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Wolves in the Throne Room

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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3 stars After an enrapturing debut album - Diadem of 12 Stars - which left communities standing in their tracks. One had to wonder what they could dish out in there second offering; in such quick succession too! Two Hunters was not a disappointment, refusing the stagnant on an already winning formula, they branched out demonstrating why they are one of the leading figures in the underground scenes. The band furnishes their listener with an almost organic sound; often opting for outdoor concerts, openly expressing their eco-spiritual ideologies. Nothing 'bout their sound signifies a forced approach crafting a dexterous follow between the extended tracks. The album winds between, glistening tremolo fuzz, snippets of natures music (at beginning and end), a more brutal but atmospheric riffing, not to mention Jessica Kinney's ethereal vocals penitrating the textured layers of guitar on the latter two tracks. The album lacks the often morbid outlook plaguing the more nihilistic forms of extreme metal, alternatively offering an epic and nostalgic experience.

Really I could recommend this to anyone interested in the more extreme side of metal and those wrapped up in the ever expanding post-metal scene.

Report this review (#159939)
Posted Sunday, January 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars EDIT, more than a year later. This is my favorite black metal which (at least for me) is what all other black metal bands have to live up to! This album sets the bar where atmospheric beauty is combined with raw power meet, and is yet to be beaten. I've grown used to the blast beats, and every song is basically perfect in its own way. 5 star album!

With little doubt this is my favorite Black metal band, Wolves in the throne room is a trio hailing from Washington state, where they raise livestock, and play incredible music. Two hunters shows two sides to their music, unlike Diadem of twelve stars which, besides some acoustic interludes, is primarily metal madness (not to say it's a worse album). From the opening track to the last seconds of I will lay my bones, you are captured by the sheer power and brutality of this group.

The first track Dia Artio is surprisingly not metal, but an ambient atmospherical track where you can really tell that the album was recorded on a cassette recorder just by earthiness about it. You go on to the next track, the epic vastness and sorrow where the metal takes full swing. At first I was disgusted by the drumming, SNARE KICK SNARE KICK SNARE KICK, over and over again, and barely gave any these song a chance, but with a little persistence, my attention made it to the middle of this song where the drums slow to a forceful driving beat that is just irresistibly awesome! After I listened to this section of the song I was hooked on the album, especially with the incredible guitar solo that comes right afterwords. You go on to cleansing and the eighteen minute long I will lay down my Bones by the Rocks and the Roots, where we are introduced to the creepy enigmatic female vocals and native American-esque songs. The last few minutes of the closing song are some of the most powerful I've yet to witness in any song, imagine the closing minutes to Close to the edge (I get up, I get down), but black metal, and you have some kind of taste to the closing of this song.

After listening to Diadem of Twelve stars, you kind of wish they'd bring back the horrifying death metal vocals to two hunters, sadly we are only left with the shrieking, and female vocals, good thing is, is that the lead singer's shriek/scream has become more solid and terrifying. One of the only flaws to this album is that the ridiculous black metal drumming rears it's ugly head one too many times, I don't understand why they have to play those stupid beats! Overall a very solid album, I love the fact they used an eight track cassette recorder to this album, it's a good break from the crystal clear, overly shiny music of today. There needs to be more black metal like this.

4 stars

Report this review (#168249)
Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Two Hunters is a haunting, emotional, soundscape that has become one of my favorite albums. This is not ordinary black metal by any means. It has the beautiful atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, but the songwriting is unbelievable compared to all other black metal. This is not just a black metal album by any means. It pushes the limits of extreme music farther than before.

Many prog fans who are not used to blast beats, shrieking vocals, and trance-like guitar playing might over look this album at first. It takes multiple listens to realize how intense of a masterpiece Wolves in the Throne Room created with this album. Also, the fact that Two Hunters was recorded on analogue tape is a great bonus. I strongly recommend this album to fans of Opeth, Enslaved, and other extreme prog bands. Once you see the beauty of this album, you will never look back.

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.

Report this review (#197430)
Posted Monday, January 5, 2009 | Review Permalink
Matthew T
3 stars I purchased this album about a week back and have listened to the cd 7 times and I am on my 8th listen as I write thie review. For some reason maybe it is the way the Guitars are played or the mix of this cd it reminds me of a Bill Laswell production. I was almost about to rate this album 4 stars but I found after the first couple of listens the cd really is not growing that much on me but that is not to say this is not a good album. For a starter I really do think that this band is doing something different and innovative and I hope that they do another album because this is a great album for a debut if this is the case as I have never heard of them before and only came across them from a recommendation of the largest internet retailer on the planet? Anyway the music has a dirty fuzzy sound because of the recording method used which I believe was done on a cassette (maybe Dat Tape) and the mix has kept all the sound around the same level throughout the recording. The mastering is good. It is done loud! And now for the music.

