Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven 01Whenever I hear a half-decent band describe their upcoming record as “experimental,” I find myself afflicted with a sort of low-level split-personality disorder. Half of me wants to clap them on the back and praise their boldness, while the other 50% wants to give them all a good slap for risking disaster so needlessly. Wolves in the Throne Room did just this to me with their 2014 outing Celestite, which emerged from the womb sounding more like Kraftwerk’s morbidly obese stepsister than the fare of an accomplished black metal act. Some loved it; I, alas, did not. When I looked up their latest offering, Thrice Woven, therefore, it was a palpable relief to learn that the band intended to return to their roots, dropping the wiggly synths in favor of another dollop of tried-and-tested atmospheric black metal. Experimental Lucan shut up and got back in line. 

Wolves in the Throne Room have traditionally gone in for a heavily-layered approach, drawing inspiration from the landscape of their native Pacific Northwest region, and with Thrice Woven the band has reaffirmed their commitment to this formula. Through meandering song structures and poignant melodies, they seek to provide the listener with a window into the natural environment of their homeland, recreating the sense of awe and expanse one experiences when surrounded by nature on a grand scale. Generally speaking, they make a reasonable fist of this too. Although it is undoubtedly a black metal record, Thrice Woven’s personality is derived from its folky undertones, which is understated, but all the more effective for it.


Opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” is quintessential WitTR. Wistful guitar refrains are accentuated by elegant keys—just prominent enough to add depth—and the drum work is unflashy, serving to punctuate rather than distract. About a third of the way in, however, the mood suddenly shifts, heralding a barrage of blast beats and crunchy, downcast black metal riffing, à la Marduk or Gorgoroth. This brief burst of aggression evaporates almost as quickly as it arrives, however, making way for an achingly beautiful choral interlude by guest vocalist Anna von Hausswolff—sure to tug at the heartstrings of any Myrkur or Darkher aficionados in the audience—after which the music eases back into a final melodious amble to see the song out.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven 02
Now, while “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” is easily the album’s strongest track, this is not the principal reason I have taken the time to break it down. Rather, I have done so because it’s essentially the entire record condensed into nine-and-a-half minutes. See, Celestite aside, I’ve always enjoyed Wolves in the Throne Room’s music, but a criticism I’ve found myself leveling at them on more than one occasion is that it can get a little samey after a while1. This is something that, for me at least, has always prevented them from really breaking into the top tier of the genre’s food chain, and it’s also, regrettably, a flaw with which Thrice Woven is afflicted as well. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the record is not entirely without merit; a couple of dramatic, albeit slightly cheesy, spoken word segments by Neurosis’ Steve Von Till help to generate a nice atmosphere, and von Hausswolff’s pièce de résistance “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” is genuinely captivating. Furthermore, despite initial reservations, I’ve found myself gradually warming to the production with each listen. Drum tone notwithstanding—the snare has about as much clout as an egg carton being tapped with a biro—the sound is rough enough to carry off the black metal vibe convincingly while retaining enough clarity to avoid congealing when the instruments begin to layer up. Unfortunately, however, this is not in itself enough to distract from the manner in which large portions of the record just sound like the same ideas recycled in a series of different orders, and this is a pity given what a formidable start it gets off to.

I’m genuinely glad that Wolves in the Throne Room have elected to re-embrace their black metal nature, but while I certainly don’t hate this album, I do find it underwhelming all the same. Atmospheric music should be an immersive experience, and in its infancy, Thrice Woven is a success in this respect, but the full impact of the record is somewhat stunted by the repetitiveness of its heavier segments, and this saps a lot of the impact out of what could have been a triumphant return to form.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Artemisia Records
Website: wittir.comwolvesinthethroneroom.bandcamp.comfacebook.com/wolvesinthethroneroom
Releases Worldwide: September 22nd, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. We’ll let that one slide since you’ve been away on sabbatical and forgot the rules. – Steel
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  • El_Cuervo

    I have to think Celestite is their best album. There, I said it.

    • Feytalist

      Celestite is a really well-crafted Ulver album.

      • Jaime VG

        I was listening to it this morning while it started to rain in LA. Magical album even if it sounds a little bit too much like Klaus Schulze at times. Shame that it seems like they didn´t keep those elements in this album, which by the way, I haven´t fully heard as I´m waiting for my preorder.

        • basenjibrian

          I am only partly through, but I hear a lot more ambient/breaks in the harshness than the review might suggest. After 6:30 in Agrboda, the ambientish sections could have fit right on Celestite.
          What I am really digging is the ominous HUMMMMMMMMMM which runs through this album. There is a strong sense of foreboding here. I am liking this enough that I have made multiple posts in the last few minutes!!!

      • Levly

        WitTR can only wish they were half as good as Ulver.

    • Mattias Niklasson

      It’s actually the only one I’ve returned to after my first listen, however this was very early in starting to listen to that kind of metal in general.

    • Lord Lucan

      You cray cray

  • The Akerstache
  • sweetooth0

    After one listen I’ll say I like it (and I’m glad they’re doing proper black metal again instead of the ambient stuff), but something just sounds off. The vocals almost don’t sound like the same person as previous releases, and everything just sounds kind of flat and lifeless.

