Wolves in the Throne Room - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:
Wolves in the Throne Room - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Wolves in the Throne Room - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

It almost seems a little reductive to label Wolves in the Throne Room a black-metal band. Formed by brothers Nathan and Aaron Weaver, they’ve been stretching and playing around with the format since 2003. The genre’s musical influence is clear on the band yet they’ve managed to morph into something unique.

The blast-beats and the sonic fury are still present and correct but they’ve jettisoned the genres corpse paint, tempered its nihilism and centred their music on a deep love for nature and the natural landscape. Things are about to get epic.

First up tonight, we get a set from French band Aluk Todolo. The first thing I notice is the sizable drumkit at the front of the stage, suffice to say this isn’t the kind of kit I’m used to seeing at indie and punk gigs. The band’s sound takes elements of black-metal but stretches it into something new and experimental. Instrumental and utterly unrelenting, the trio play a kind of scorched-earth reinterpretation of Krautrock. Yet this isn’t electronic or in any way soothing, it’s brutal and unforgiving. Guitar, bass and drums submerge us in a sea of sound.

As the band plough into a seemingly endless barrage of noise a strategically placed, oversized lightbulb throbs and glows in front of them. It’s a simple prop really but a highly effective one. At one point the guitarist holds it in his hands, like an occult leader performing some kind of dramatic, lightbulb-based ritual. The same guitarist also plays his pedal-board like a guitar at one point. Extreme and a little theatrical, Aluk Todolo sure know how to leave an impression.

The right atmosphere is pretty essential for Wolves in the Throne Room. Smoke and incense fill the air as aromatic woods are burnt on stage. A repetitive, subtly hypnotic beat plays over the PA- like the drum beat you’d expect to hear as you approached the wicker man. “You fool’s, burning incense and playing metal won’t bring back your apples”. Anyway, I digress. Anticipation builds as I put my earplugs in and wait for the ritual to begin in earnest.

Tonight’s line-up consists of vocalist and guitarist Nathan Weaver, guitarists Kody Keyworth and Peregrine Somerville and synth player Brittany McConnell. Trevor DeSchryver does a fine job standing in for Aaron on drums. All-in-all the five musicians make for one-hell-of-an aural assault. It turns out that three guitarists can make quite a noise. These are huge, elemental songs after all.

They start with ‘Born from the Serpents Eye’, the opening track on this year’s Thrice Woven LP. The sound is suitably brutal yet sweeping and grandiose at the same time. An epic cascade of guitars pulls us into the bands dark, riff-filled world. Despite the black-metal tag and the musical connotations that come with that, it feels powerful and liberating rather than oppressive. Hair flies everywhere particularly that of Somerville and McDonnell, as the band enthusiastically piles into each fresh bombardment of riffs.

Ambient passages arrive between blast-beats and Nathan’s typically feral vocals, giving each song a real sense of scale. While this is most definitely metal there’s more than a hint of post-rock coming through. It’s the kind of live show designed to swallow you up whole, providing something of a transportative experience. Close your eyes and you could almost be in some woodland clearing or on top of a mountain somewhere cold and remote. Like some cinematic epic (or an episode of Game of Thrones) there’s something about this music that feels wholly apt for the onset of winter.

It’s sometimes hard to hear where one song ends and another begins; each riff and brutal crescendo a mere continuation of the ritual. They finish with a colossal and unfeasibly exciting ‘I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots’. Clocking in at 20 minutes or so, the song provides one last labyrinth of sound to get lost in. A hair raising and undeniably impressive performance.

 

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