This album does belong in the right catergory of Tech/Extreme but do not expect thrash or death metal. This album runs at a fairly slow time which creates atmosphere throughout the recording. The first track as the reviewer above metioned is basically ambient and is the intro to the album. Things get more intersting on track 2(Vastness and Sorrow) when the death metal vocalist comes in and these are the parts I like throughout this album. I like this track the best as it seems to have the fastest tempo because of the drumming which is great and is a real build up. Track3( Cleansing) for me is the worst track on the album because of the first part of the song where the female vocalist is used at the beginning it sounds like Enja( I was almost ready to light up the incense stencher) but luckily in a short time things pick up when the death vocalist gets back in.Track 4. I will lay down my bones) is a another good track where death vocalist does the main singing and then Jessica Kinney finishes off the vocals at the end. I will add I cannot understand a word the death vocalist is singing but that adds to the texture of the album.

There are no solos or lead breaks anywhere on this album. These blokes seem to be going for a real soundscape sound throughout. Even though I canned the female vocalist she is a good singer but the celtic sound and the growl to me do not seem to gel right on track 2.

One other moan is why are metal cd covers almost impossible to read.Dark Gold on black backgrounds for this one.

Good Album and something different. Matt

Report this review (#199060)
Posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Two Hunters by Wolves in the Throne Room serves as a pivotal album within the genre of progressive black metal. When most people think of black metal, bands such as Mayhem, Darkthrone, Immortal, etc perhaps come to mind. However, what WITTR have done with Two Hunters is very much evolved from the old-school days of black metal.

The album opens with an ambient/atmospheric track titled Dea Artio which sets the mood for the rest of the record so to speak. Following this, the next track Vastness and Sorrow begins with some gritty guitar work which is joined by bombastic drumming of Aaron Weaver shortly thereafter. The song continues to be sonically dynamic and grim sounding and the rest of the album follows suit. The third track Cleansing is an eerie song which starts off on the quieter side and becomes more intense later in the song. The closing track on Two Hunters is perhaps the most epic of the songs on the album. Clocking in at nearly 20 minutes, I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots has a very earthy feel to it, in a progressive folky/black metal/etc kind of way.

So, in short, for those curious about progressive black metal, or who like bands such as Agalloch, Enslaved, etc, then this album will certainly be of interest to you.

Report this review (#199099)
Posted Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Black metal has been around for quite some time now. Slowly forming and appearing in the 80's by precursors Venom, Celtic Frost and Bathory, this isolated sub-genre truly began to take place in Norway during the 90's with Darkthrone, Gorgoroth, Mayhem, Burzum, Enslaved, Emperor and many others. It was the most controversial of them all. With church burnings, devotion to satanic ? on some cases, even fascist ? culture and most notably the murders of fellow black metal musicians, it has seen everything. Putting this controversy aside, some might say that it's a revolution that cannot be done once again, that it has witnessed its final curtains. But, are we certain about that? Is the torch still burning with strength or is it witlessly dying?

A band that might give you an answer, or even a proof that black metal is far from being extinct, is Wolves in the Throne Room, the newcomers of the USBM scene emerging from Olympia, Washington. Having released Diadem of 12 Stars in 2006 and most recently Black Cascade, let's go back a year or two with Two Hunters, an album that received, like their first one, accessibility and incredible hype. The album itself is a statement that black metal has come back in true form, but in a different perception.

This sub-genre is known for its typical blasphemy as mentioned earlier. However, these American environmentalists opt for the lifeless, merciful call of nature. These guys are creating homage to Mother Earth and to all of its glory? unfortunately, what is left of it. But, do not expect some political speeches from Greenpeace ? even though the band started from the famous activist group called Earth First! ? or so-called pro-"green earth" hippies. They are trying to capture its spirituality, its very essence. With Two Hunters, the task has been achieved with success.

