Bit­ing BACK

mak­ing mu­sic rooted in the very earth it­self, Wolves In The Throne Room in­flu­enced a whole gen­er­a­tion of ex­treme bands - and they’re back to re­claim their crown

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Wolves in the throne room - WORDS: TOM O’BOYLE

Alot’s hap­pened State­side in the three years since Wolves In The Throne Room last re­leased an al­bum. Trump’s elec­tion has shifted pol­i­tics to the right, and his party have brought in a gen­er­ally re­gres­sive agenda, with cli­mate change de­nial prov­ing par­tic­u­larly painful for this band. Their el­e­men­tal black metal gains so much power from their deep con­nec­tion to the ma­jes­tic forests en­shroud­ing their home­town of olympia, Wash­ing­ton, known to its in­hab­i­tants as cas­ca­dia.

“It’s ag­o­nis­ing; I cry about it all the time,” says drum­mer Aaron Weaver, the sin­cere spokesman for the band he formed with his younger brother, gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist Nathan, in 2003. Yet despite these en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns, he makes it clear that dis­cussing pol­i­tics isn’t on the agenda.

“I don’t wanna talk about that shit,” he as­serts. “our mu­sic is mythic; it’s not op­er­at­ing in this world. For me it’s per­sonal, it’s a feel­ing of griev­ing and sad­ness, and that feel­ing turns into mu­sic. The earth will abide, no mat­ter what hap­pens to hu­man be­ings.”

lamen­ta­tion is but one part of the force and magic of forth­com­ing sixth al­bum Thrice Woven, a col­lec­tion of songs born of feral urge and spir­i­tual in­stinct, rooted as much in their home­land as in the an­cient euro­pean folk­lore that so in­spires them – a key part of the es­capism so vi­tal to black metal’s abil­ity to trans­port lis­ten­ers away from nor­mal­ity. It’s all ar­tic­u­lated with the gnash­ing of teeth that made an in­deli­ble im­pact upon the re­lease of their 2006 de­but, Di­a­dem Of 12 Stars.

“Black metal needs teeth; this is the sound of a wolf tear­ing the throat out of its prey,” af­firms Aaron, proud that his band is re­garded as spear­head­ing Amer­i­can black metal, their ag­gres­sive sound and en­light­ened per­spec­tive paving the way for the likes of Deafheaven, build­ing on foun­da­tions laid by the emo­tive ex­trem­i­ties of coun­try­men Neu­ro­sis (leg­endary gui­tarist/vo­cal­ist Steve von Till even lends his weath­ered wis­dom to a spo­ken-word piece on The Old Ones Are With Us).

Their Nor­we­gian black metal

for­bears also played a mas­sive part, WITTR em­brac­ing the dis­tinc­tive sound of the black flame while leav­ing some of the dis­taste­ful el­e­ments by the way­side.

“When I was a left-wing crusty back in the day and I heard [solo project of no­to­ri­ously right-wing black metal pro­gen­i­tor/mur­derer Varg Vik­ernes] Burzum, it seemed like a story – that was the part that touched me, this mythic qual­ity, the part that comes from the realm of dreams. That’s the magic of art – a dis­gust­ing per­son can make art that touches you. Fuck Varg and his pre­pos­ter­ous po­lit­i­cal agenda. It’s so far from where we are spir­i­tu­ally and eth­i­cally.”

WITTR took these mythic in­spi­ra­tions and built upon black metal’s ro­man­ti­cism of na­ture’s wilds, forg­ing a unique voice. “It felt like mu­sic we’d never heard,” re­flects Aaron.

“of course there were bands that in­flu­enced us di­rectly in terms of tak­ing black metal into a new con­text, but that was about it – we just did our own thing.”

Don’t be mis­led into see­ing the band as lon­ers wan­der­ing the wilder­ness, how­ever. A sense of com­mu­nity is im­por­tant to them, tied into their love of their en­vi­ron­ment and a yearn­ing to feel con­nected to an­cient tra­di­tion. The band have em­braced a DIY ethic from day one. They run their own la­bel, Artemisia, and 2014’s Ce­lestite was the first al­bum they recorded in full at their own stu­dio they built within their ‘com­pound’ – the beat­ing heart of the band.

“It’s an amaz­ing place,” en­thuses Aaron, his words alight when­ever talk turns to home. “he lives right upon the edge of 500 acres of huge cedar and fir trees. The for­est was cut down 110 years ago and has grown back wild. The ravens, deer and sal­mon are re­turn­ing. When the tour­ing band is here, we all live and cook to­gether. We have sal­mon roasts, drink mead and work out the ma­te­rial. We have amaz­ing neigh­bours with cool kids that come by some­times.”

To hear him speak of it is in­spir­ing, con­vey­ing a sense of to­geth­er­ness that is some­times lost amid to­day’s ac­cel­er­ated life­style. “That’s the thing that I want most in my life – that sense of a vil­lage,” Aaron says earnestly. “I re­alised as I got older and be­came a par­ent that that’s all hu­mans need – con­nec­tion.”

Aaron’s son will soon be four, and fa­ther­hood has had an in­deli­ble im­pact on his mu­sic.

“It opened my heart wider,” he ex­plains.

“If any­thing, be­ing a par­ent lets me get into more ter­ri­fy­ing places cre­atively.”

Dark­ness is an om­nipresent force in black metal; an an­cient power source writhing within us all, that al­lows those un­afraid to ex­plore and wield it as ef­fec­tively as WITTR to con­nect to some­thing name­less – some­thing deeper lurk­ing within its sanc­tu­ary. “It lit­er­ally comes from the body,” muses Aaron, “from a deep, dark place that you can’t at­tach a name to. It comes from the form­less void; it gets you into that space. For me, it’s a heal­ing space; a nour­ish­ing space.”

It’s a way for them to tap into el­e­men­tal forces of na­ture, Thrice Woven’s rev­er­ent sav­agery an at­tempt to blend their cas­ca­dian wor­ship with a love of an­cient tales, cre­at­ing new mythol­ogy for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. “Those are the sto­ries we love, the sto­ries I tell my son,” says Aaron. “The sto­ries about cú chu­lainn, the hero of Ire­land, or about the Norse gods. I make up sto­ries about sal­mon and cedar trees, the unique magic of this place.”

Despite Aaron’s re­luc­tance to dis­cuss the press­ing is­sues of the day, they fes­ter in his mind. As em­pow­er­ing as black metal is, it’s a thought space to which we can only es­cape mo­men­tar­ily. Un­til death takes us, he reck­ons we must all ask our­selves what we can do to make this realm a bet­ter place, to in­stil com­mu­nity, to re­spect oth­ers and the world around us. With WITTR, he’s try­ing to an­swer those questions him­self.

“This is a com­pli­cated thing – what’s my good work in the world?” Aaron asks him­self. “mu­sic – that’s how I re­spond to things. I feel so blessed and priv­i­leged; I have so much grat­i­tude for our fans. I al­ways tell younger peo­ple: find out what your work is – what’s the good work that you can do in this life­time?”



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