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Wolves In The Throne Room - Black Cascade CD (album) cover


Wolves In The Throne Room

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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3 stars Black Cascade is the second release Wolves in the Throne Room treats us to in the barely started 2009. The band has always been pretty productive and has not left us a year without a Wolves release. After hearing the Malevolent Grain EP I was expecting two things. A Looming Resonance made me expect some different, more avant-garde stuff and Hate Crystal made me trust that there was going to be some awesome black metal of great quality. Let's see if my anticipations were correct.

Wanderer Above The Sea of Fog: The opening track starts out just like Hate Crystal, with immediate vocal and instrumental violence bashing through your speakers. What I like best about this song is the atmosphere, the black metal feeling, the dark sound it has to it from beginning till end. Later on it progresses into a slower, atmospheric part, just to be followed by an awesome faster part with nice and speedy repetitive guitar riffs. You will notice that this formula will be used more throughout the album. The song ends in a pleasant drone, probably with a smile from Southern Lord.

Ahrimanic Trance: This one also immediately brings you into the black metal atmosphere we all seek. It features some incredible vocal work. It is not very complex, but nevertheless fairly satisfying. Around the five minute mark there is a part which I find a bit messy (but not too much). This flows into a short ambient part and then returns to the up-tempo drumming and guitar playing. This turns into a great harmony between atmospheric and fast instrumentation and raw, powerful shrieks. The last four minutes consist of a slower part with repetitive guitars and loud drums. It sounds okay and evil, but is the second weak part of this song, which is a pity.

Ex Cathedra: This track starts out pretty weak instrumentally, though Nathan provides us with some nice sick vocals. It gets better later on, with some nice rough parts, interrupted by weaker ambient parts. The ending is awesome, I must admit, but this is still the weakest track on the album and (with the exception of the last minutes) really misses "feeling" to it.

Crystal Ammunition: The last track starts out nicely and becomes more brutal as it goes. This gets interrupted by a soothing instrumental part, that suddenly returns to the rough drumming and riffing. Later on the ambient and rough part synthesize around the ten minute mark with very nice results. The album ends with an ambient part supported by some heavy drones.

This is overall a nice album, but not the quality I'm used to from Wolves. After hearing Hate Crystal on the Malevolent Grain EP I expected another brilliant full length. This seemed to be the case when the album opened with Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, but this is immediately the top track on the album. Ahrimanic Trance is decent and at some moments great, but features some weaker parts and Ex Cathedra is just plain average. Luckily Crystal Ammunition makes up for the previous two tracks, but overall I'd say this is an okay release, something I'm not used to from the band that brought us masterpieces as Diadem of 12 Stars and Two Hunters and which has been one of my favorite black metal bands ever. If this would have been another band, I might have given it a higher rating.

A plus point is the consistently great vocal work on the album. On the flip side: sometimes, as in Ex Cathedra, the ambient parts are out of place and of mediocre quality. It also bothers me that the tracks feature too much superfluous outro. Finally, it misses the overall "feeling" that the previous album had and which every black metal album should have. Atmospheric metal albums should have a distinct atmosphere as a whole and Black Cascade misses this. Let us hope that they'll set the bar a little higher next year.

Report this review (#205329)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Black Cascade' - Wolves In The Throne Room (6/10)

What's being described as the third wave of black metal sees its roots not in any Scandinavian region, but rather North America. One of the leading bands in this USBM scene is Wolves In The Throne Room, a band that close to all black metal fans will hear about at one point or another. Fueled by a love for nature and hyped up due to their ties to eco-anarchism, I first thought that Wolves In The Throne Room was a band made popular by their ridiculous lifestyles, rather than the music itself. It was actually quite a big surprise then, when I heard 'Two Hunters', a sprawling album that first had me thinking it was great, but now has me thinking it could very well be a masterpiece of modern black metal. With an almost equally as impressive debut to go with it, I was just as surprised now to hear their third album 'Black Cascade'. This time around though, I am more surprised by how much this album doesn't match up to their earlier material. Although the essence and power of Wolves In The Throne Room is here in spades, it lacks the dynamic and epic vibe to it that made the first two albums so great.

'Black Cascade' seems to be Wolves In The Throne Room seeing one aspect of their sound that they liked the most, then focusing their sound around it. Here, it is their repetitive post-black metal element; the sound we heard on the earlier WITTR albums where the guitar chords would be given an unrelenting pace, slowly changing up and creating a real sense of black metal atmosphere along with the blastbeats and rasps. From that definition alone, its clear that Wolves In The Throne Room were never an original act for their black metal aspects alone. Instead, what made an album like 'Two Hunters' so great was that along with the black metal, they could seamlessly transit into some soothing ambiance, or at least moments where the blastbeats could take a rest and let the beauty shine through. 'Black Cascade' still has some of this dynamic to it, but in much less quantity. The most time listening to this album will be spend getting lost in repetitive chord progressions and WITTR's more straightforward post-black metal. And unlike 'Two Hunters', each song feels very much the same; think 'Vastness And Sorrow' from the aforementioned album repeated four times over with some changes here and there, and you basically have 'Black Cascade'.

Out of the context of the band's brilliant precedent however, 'Black Cascade' is still a fairly strong black metal album. The chord progressions here do go on for quite a bit longer than I would reckon some people would have otherwise been interested with, but it allows the music to hypnotize the listener in a way, and while the slowly changing progressions are very powerful, I do wish that the compositions were a little more eventful. The sound here is no evolution from the black metal on 'Two Hunters', it is almost too much the same in a way. I still think the guitars are beautifully layered, and that the sloppy blastbeats of Aaron Weaver are as annoying as ever. Each of these four epic compositions builds up to something though, and while it can never hope to compare to the fantastic pair of albums before it, 'Black Cascade' it still a worthy addition to Wolves In The Throne Room's catalogue, albeit something of a disappointing one.

Report this review (#507113)
Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars On their third album Wolves In the Throne Room lean much more towards a purely metal direction, with the peaceful expanses of shoegaze-dominated playing that were a major feature of Two Hunters scaled back dramatically. However, Black Cascade is far from being a mere retread of Diadem of 12 Stars; the band both incorporate the lessons they learned making Two Hunters into their vicious black metal assault, and also benefit from substantially improved production values. The end result is an album which takes the metal-dominated side of the band's sound to a new level of accomplishment and complexity, and a great listen for any fan of atmospheric and progressive black metal.
Report this review (#760535)
Posted Wednesday, May 30, 2012 | Review Permalink

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