The album starts with "Dea Artio", a curiously embracing track that is filled with restful ambiance and washed, almost cavernous sonorities by the eternal, restless keyboard atmospherics, the dreamy percussions and the slow, droning guitars. Atypical for a black metal band to start out slow, but rest assured that the band equipped itself with a fully- loaded arsenal. "Vastness and Sorrow" begins with a severing tremolo picking that is soon accompanied by blazing, merciless blast-beats and fuzzed, but also extremely vicious and feral riffs. Nathan Weaver ? guitarist and vocalist of the band ? screams his heart out. In fact, his voice can even be compared to Varg Vikernes from Burzum, but more inclined, elevated and intense in his range. You can instantly recognize the typical traits of black metal in this song. It resumes it. But, the atmosphere is even far greater than something you would hear in the band that was mentioned before. These guys appear to do it naturally, proper to its main theme since they don't rely on Pro-Tools and expensive, easily disposable equipment. It's a great advantage if you ask me because they really did capture the feel on this entire album thanks to that aspect. In other words, production wise, you won't be disappointed by this if you like your black metal crude, but at the same time well- executed and tolerable. "Cleansing" comes next and shows that Wolves in the Throne Room, beside all that I mentioned earlier, are willing to open themselves musically and experiment once in a while. Beautiful, clean female vocals ? courtesy of Jessica Kenney ? make their apparition on this song and they fit the "décor" perfectly. Her voice is magic, trance-inducing. Tribal percussions, relaxing resonance from the keyboards and choral passages appear progressively after the small, ambient opening. It's almost as if the song was meant to be ritualistic. It is, but after this, don't count on that in the rest of the song. Seething, ferocious riffs, inhuman, repetitive blast-beats and the snarling vocals appear altogether. The album ends with "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots", a dreary, yet peaceful eighteen-minute finale that can make you float around nature's vast grounds. Yet again, the guitars are as brutal and seething as before and Aaron Weaver's capacities as a drummer seem endless minute by minute. To make it short, he never stops playing his drums. Never!!! After six minutes, distortion comes underway and things change quite a bit. The riffs are more tedious, atmospheric and simply put mesmerizing. Like I said, no studio tricks and an amazing reverb, almost helical riff shows itself during this memorable passage. It's almost as if Isis were playing along with them in a deep, reclusive forest in Norway. At the end, things slow down and Jessica Kenney appears again with her powerful vocals to finish the album with beauty, proving the old saying that there is "calm after the storm" with the birds chanting and locusts whispering in the air.

To conclude, Wolves in the Throne Room might be the reference to what's left in the true spirit of black metal. Keeping their word as nature lovers, the album takes you to a spiritual journey and might make you remember the importance of what surrounds us. For me, this is the first album that has stunned me in black metal because of its ambiance for a long time since I listened to Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse, Blut Aus Nord's The Work Which Transforms God or even a completely different band like The Axis of Perdition and their album Deleted Scenes in the Transition Hospital. If you like atmosphere, trust me. This is a personal recommendation.

Standout tracks : Vastness and Sorrow and I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots

Report this review (#227580)
Posted Sunday, July 19, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars I'd like to start by mentioning that, despite my enjoyment of many different types of metal, black metal really isn't a genre of music I cling to. I find most of the lo-fi production (most of it just sounds poorly produced to my ears) and lack of evolution and change in structure displeasing. I do like several forms of minimalistic music, but black metal generally isn't one of them. The big names in the genre do little for me, and I find many of the acts that come after them to be fairly formulaic. I did enjoy Slayer when I was younger, but as I started gaining a deeper understanding of musical theory and general knowledge, as well as reading an interview in which Kerry King admitted that he doesn't know how to solo and just lets his guitar feedback for all of the bands' solos, I started to drift away from black metal of any kind.

Well, enter Wolves in the Throne Room. This band may very well have completely changed my negative outlook on black metal. They've taken a genre of music that is typically associated with generic Satanic lyrics and church burnings and made it relevant to my interests again. To anyone who says that black metal is dead in the 21st century, I would ask them to listen to this album. Two Hunters is a collection of only 4 songs (although two of them are major epics) that has a play time of 46 1/3 minutes, but it feels like such a short musical journey every time I listen to it. I used to think that atmospheres this bleak and dark only came from chamber music and avant-garde music. But this band incorporates ambience, folk, and some of those avant-garde elements into their music. The production is definitely lo-fi, but it doesn't feel like it's irritating to my ears. It just fits the music very well in my opinion. In fact, some of the atmospheres make me think of a Univers Zero type of darkness, so this is indeed pretty bleak stuff. The drumming, especially the bass drumming, is fast and unrelenting and the guitar and bass chug along to help build the atmosphere. Nathan Weaver's lyrics are entirely incomprehensible to me, but that's acceptable for this kind of music. I simply treat them as another instrument and appreciate them as another tool to add to some of the darkest atmospheres I've heard in modern music.

