Reviews Wolves in the Throne Room Two Hunters

Wolves in the Throne Room

Two Hunters

The terms "stripped-down," "raw," and "black metal" are certainly no strangers to each other. Musically speaking, some of the best known bands and albums feature less-than-lackluster production and songwriting, a standard set by older bands such as Darkthrone and Burzum, even if unintentionally. Visually and characteristically though, most black metal bands are infamous for being over-the-top, what with all the corpse paint and outrageous pictures most take. You'd be hard pressed these days to find a band that tries to do something ridiculous that hasn't already been done. Wolves in the Throne Room, however, has taken the raw and stripped down approach in quite a different way. Musically speaking they're a more evolved form of Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger or some of Judas Iscariot’s later releases, but it’s mainly through their ideals and practices that they have managed to stick out amongst the pack of Burzum-clones and Xasthur-one-man-bedroom-band wannabes. While most black metal bands openly reject mainstream consumer culture, Wolves in the Throne Room actually lives this creed, as these three guys live on a self-sustained farm in rural Washington where they grow their own food and raise their own livestock. This “back to roots” lifestyle is a perfect reflection of their belief in a reverence and humbleness before nature that is expressed in their music and lyrics. So it would seem that this trio might have more in common with the hardcore scene or even, god forbid, hippy culture than the majority of Satan-worshipping, corpse-painted black metal bands.

Fortunately there is nothing hippy-ish about Wolves in the Throne Room’s second release (their first on Southern Lord), Two Hunters. This is pure, raw black metal that has all the aggression of bands like Immortal but that also delves into moments of beauty and tranquility. Their songs are long and epic (the last track reaches eighteen minutes) but never feel boring or forced; each song has a natural flow that takes the listener on a journey through soundscapes ranging from painful and pulverizing to atmospheric and serene. “Dio Artio” starts the album off with an ambient keyboard and acoustic guitar affair, complimented with night time forest sounds of crickets but soon changes pace with the following track “Vastness and Sorrow,” a non-stop assault of double-bass and blast beats, thrashing guitars and raspy vocals. “Cleansing” starts off with a melancholy aria done by guest vocalist Jessica Kinney, whose operatic crooning both contrasts vocalist Rick Dahlin’s traditional black metal screaming and compliments the band’s sad and depressing melodies. “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots” finishes the album off in an epic fashion, starting with an acoustic guitar intro, then subjecting the listener to an onslaught of fast drums and distorted guitars. The song breaks for a minute into another acoustic interlude before jumping back into a frenzy, and then ends with more of Kinney’s sad but beautiful singing.

At forty-six minutes, Two Hunters feels more like an experience, an adventure even, than just another album. It’s one of those albums that makes you feel like you’ve been taken somewhere further away than just your bedroom or car, like you’ve been shown some far off land you never thought you’d see. And at the same time it also evokes emotions in you that most albums don’t, feelings of sadness and longing, but also of peace and serenity. Well, that’s how it made me feel at least.

While they may not dawn the battle-axes, gauntlets, or corpse paint like most of their contemporaries do, Wolves in the Throne Room succeeds exceedingly at creating some of the most well written yet raw and stripped-down black metal out there. Even if they’re not out conquering hordes of Christians or burning churches, and prefer to be at home tending to the crops, they still make devastatingly powerful music, as Two Hunters should be in every black metal fan’s collection.

8.7 / 10Daniel
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8.7 / 10

8.7 / 10

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