  • Goldicot

    I’m still perplexed how a band with a name as energetic as Wolves In The Throne Room can be so stolid.

    • Nukenado

      When I first heard that name I was thinking hard rock/cock metal a-la Striker.

      • Goldicot

        It sounds distinctly ’00s metalcore to me.

        • Nukenado

          Yeah, that too.

    • basenjibrian

      I can see “stolid”, but compared to the efforts Opeth used to make at doing harsher metal, this is not stolid at all. :)
      THAT was stolid.

    • But but…what do you do in a throne room except…sit?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        What if “throne room” is really the toilet room?

        • If there are wolves there, then clearly mistakes were made last night…

  • wayne the devil

    Black Meh-tal….I’ll take mine with thorns rather than bushes….

    • Cherd

      What if they’re thorn bushes?

      • wayne the devil

        Then I usually get fucked up by them!!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    When going “experimental” one must always remember that failed experiments are not meant to be released to the public.

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      YER NOT THE BOSS OF US

      • Thatguy

        Yes he is. (In capitals and bold)

        • Brutalist_Receptacle

          YOURE NOT THE HR MEDIATOR OF US

          • Thatguy

            I should be!

          • Brutalist_Receptacle

            Yeah, um well, we workshopped that idea, and NOT!

    • wayne the devil

      ‘Mature’ is a dangerous term too..at least in Metal music.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I have a theory for “mature”: it is an euphemism for sellout. Because mature people have to worry about making money for paying their mortgage, they sell out in order to make money off their music.

        • Eli Valcik

          Also “mature” implies that their previous albums were juvenile, which can be insulting to long time fans.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I had never thought of it that way. Good point.

          • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

            Alternately, “mature” might just mean boobies on the cover.

          • Eli Valcik

            Well, I always hope for that.

        • RuySan

          I always thought mature was another word for MILF.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            That depends on context, right?

          • RuySan

            In the “My Life” context, that has always been the case. Can’t see any other use for the word.

          • De2013

            Or cougar?

          • Name’s Dalton

            I laughed out loud at this and my fiancé asked what was so funny. I read the threads and she rolled her eyes. Natch.

          • RuySan

            So i take your fiancé isn’t into porn?

            When is the wedding? You can still cancel it, i hope….

    • Name’s Dalton

      They should be thrown away in a form of trash repository – see below.

    • [not a Dr]

      Unless the experiment consists of seeing if people will buy whatever they are releasing.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        You certainly got a point there, good sir.

  • Cherd

    I get the samey-sameness critique, but even if they keep writing the same song, it seems to be one I like listening to.

  • basenjibrian

    OK. I am digging this big time. I think I agree with Akerstache…the review is a little harsh. A 3.5 or 4.0 for me. It has the epic character of latter Wolves with some nice harshness.

    • PLB

      Also a 4-ish for me. Very good record, will see how it grows. Better than celestite and celestial. Classic WITTR for me.

  • Tom Wahl

    This is a 4.0 for me so far, I wish it was longer and that is quite rare.

  • Metal and Hockey

    2.5??? Have only heard one song still waiting on my pre order as well but this band is too good to put out a 2.5

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt

      Same rating as Josh Todd and the Conflict? Seems legit.

  • Akira Watts

    I guess I either don’t hear the sameyness or am not much bothered by it, since this one is a solid 4.0 for me. I actually liked Celestite, but it wasn’t a metal album and didn’t quite scratch the itch. This one does.

    • Lord Lucan

      Each to their own. There are certainly aspects of this record that I like so if they’re enough to tickle your pickle then good on you.

  • Ironwood_Druid

    What’s with this score, it doesn’t even feel like it matches the critique in the review, way too harsh, I feel like I read a different take than the score implies. If I had to say what I’d expected based on what I read I would have called 3, but dang.

    • Lord Lucan

      Each track is palatable in isolation but as a complete work I found it inescapably repetitive (choral work notwithstanding). When I find myself daydreaming mid-album about what I’m going to have for dinner that evening, points are getting deducted.

      • Ironwood_Druid

        To each their own. I find repetition or sameness to be an odd thing to critique in Black Metal because it is such a major feature of much of what the genre has to offer in regards to sound and style. So many well-received Black Metal records from the past year that have a generally positive consensus could be levied the same criticism. And even though 2.5 is only “Mixed” on the scale here, I would hazard to say there is a dissonance between the numerical and verbal score values for most people at a glance. 2.5 number wise generally gives the impression of a pretty abysmal or failed product, so does repetitiousness in a genre replete with it make it abysmal?

        • Carlos Marrickvillian

          I often think the same re the tone of a review and the score.
          But I think the problem lies in the fact that we’re used to so many sites that only ever seem to give high scores. Heavy Blog is Heavy being a prime example. But numerically 2.5 is a pass which is not really a fail… also I really like ‘mixed’ as a descriptor a fan of the band or genre can think there might be some gold in there for me.