Wolves in the Throne Room may not be a band that fits everyone's tastes, but they've surely appealed to me. In fact, it took me several listens to even begin to appreciate the atmospheres that the band produces. I feel like I can find something new in them each time, and Wolves in the Throne Room is really good at building their atmospheres. This band has reignited my interests in black metal again, and I plan on exploring some of the more experimental bands in the genre with time. This album may very well be a masterpiece, but until I explore more black metal bands and get a greater understanding of the genre, 4 stars will have to do. Hopefully WitTR has a long and prosperous career. Their music should allow them to be more than able to do so.

Report this review (#232344)
Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Two Hunters' - Wolves In The Throne Room (90/100)

I could never call myself a fan of Wolves in the Throne Room, yet Two Hunters is among the most pristine black metal records I have heard in my short life. I've never taken issue with the fact the band tried to appropriate a cold, malefic form of art as something more life-affirming and inclusive, though to their credit, I don't think you would get a whiff of that listening to this album alone. As a general bottom line, I've just failed to be as captivated by anything since or prior from Wolves in the Throne Room. But Two Hunters remains as strong as it ever was. Disregard the pretence and ill-conceived notions of the band as would-be iconoclasts of black metal; on this album they really get it, and do it better than precious most of the bands that influenced them from across the ocean.

Wolves in the Throne Room's one truly great album easily earns its place with the genre's best. Though it lacks the blackened enshrinement of 'true' black metal (whatever that term even means these days) it makes up for it with a different sort of atmosphere, one that boasts a love of nature over hatred of man. Especially in the near-decade since this album's release, that entire mentality's come to be synonymous with Cascadian black metal, and I don't think anyone's come close to topping it. Part of the reason that Wolves in the Throne Room made the tonal shift from darkness to half-light work is that there remains a sense of devastation in the atmosphere.

They may not wish to harm or torment their listeners, but they're feeling harmed themselves. For the ethereal beauty and druidic flair of "Dia Artio" and "A Clearing", the band show their dark side most directly on "Vastness and Sorrow". While the album's closer "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots" is the album's obvious centrepiece, "Vastness and Sorrow" is quite likely the best song the band has ever penned, bringing intense feelings of anger and frustration to light through an incredibly rich palette of melody and organic production.

It's not often I say this about an album (let alone a black metal record), but one of the greatest things about Two Hunters is the production-- the way it actually sounds. The band went into it with a pure desire for organic warmth in their recording. I don't think that's ever been a bad idea for any artist or album, but it's incredibly rare to hear a band execute it so well. "Dia Artio" is the best example of the way Wolves in the Throne Room have used the studio as a means of expression itself. With the bare minimum of digital manipulation, they have created a rushing wave of sound that could not exist in nature. Black metal intro tracks are painfully common, and if we can approach "Dia Artio" as such, it's probably the most beautiful and haunting exception I can think of.

Compared to the meticulous detail on the album's opener, it's almost startling to hear WITTR get so raw with "Vastness and Sorrow". From here on, there's a purported sense of effortlessness in the way the sound comes together. Aaron Weaver's drumwork favours intensity over technical craft, and though the guitars here are melodic and relatively focused, they're kept raw and fierce, as if the entirety of the album was recorded live off the floor. In pure terms of songwriting, Two Hunters does stand out, but I don't think I'd think of it as half the masterpiece, had the band not been able to frame their art so intensely. True to the implied dialectic in its name, "Vastness and Sorrow" is quick to lunging its listener between extremes. Sweeping melodies and moments of respite are interspersed between stretches of blastbeats and muffled shrieks. None of it is a novel concept to black metal, but that's sort of the point; Wolves in the Throne Room took a palette of very familiar traits and created a fresh atmosphere and aesthetic with them.

