interested parties to check out Fauna and Alda, both of whom I feel give Wolves a run for their money (Fauna because they are the originators and one of the bands Wolves stole from and Alda because they write amazing songs based off a deep nature mysticism).