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Wolves In the Throne Room

Wolves in the throne room have moved beyond the fantasy of a nihilistic apocalypse

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Black metal is not a musical genre I pretend to connect with or even understand for that matter. I don’t say this negatively, I say it honestly. Black metal is beyond me. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it means I don’t get it. I don’t comprehend advanced mathematics either, and we all know they’re important.

I once had a friend who liked black metal, and perusing his musical library was always daunting. It seemed like everything he owned was from Norway, and all his favorite bands, consumed with suffering and discontent, seemed to have spent a lot more time worrying about the state of the world than I had. I’m happy go lucky. Black metal is not. This may also be why my black metal friend and I aren’t friends anymore.

Olympia’s Wolves in the Throne Room, who go a long way toward proving not only Europeans can dish out legit black metal, will play the Capitol Theater Thursday, Nov. 1. It’s a show many in town are looking forward to, and to truly understand why, I figured it might be helpful to truly understand black metal.

First I looked to Wikipedia, which I use more than my own brain these days:

“Black metal is an extreme heavy metal subgenre. It is typically characterized by the use of heavily-distorted guitars, high-pitched shrieking vocals, fast-paced rhythms and melodies, and unconventional song structures.

“Black metal is generally seen as an underground form of music, in part because it does not appeal to mainstream tastes and because its musicians often choose to remain obscure.”

To no surprise, the Wiki definition of black metal sounded a lot like Wolves in the Throne Room. The band does utilize distorted guitar, breakneck rhythms, a bit of shrieking, and certainly a few unconventional song structures. They released Two Hunters, an EP, on Southern Lord in September, if you’d care to check for yourself. Diehard minimalists at heart (which as it turns out is part of black metal ideology), Wolves in the Throne Room concoct their drudge without a bass — going low-fi all the way. Not only was Two Hunters recorded completely in analog, with help from experimental vocalist Jessica Kinney and Boris producer Randall Dunn, but the band, made up of Rick Dahlin (guitar/vocals), Aaron Weaver (drums) and Nathan Weaver (guitar), reportedly lives in the woods of Olympia. Apparently they share a house, grow their own food, and cultivate their own livestock.

Perhaps this is what Wikipedia meant by black metal artists choosing “to remain obscure”?

Deeper into my research, I came across an interview Wolves in the Throne Room did with Nocturnal Cult Magazine (posted on the band’s MySpace page). Where Wikipedia seemed to help me understand black metal, reading the band describe black metal nearly blew my mind.

“(Black metal) is about destruction, destroying humanity; destroying ones own self in an orgy of self loathing and hopelessness. I believe one must focus on this image of eternal winter in order to understand Black Metal, for it is a crucial metaphor that reveals our sadness and woe as a race. In our hubris, we have rejected the earth and the wisdom of countless generations for the baubles of modernity. In return, we have been left stranded and bereft in this spiritually freezing hell,” stated the band.

“Black Metal expresses disgust with humanity and revels in the misery that one finds when the falseness of our lives is revealed.”

Got that?

If nothing else, this would seem to explain why I don’t like black metal. I’m just too happy for it. I began to figure Wolves in the Throne Room wasn’t for me, but as it turned out there was more to it.

I continued reading.

“Our music, then, is not true Black Metal for we have moved beyond this fantasy of a nihilistic apocalypse; beyond our own misery and failure. Our music is balanced in that we temper the blind rage of Black Metal with the transcendent truths of the universe that reveal themselves with age and experience. Our relationship with the natural world is a healing force in our lives.”

Now I was just becoming confused and agitated — perhaps a better mindset for black metal in the first place. Are Wolves in the Throne Room black metal or just angry hippies? Maybe I don’t even know.

What I do know is Wolves in the Throne Room will play the Capitol Theater in Olympia Thursday, Nov. 1. I may not get it, but I’m sure plenty of people will. Just focus on eternal winter, and bring your fucking earplugs.

[Capitol Theater, with SunnO))), Earth and Grey, Thursday, Nov. 1, 9 p.m., $10-$12 at, 206 E. Fifth Ave., Olympia, 360.754.5378]

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