The atmosphere is heightened even further with "A Clearing". I don't think I'd be alone in calling it the weakest of the four pieces on Two Hunters, but it occupies an essential space in the album's arc. True to its name, it really does offer a clearing between the album's two harrowing epics. Jessica Kinney's voice soars sweetly atop waves of ambiance, and bears an authentically druidic ('druidic' is a term I think of a lot listening to this album) atmosphere. Returning abruptly to their black metal mainstay halfway in, WITTR continues the fury through to the album's eighteen minute closer. "I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots" has earned legendary status of its own, even apart from the album, and for good reason; how many black metal band (particularly those of a Cascadian inclination) have managed to fashion themselves a consistently engaging epic? The track's last moments feel a little unfocused and short of the raw perfection of "Vastness and Sorrow", but I can't help but feel struck with awe any time the song's triumphant central riff rumbles through.

I love Two Hunters. Ever since I first heard it, my other experiences with WITTR to date have been in the hopes that they'll recapture the organic magic and inspiration of this album. Celestial Lineage came somewhat closer than other albums, but I'm not really convinced they'll manage to top it. And who can blame them? Two Hunters isn't the sort of album that can be replicated step-by-step. The songwriting and performances are strong, but it's the way they all come together as a rich, beautiful tapestry that makes the album such a treasure. Even years after first hearing it, I remain amazed.

Report this review (#426352)
Posted Friday, April 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

"Two Hunters" provides an image of the dark corners of the world.

Along maybe with bands like Agalloch, Wolves In Throne Room is now one of America's most recognized Black Metal bands: in 2007, they released 'Two Hunters', so far the absolute pinnacle of their career and one of the best albums of the scene.

'Diadem in 12 Stars' was their debut album which had a very unique take on Blackgaze; the sound was very ethereal and harsh at the same time. 'Two Hunters' perfects that atmosphere by a whole lot, with much more brave, shoegazey and unearthly passages soaked in reverb, which gain a touch of beauty when female vocals, that seem to come from heaven, are added. Then we still have the grim, electric passages. But, despite the great amount of Black Metal in this release, everything sounds much more clean and less raw than in 'Diadem': the reverb is possibly the greatest reason why it doesn't feel that heavy, but it's also the fact that WITTR on this one decided to focus much more intensely on the atmosphere.

The lyrics are probably the most enigmatic and fascinating aspect of the album: 'I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks And Roots' is a sort of a dying wish of the persona: he wants to be left in the woods, so that he becomes one with nature, entering, this way, into a new life. Then 'Vastness and Sorrow' is more complex: it involves a dark rider who rules the world, as he is the only living being there. The world moves to his horse's steps, as he passes through ruins of a once great civilization, a symbol of failure of mankind. 'Cleansing' seems to describe an encouragement to have a ritual act of purification through singing, in order to be saved from the dark rider, who is mentioned.

With only four tracks, 'Two Hunters' provides the listener, in less than fifty minutes, a vivid image of dark, hidden corners of the world where man has not yet visited; A damp, black cave, in which there is a waterfall of the purest of waters. 'Dia Artio' is the intro the starts off this unique journey, where the reverb-soaked clean guitars set the stage. The twelve minute 'Vastness and Sorrow' is a gloomy Black Metal piece that finds no pause, no mercy, managing to be the darkest track on the album. 'Cleansing' starts off with a vein similar to the intro, but then explodes into yet another Black Metal passage. The final, eighteen minute track is home of a bunch of solid, solemn and somber riffs, occasionally purified with the watery clean moments. As the music dissolves, at the end of the album, the sound of birds comes in , giving more coherency to the lyrical concept of the song, by this point of view one of the great closers of Black Metal history.

'Two Hunters' will be remembered as a Black Metal landmark album, an album that will be, over the years. a point of reference for many bands; even today, the Blackgaze movement is, although mostly underground, increasing exponentially, and will possibly domain most of future Black Metal. When that happens, Wolves In The Throne Room have a reserved place in the Olympus of legendary Metal bands.

Report this review (#751154)
Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars On Wolves In the Throne Room's second album the group amp up the shoegaze elements in their sound - check out opening number Dea Artio, in which their buzzling wall-of-guitars sound is more reminiscent of the gentle textures of Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine than the harsh, abrasive sonic universe of Burzum. Of course, things soon get a bit more varied and the Wolves do show their fangs on occasion, but equally there's also moments of gentleness spread out here, particularly when Jessica Kinney's vocals come into the equation. On the whole, Celestial Lineage takes the innovations of this album and ramps them up to the next level to a sufficient extent to leave Two Hunters in its dust, but taken on its own Two Hunters is still a very credible artistic statement.
Report this review (#760533)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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