By Devon Tincknell June 8, 2009
Nature is fucking crazy. No really, it is. Hippies and Greenpeace types attempt to paint it as some serene, peaceful thing filled with sunny days and baby seals, but spend an afternoon watching National Geographic documentaries and you’ll see: Mother Nature can be one bloody, brutal bitch.
Though Olympia’s Wolves In The Throne Room has long promoted its close ties with the natural world, it was opening act A Storm Of Light who really nailed down the connection between the turbulent chaos of the untamed wilderness and the churning guitars of modern metal. Lead by guitarist Josh Graham, long time visual director for Oakland apocalypse metal act Neurosis, Storm Of Light played before a towering video montage devoted to the awe of the natural world: Beating hearts, stormy seas, and collapsing glaciers bled together on the screen while the group plowed through a sweeping dirge of down-tempo doom. Though it hails from NYC, a veritable stronghold for urban America, ASOL’s heavy growls and pulsing drums conjured a much more barren landscape.
At first the pairing seems a bit odd—heavy metal and the great outdoors. Metal is supposed to be a modern, electric creation, more concerned with gory morbidity than camping and canoeing. But truly, what’s more frightening: the imaginary monsters man has created for himself, or the very real ones lurking on the borders of civilization? Although black metal’s roots are anchored in the dark, icy wastes of Scandinavia, the genre’s devotion to evil, borderline clownish stage attire has lead it away from its initial, sunless inspiration. Grown men in makeup taking Satan way too seriously turned metal into a cartoonish parody of itself and left its ideology feeling hollow. After all, doesn’t belief in the devil imply faith in the Christian theology? And really, just how “evil” is penning songs about corpse-fucking while you live in an Orlando apartment complex?
Nestled in the lush, rain-drenched Pacific Northwest, Wolves In The Throne Room tap into a more realistic source of savage terror: the one right outside its back door. Transmuting the misty, overcast gloom of their environment into grandiose, ambient ballads and blasting arias of brutality, Wolves In The Throne Room craft a back-to-basics metal that does away with all those unnecessary codpieces and corpse paint. Much like the Puritans of colonial America, Wolves discard the pompous pageantry of its European brothers to stake out an austere existence in the unsettled wilderness.
Shrouded in fog and lit by candle flame, Wolves obviously haven’t given up the notion of showmanship entirely, but it was determined to let the music deliver the message. With nary a word spoken the entire run of its set, Wolves In The Throne Room tore through 10-minute-plus odes to primitive abandon with all the ferocity of a hungry lion taking down a lone gazelle. Nathan Weaver’s guitar chords hung in the air like thunderclaps while his brother Aaron beat the drums in a torrential downpour. The crowd was a cramped mass of long hair and black shirts, nodding solemnly along to the squall, but by the time Wolves In The Throne Room left the stage, they were howling and baying, hungry for more. The lone cricket chirp of a lingering guitar loop echoed through an amp, and Wolves opted to leave the stage alone for the time being, delaying its return until July (when it’ll be back at Emo’s, opening for Pentagram). That’s just how nature runs its course.