Wolves in the Throne Room - Primordial Arcana

16 Aug 2021

Atmospheric Black Metal | Relapse Records | Release date: 20 Aug 2021

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After the band deviated from their Atmospheric Black Metal path on the albums Black Cascade and Celestite Wolves in the Throne Room came back to the genre with Thrice Woven in 2017. Four years after that release the band releases a crystal clear, emotional, nature inspired, Cascadian take on the style they became famous for. With Kody Keyworth as an integrated member, the Weaver brothers and he have written, produced and mixed a massive Atmospheric Black Metal album in their own Owl Lodge Studio.

The first song, ”Mountain Magick” emerges with a hiss by synths, imitating winds through the forest. One can hear a bonfire in the background before mighty drumming and cymbals launch the guitars playing the song´s theme and melody. After a slow build up the song shifts between intense Black Metal with blast drums, growling vocals and lasting ambient parts with synths and guitar solos over the slowly played drums. It is like they want you to visualize the mighty nature from above, like a soaring hawk, and from the ground as you are standing by waterfalls running down a hillside.

On this album, the drums and the synths are more distinct in the mix than on the previous albums. The vocals are blended in the heavy mix as an instrument of its own. The second song. ”Spirit of Lightning”, is a showcase of how to build a beautiful bright soundscape immersed in what can sometimes be ferocious Black Metal. The soaring synths create shifts and melodies in the flowing music, there is even a choir behind the raw distorted guitars. The melody is introduced at the start, with guitars in tremolo mode between the heavy riffs. There is also a piano in the beginning to establish the melody. While the guitars and blast drums move the music fast forward, the soaring synths hold back and make the music breathe. If you took away all the other instruments you might be drawn right back to the German giants of electronic music of the 70s and 80s.

The third song, ”Through Eternal Fields”, has a tribal feel at the start before distorted guitar riffs take over accompanied by slow drumming. The ever-present growling vocal introduce a melancholic guitar accompanying you over vast fields of their soundscape. The tempo shifts with Weaver´s signature blast drums and the guitar holding back the pace of the music with the beauty of the melodies the band is known for creating. Before the song ends with tremolo guitar, they once again give the music a tribal feel.

”Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire)” is a very tight song, with dense guitars, blast drums, growling vocals, cymbals, but lightened by the synths. The song moves fast forward before there is a tempo shift slowing it down and leads us to another intense part of the song, with a choir in the background. It ends with the distorted guitars fading out to give way to floating synths with the sounds of the forest, where you can hear a lonely raven calling out.

The next song, ”Underworld Aurora”, starts as the previous ended, with the kraas from the raven and sounds from the forest. The synths rise from an ever-flowing sonic landscape and slowly shapes the song into the melody that drives it. The drums are almost in tam-tam mode before the distorted guitars take over to lead the song toward the growling vocals that penetrate the melody. The synths shine through the sometime dense music, keeping the melody alive, joined after a while by the riffs from the guitars. It ends with rolling thunder over dissonant synths. You can almost feel the darkness in the forest by night.

After the thunder comes ”Masters of Rain and Storm”, a fast song, with tremolos between the riffs and an organ soaring over it. The song dips into many styles, sometimes deep down to Doom Metal. Pacing fast with tremolo guitar it suddenly quiets down to a beautifully performed acoustic guitars playing over floating synths. The song escalates again to a crescendo with tremolo, heavy riffing and organ before it fades into nothing.

If you have the album release with the bonus track, the last songs are purely ambient and electronic. The first one, ”Eostre” comes with floating synths and a flute shaping the majestic soundscape soon to be overtaken by the sound of cool clear water running down a river. The second one, the bonus track, is ”Skyclad Passage”. This track begins with howling wind through a desolate landscape and heavy-laden synths and samples. It is clearly inspired by the electronic master, Klaus Schulze, in his sampling period that lead to albums like The Dome Event: Cologne Cathedral. As with early Norwegian Black Metal bands, this band is also inspired by the electronic scene from the last century in Germany.

Wolves in the Throne Room is, like many others, influenced by the Norwegian black metal pioneers from the 90s. But as with Fen, Agalloch, Panopticon, Winterfylleth, Wiegedood - to mention a few - they have broken free of their influences and has carved their own unique style. Like Neurosis, maybe Wolves in the Throne Room is their own metal genre? This album is clearly a bold step towards that. After almost twenty years since the band´s inception, and after many acclaimed albums, the band releases the album Primordial Arcana that stands out in an impeccable string of albums.