Album number six from Wolves In The Throne Room sees the band returning with a sense of freshness. The trilogy of albums that began with Two Hunters and ended with Celestial Lineage is now complete and with long time touring guitarist Kody Keyworth a bone fide member of the band, this does feel like something of a new beginning for the band. Thrice Woven also takes the band back into black metal territory after their last album Celestite (a sort of addendum to the trilogy) explored more ambient, synth driven atmospherics.
The band’s themes remain the same however and once again they look to nature to inform their sound and lyrics. Two Hunters and Black Cascade were both in thrall to the roots of black metal and were described by the band as being having an “earthy” influence (not the band) whilst Celestial Lineage looked to the heavens and took the cosmos and the stars as its reference points. Thrice Woven is also in thrall to nature, with the most obvious themes being the changing of the seasons, and the elements of fire and water. The album closes with over two minutes of nothing but the sounds of the crashing sea, as if a bigger hint were needed.
The new shoots of the band are highlighted on The Old Ones Are With Us. The sounds of a crackling fire introduce the track, along with Neurosis’ Steve Von Till’s spoken word narrative. “Winter is dying, the sun is returning” he states before giving something of a crop report “the ground will be fertile, the seeds they awake”. This then is something of a celebration; a new start, a new furrow to be ploughed and a freshened and invigorated version of the band. As Von Till intones “we are becoming” the hopes for a transformation are high.
Perhaps a massive swerve from their past was expecting a little too much, but there are subtle changes in style that point to some progression. The black metal tremolo picking is in evidence at points as is an occasional foray into blast beat drumming, but these moments are scaled back considerably. The midpoint of Angrboda for example is an ambient exploration of what sounds like an extensive cave network that eventually feeds into a section that is much about Doom as it is Blackened metal strains. Once again, the themes of death and rebirth are here in the shape of the Norse mythology of Fenris Wolf.
Opening track Born From The Serpent’s Eye covers a lot of ground in the space of around 10 minutes. Beginning with dainty Tudor overtones of finger picked guitar, it quickly gives way to thundering drums, ferocious but melodic guitar lines underpinned by atmospheric keyboard drones and those familiar gargled vocals. Everything you would expect from WIITR (or indeed any black metal band) is present and correct but at the midpoint they change gear dramatically. They come to a complete halt, leaving only the breath of the wind audible for a few moments before Swedish singer Anna von Hausswolff’s haunting vocals drift in on the breeze, accompanied by the subtle synths. She creates a fragile elegance at the heart of the song as she intones more watery imagery “look at my heart, cold and dark, away from all light, the water seeks, entering into the depths, into an ocean”. When the guitars come crashing back in, the whole thing starts to reach for the stars, and it serves as a reminder that when it comes to dynamics, WIITR are masters of the art.
While the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to the expectation set by its opening salvo, the longest journeys start with a single step. And as the first step in the next chapter of Wolves In The Throne Room’s story, Thrice Woven moves decidedly in the right direction.