          • Ironwood_Druid

            Yeah, it is definitely difficult to balance the critical/praise dynamic, I would think. Perhaps one aspect of this that I’m seeing is that it can feel that albums are being judged less against their peers and compatriot releases and more against the proclivities of a specific reviewer? Certainly that is one feature of the site that is almost a novelty, i.e. End of the Year lists from each respective author, but maybe a downside of it is that it can feel as if an album that would have done well on a Tuesday does poorly on a Friday? Either way, everyone is entitled to their own view and reviews are just one opinion!

      • I do think the album is great, but I get what you mean about daydreaming. It keeps drifting into the background whenever I listen to it…

  • Rolderathis

    I agree with the score, I might even give it a 2. After the first track (which is pretty good tbh) the same structure makes its way into most of the songs…these big ambient setpieces in the middle that aren’t always effective. If the entire album was on the same level as “…Serpent’s Eye” I’d give it a 3 and prob buy it.

    • Lord Lucan

      Well said. The ambient interludes feel like an attempt to distract from the recycled structures to me. Each component part of this record is perfectly serviceable in its own right, but it all feels a bit tired and stale when knitted together into a full album.

  • You wot m8?

    Recently saw them live, and will be seeing them again in late October. I think Wolves is a band that almost has to be seen live. I can barely make it through a lot of their recorded stuff unless I’m in a very specific mood, but their in-person performance is absolutely captivating.

    • Lord Lucan

      That’s interesting to hear. Some bands are just better suited to the live environment I guess. They’re actually touring near my neck of the woods in the not too distant future and I’d been considering heading down anyway. It’d be interesting to see if a live performance might change my perception of this material.

      • You wot m8?

        They put on a good show. They’re obviously very aware of what environment their music flourishes in, and try very hard to create that atmosphere for their performances. It works well.

        They’re by no means the best live show I’ve seen, but I’m planning on paying money to see them again, so that should be indicative of something.

    • Levly

      Man I’m sorry to disagree but I saw them live this summer too, in a BM-DM focused festival, and they were so boring I left halfway through to find something else that wouldn’t put me to sleep. The atmospheric sections are just them faffing about on stage without much sense of purpose and the bursts of Black Metal are nothing a ton of other bands haven’t done better and more inventively. Seriously, I can’t for the life of me understand why this band is so popular.

      • Johnny Ro

        Was the guy from Deafheaven drumming? I saw them quite a few times from Diadem through Black Cascade tours and thought they were great and energetic live but watching recent footage it kind of seemed like they were phoning it in… and felt the drummer wasn’t driving the band like old tours.

        • Patrick Bertlein

          I guess Aaron is now doing guitars live, which is weird to me.

  • Thatguy

    I would be happy if this introduced Anna von H to a wider audience. She is so talented.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    While never being a big fan I’ve always thought they were pretty good. I did enjoy their foray into ambient music but I’m glad they’re back to BM. My first impression is that I’ll probably rate this higher myself.

  • Wilhelm

    After one listen I’ll give it a 4.0, I always thought these guys were doing a step above the rest and this one isn’t any different.

  • Nukenado

    Say, now you’re back from NSS, would anyone update the About page to show your bio?
    I need to know your tastes to validate mine!

  • RuySan

    This review could describe Celestial Lineage for me. I tried to get into it because there’s only a finite number of Agalloch and Drudkh albums but while I liked the overall sound I never found the music to be engaging.

  • Tom Wahl

    I used to take a pass on many unknown bands/albums with low ratings on this site (I don’t have time to check everything), but with Tchornobog’s 1.5 in mind, the score doesn’t matter much anymore. One man’s sugar is another man’s salt.

    • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

      TL;DR version: I figured out people have different opinions about things.

      • Tom Wahl

        Yep, but I’ve found a lot of great new stuff based on reading reviews.

  • herrschobel

    Majestic! and boring at the same time….how is that even possible ?

    • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

      Agreed…hence the perfect album example for a 2.5?

      • herrschobel

        totally

  • DubiousLee

    So glad I’m not a reviewer. I’d rather just lay back and bask in the glory of long awaited WITTR. Thank the gods!

  • Marc Rikmenspoel

    A 2 or 2.5 for me. This album was my first listen to the band, so my opinion is an outsider’s. But to me, there were too many ambient moments,.and not enough dynamics. It equalled boredom to these ears.

    • Zach Ward

      Try a Diadem of 12 stars. While I certainly feel this is much better than a 2 I feel like majority of people believe that one is quite solid. It’s my fav by em.

      • Patrick Bertlein

        I think it was a great debut, but they got lucky and never struck gold again. Okay maybe bronze, not quite gold.

  • gravytopTOO

    Those song titles are corny even for bm… Born from the serpent’s eye? That’s some wizard-n-crystal shit right there.

  • sir_c

    Throne room, is that how a black metal band member calls the toilet? Or I mean, recording studio, in case of Norwegian bands.

  • Patrick Bertlein

    I would say a 3. It is surprisingly good for who it is, the first album that has caught my attention since Diadem which was a damn long time ago. But, when you listen to this alongside others in the genre, you realize how irrelevant it is.

  • DubiousLee

    After many listens……4 to me.