This week I wanted to do something really unique, so I went searching for a band with great talent who might not get the talent they deserve. When I came across a group called Wolves in the Throne room, I thought I might have a hit. When I downloaded their album 'Two Hunters', I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this band needed far more exposure than they've gotten so far. I'm pleased to welcome you to this week's Sudsonbleeker where we'll be covering Two Hunters from Wolves in the Throne Room.

The band itself hails from Olympia, Washington, having formed in 2004, with this being their second album, released by Southern Lords Records. The members include Aaron and Nathan Weaver along with Richard Dahlen. For this recording they invited Jessica Kinney for additional feminine vocals while Nathan and Richard pulled double duty on vocals and guitar and Richard laid down the drumming. Descriptions of their sound range from black metal to folk metal to black ambient, which is the label I feel suits them best. No doubt about it, Wolves in Throne Room create vast, luxurious sonic worlds that convey a unique but tasteful sense of gloom.

Other coverage of this band tended to dwell on the fact that they live on a farmstead in the forests of the Pacific Northwest and how fascinating their so-called primitivist lifestyle is. They've mentioned that they felt that tended to eclipse their music offerings and I agree so in this review we're going to focus purely on the sound but before we do that I'd like to make one distinction between Wolves in the Throne Room and other black metal that I've heard up until now. While black metal's often got an awe-inspiring beauty to it, many times it focuses on more nihilistic or even fascistic tones. This band instead conveys a more primal feel and as a listener, they left me with a sense that I'd just listened to a modern interpretation of ancient mythology. That's pretty impressive for a simple MP3 CD!

Let's hit the track list and you should know up front that there are a mere 4 songs on this record. At first I wondered if maybe I'd been screwed over, but the songs themselves fit together so perfectly and none of them run under five minutes with the whole album having a play time of well over thirty five minutes of music.

We start off with 'Dea Artio', an instrumental opener that'd make the guys from Cartoon Network's Metalocalypse weep for joy. It's a vast, reaching kind of song that's truly grandiose in every sense of the word. About half way through I got curious about what Dea Artio might mean and if it even had a meaning. It does, it's the female form of a God known to the Romans as Artio. The goddess Dea Artio is a bear goddess and there's actually a statue of her in a Switzlerland museum if you care to look that up. Somehow knowing what the song referenced made this opening track feel like some sort of invocation instead of purely an instrumental. It sets the tone nicely even though it's the shortest of all the album's songs.

Next comes 'Vastness and Sorrow' whose orchestral feel eases in and before the band begins to gently kick your ass. As it continues, Satan begins to speak with us and I mean the vocals hear are just otherworldly and if you're not quite ready for them there's a fairly solid chance they'll creep you out a little bit at first. If you need a comparison but aren't familiar with this genre specifically, think of Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth. Yes, it's that screechy, growling kind of approach but here's the thing when the track truly comes together you've got a song that actually conveys what that title 'Vastness and Sorrow' says - it feels huge and mournful as if they're giving a funeral a forest that's been converted to a factory. A lot of songs carry abstract titles for varying reasons, but very few seem to directly communicate the actual experience of listening to the song itself.

Then we've got 'Cleansing' and something of a shifting of gears when Jessica Kinney's vocals come into play. She serves in profoundly sharp contrast to the male vocals, offering a very haunting, European essence and make no bones about it, the girl's got a soaring quality to her singing that makes me wonder if she's considered opera - and not in an annoying way. When the guys roar back into the picture, they tear things to pieces once more and we're reminded that this is black metal, not ethereal art-house folk music.

Finally 'I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots' begins to play and honestly I'd wondered if after three awesome tracks there could possibly be a good way to wind down an album I had no desire to see end. This epic of a song runs just over eighteen minutes so you'll pretty much never hear it on the radio, but I think that's fine enough. We start out slowly and thoughtfully before the boys rip right on into the main stretch. The vocals for this one are positively animalistic and combined with an almost military-style cadence they offer the sort of song that conjures up weird barrages of imagery we might see in some obscure music video or experimental film. Near the end, Kinney's vocals come back in to smoothe things out and the album finishes with a flourish that shows off some exceptional musical tastes.

I really can't imagine a finer piece of black metal or really any rock-related genre at all that could top 'Two Hunters', but if you know of one please point me towards it and I'll be more than happy to review it. If you've not heard Wolves in the Throne Room I'm definitely encouraging you to give them a chance. You might think of them as an evil Pink Floyd because they've mastered that quality of creating music that's perfect for lying in bed in the dark and thinking while you listen to it. I give this album the highest score I've got which happens to be 666! :)


Lyrics submitted by mike

Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters song meanings
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