Whether we like to dwell on it too much or not, hype is always going to be a sticking point with any band, and when you consider the enormous cult following a band like Wolves In The Throne Room have amassed over the years, the weight of expectation may have been almost too much to bear. Thankfully, Washington’s favourite black metal visionaries have never been lacking in ambition, and Thrice Woven (Artemisia) proves this as one of their most dense and captivating works yet.
Being the shortest of their full-length records to date, Thrice Woven achieves more in just over 40 minutes than most black metal bands can in one hour. While previous album Celestite (Artemisia) the spiritual partner to 2011’s Celestial Lineage (Southern Lord) experimented with more dark ambient and drone elements, Thrice Woven opens with a more traditional black metal sound with ‘Born from the Serpent’s Eye’, complete with thrashing riffs and a mournful performance from Swedish vocalist Anna von Hausswolff. Anna reappears later on in the album as a cold wind blows and her haunting voice swoons in for the interlude of ‘Mother Owl, Father Ocean’, accompanied by a delicate harp that ever so slightly tugs at the heartstrings and sends shivers down the spine.
However, the icy fury of Norwegian black metal is virtually non-existent when the ritualistic ‘The Old Ones Are With Us’ begins to exude the warmth of changing seasons. A crackling fire opens the track, the narrative vocals of Steven Von Till denote the thawing of ice and the end of winter, and plaintive keys creep in like sunlight breaking through the trees. This is just one example of how Thrice Woven is more than just a black metal record – it is a living, breathing piece of art. This multi-layered nature of the record means that you never know which dark path it will take next, and this is especially true of ‘Angrboda’ whose water effects and unnerving synths sound like you’re trespassed into the cavernous lair of some unknown, approaching horror, before it breaks the tension with one hell of a doom riff.
It all concludes with the swirling, black metal opera of ‘Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon’ which surges with such ferocity and power, akin to a burst dam letting water flow back to the ocean and comes to crashing crescendo. The sound of the calming tide plays out and soothes your soul, bringing you back into the world full aware that you have experienced a truly breath-taking musical journey. Thrice Woven exceeds the hype laid before it and sits comfortably at the high-end of a cult back catalogue filled with all-time classics.