Among the more interesting black metal bands today, in my opinion, is Wolves in the Throne Room. While relentlessly criticized by some for being “hipster,” “fake,” and not hailing from Norway twenty years ago this band has made some of the most beautiful atmospheric black metal around. As a huge fan of the genre, and having spent five years in the Pacific Northwest (Humboldt County) I can really appreciate this band’s music and its ethos. While their other albums make stiff competition, Two Hunters is my favorite album of theirs, and I have actually have had the good fortune of hearing this album live. Last January during their Celestial Lineage tour Wolves played at the venue Nocturnum in Eureka, California, only a fifteen minute drive from where I was attending college at the time. They played last after Ash Borer, and instead of playing Celestial Lineage material they played the whole of Two Hunters from beginning to end, an immense and great surprise for me. So this album review will be about the album both recorded and live.
The album starts with Dia Artio, a six minute long intro. The song’s main feature is a massive, beautiful guitar whine accompanied by slow drums, creating a breathtaking atmosphere of this song that directly invokes the cool, humid environment of the subtropical rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. The album picks up in earnest with its second song “Behold the Vastness and Sorrow.” Heavy riffs start in at 0:51 after the intro, followed soon by the vocals at 1:42. The album’s lyrics are rather abstract, and this song’s lyrics are about an evil king but otherwise obtuse and allusive. The best atmospheric black metal works in layers, where the song builds and slowly evolves and elaborates in successive sections, and this song demonstrates that amazingly. Needless to say the live performance was phenomenal, the band really showed off their talent pummeling the audience and myself with their hypnotic riffs. Each section lasts for just over a minute, delivering us to higher and higher depths of awesome before the last section starts at 10:58 before ending the song.
The third song, “Cleansing,” has a much slower vibe than the previous song. It starts off very slowly and features clean female vocals in the beginning part. When WiiTR performed this piece live in Eureka it didn’t have the female vocals since Jessika Kenney didn’t tour with them, but it was excellent nevertheless. These vocals and slow ambience carry on until sound of thunder at 4:03 followed by riffing at 4:08 and more harsh vocals. Even with these harder sections, this song is much slower and sadder than the second and fourth songs on the album, feeling almost like an interlude between the two beasts that bracket this song. The lyrics are about a dance in the woods following killing an enemy with a spear, but like the previous song, a direct and literal meaning is impossible, instead serving more as abstract narrative than a conventional story.
4. The last song is a massive beast clocking in at over 18 minutes. Like the others this song starts slowly before launching off. After about a minute the riffs come back. The lyrics are about a cathartic end to a torment, and the atmosphere easily makes this song the jewel to the album. While excellent on the album, the live version was beyond words; WiTTR excels at obliterating the listener with layered, escalating riffs. At ~6:30 the song calms down before a brief ambient part followed by an incredible buildup with amazing percussion. Towards the middle of the song some guys tried to mosh before being firmly beaten into line by the other concert goers. WITTR has stated that they don’t appreciate moshing during their shows, and I have to agree since the atmosphere they create is somewhat ruined by all of that. The album picks up with more riffs after the percussive solo, and escalates further and further, drawing one deeper and deeper into the pure atmosphere this band excels at creating. At 12:20 another quiet part starts, before leading into more beautiful riffs a minute later. Words cannot truly capture just how incredible this song is. These riffs continue until the beautiful end with the lyrics:
“I will lay down my bones among the rocks and roots of the deepest hollow next to the streambed
The quiet hum of the earth’s dreaming is my new song, When I awake, the world will be born anew”
These last lyrics are followed by the chirping of birds and other sounds so familiar to those who know the forest. This song is easily one of my favorite atmospheric black metal songs of all time, and I feel lucky to have seen this band perform the entire album live. This is definitely an album any fan of atmospheric black metal shouldn’t miss.
Label: Southern Lord
Avantgenre: Cascadian Black Metal
Origin: United States
Official site: None
Review online since: 28.03.2013 / 12:40:17
01 – Dea Artio