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Wolves in the Throne Room make a triumphant return to black metal. - 80%

Heathen Hearted, May 14th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2017, 2 12" vinyls, Artemisia Records (Limited edition)

To some an obvious evolution, and to others, a puzzling diversion, 2014 saw Wolves in the Throne Room release Celestite, an entirely ambient companion piece to their divisive previous work, Celestial Lineage. Taking the shimmering ambience that had always been a strong undercurrent of their lush, atmospheric black metal, Celestite pushed this sound to the forefront, crafting rumbling mountains of ambience and piercing beams of synth rather than the furious tremolo riffs, ritualistic blast beats, and animalistic screams that had been the band’s claim to fame. It is of no surprise then that Wolves in the Throne Room’s newest creation, Thrice Woven has been anticipated as the much-needed return to form that fans have been waiting for, and it is of no doubt that it delivers on this anticipation.

Thrice Woven wastes little time in confirming that this is indeed a black metal album. Opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” begins with several bright acoustic flourishes, before descending headlong into a frenzy. Shining tremolo riffs flow one after another, sharp, rolling snare beats crash forward in an aggressive rhythm, wind howls in the distance, and ringing synths underscore the immediately recognizable shrieks of Nathan Weaver. The guitars sound sharp but clear, the drums present, the vocals audible but not overpowering, lending a balanced and full sound to a song that refuses to sit still for several minutes. After a surprisingly wicked sounding riff that could be pulled straight from the playbook of old school black metal, the listener is greeted with the first of several appearances from Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Von Hausswolff. Anna’s mournful crooning over crystalline chimes provides a momentary respite from the storm, before launching straight into the heart of the maelstrom, a towering crescendo of riffs, screams, and angelic notes from Hausswolff marking one of the most triumphant moments in the band’s career before slowly fading into silence.

After such a strong and blistering start, Wolves move into slower territory in “The Old Ones Are with Us.” A fire crackles in the hearth as Steve Von Till of Neurosis fame orates the passing of Winter into Spring over a slow acoustic dirge. It is here the distorted guitars return, and it is here the first flaw of Thrice Woven reveals itself. Gone is the sharp clarity of the previous track, the riffs here churn and weave a desolate spell, but it sounds murky, muddy, the guitars almost completely indecipherable from one another. This remains the status quo for most of the remainder of the album. The vocals are often hard to discern as well, at many points blending into the hazy walls of distortion and synth. After an expanded and up-tempo reprisal of Von Till’s introduction, another explosive crescendo closes out the track, but it somewhat loses its edge through the fuzziness. This issue persists on Angrboda, the rhythm guitar lost somewhere in the mix beneath oddly muffled sounding vocals. Several moments on this track recall earlier works, a haunting ambient interlude hearkening back to Celestite sandwiched between some of the darkest sounding Wolves in the Throne Room material since Black Cascade. It is apparent at this point that these songs are rather similar in structure, as they all appear to be built around immersive ambient passages immediately followed by the explosive climax. While this formula works, it certainly lends an air of predictability.

Despite its misgivings, Thrice Woven closes itself out on a high note. “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” utilizes Anna Von Hausswolff’s final appearance alongside a beautiful harp passage, perfectly setting the stage for the stunning conclusion, “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon.” Riffs abound as the furious drumming of Aaron Weaver takes center stage, driving the song forward in a furious tempo, often displaced against some of the most ferocious snarls and screams ever heard from Nathan Weaver. After a final dramatic release, the final notes of Thrice Woven wash away into the waves concluding the best closing track the band has crafted since their masterwork “I Will Lay Down My Bones Amongst the Rocks and Roots.”

Thrice Woven is undeniably an album crafted by a band late into their career. It is an amalgamation of past efforts, taking elements from their discography and reining them in together alongside fresh ideas in what is probably their most concise and focused effort to date. While this spark is occasionally dampened by somewhat inconsistent production values and some formulaic songwriting, it doesn’t take away from the two spectacular tracks that bookend this album and its many beautiful moments throughout. While imperfect, this record corrects some mistakes found in past efforts by Wolves in the Throne Room, and sets an exciting precedent for any future efforts.

[Review was originally written and posted to]