Since this is still by far and away the greatest album i heard from last year, here's my review of it again for anyone who needs something new and exciting in their lives.
Wolves In The Throne Room
Diadem Of 12 Stars
Living in a self sufficient commune outside
Whilst there are many bands honing the form, creating equally masterful and progressive recordings (see USA’s Leviathan, Sweden’s Watain and Woods Of Infinity, UK’s Anaal Nathrakh and Axis Of Perdition, France’s Blut Aus Nord and Deathspell Omega for examples of how to push the limits of a genre), the continual adherence, even amongst most of these aforementioned bands, to sartorial and musical codes needed a radical shift in attention. For a genre so concerned with rebellion, adherence of any kind should be strictly outlawed, but such is the way of things that the scenes within black metal increasingly constrict themselves and disregard too much which they consider ‘untrue’. This is where Wolves In The Throne Room come in.
With two equally mesmerizing demos behind them, it was with great anticipation that I awaited the album proper, to see what this band could achieve in such a formal setting. From the highly atmospheric, misty forested cover and the scenes depicted on the sleeve, it was clear that this would be something else entirely, including as it does, ‘The Queen Of Borrowed Light’ from the second demo. The shortest song on here is 13 minutes, dead on, which tells you how grand a scale this band work on; cinematic, operatic but deadly serious and not prone to posturing theatrics, this album covers a huge amount of musical ground, seamlessly incorporating Norwegian droning, flights of technical fancy and grinding segments into songs that undulate like rivers, ghosting through the misty forests of the cover art. The album, whilst tense, nervy and aggressive, conjures a pagan, earth-worshipping atmosphere that is being slowly eroded from the black metal field to be replaced with head down violence of the likes of Black Witchery and Revenge and the necrotic filth churned out by the Finnish hordes of bleakness. More akin to
This album is elemental; conjuring spirits and evolving scenes of wilderness, the effect being to make the listener small and insignificant in its presence as if staring up from the foot of a mountain, yet the blood surging through the epic choruses embolden and energise. A return to the ancient sounding BM of old, quite unlike the current breed of destructive misanthropic bands seeking to annihilate and bludgeon everything in their path. Diadem Of 12 Stars is a life spirit, not a death spirit, astral and regal, as the title suggests, not of the earth, the bowels, fire and horror. With no blastbeats and no evilness, what makes this Black Metal at all? It is good to remind oneself that is while listening to this, as there is nothing quite like it around. It may be that with genrefication so acute nowadays, that this band can be considered Post-Black Metal, in the same way that Slint and Mogwai helped forge the term Post-Rock out of the shogazery noise bands.
The title track – (A Shimmering Radiance) Diadem Of 12 Stars – begins with guitars softly intertwining, shrouded in distortion, breaking into gulps of drum beats as crushing guitars crash in and out, the air in between adding weight. Slowly the density drifts apart, a shimmering guitar line slicing through the space, increasing in intensity before bursting into hammering lunges careening towards a thundering section where Jamie and Nathan sing together, one shining light, the other sucking it away. Drums roll turbulently across the churning guitars with the pressure increasing and dispersing like wind, the tone lowering into minor keys and the atonality veering off into soaring near-melodic passages. The lead guitar picks up for a brief moment as the rhythm gets choppy; crunching and biting into the drums, peaking with a sole high note then instantly descending into a funereal stomp with Nathan gradually increasing the strength of his guttural noises until real words gush out, space opening up in the music to allow him through. The drums gather pace as
Which brings us neatly to the point where I started. The essence of Black Metal has always been a rejection of wasteful peripheral materialism and distracting influences, of rejecting normalities and dogmatic instruction, of free spirits and the value of individual expression. The old order has been deposed. The wolves are in the throne room