The number six has minor significance to Wolves in the Throne Room with Thrice Woven. Not only is this their sixth studio album, but it’s also been six years since they’ve released any new material remotely black metal. 2014’s Celestite was an intriguing ambient record that took their synthesizer interludes and pushed them into full-length songs. It wasn’t what a lot of us were expecting after their excellent Celestial Lineage album, but as a companion piece, its existence made sense.
That it would take six years for Wolves in the Throne Room to go full-on black metal on an album turns out not to be a deterrent. On Thrice Woven, the Weaver brothers, along with guitarist Kody Keyworth, have taken back the “Cascadian” style of black metal that has been replicated, dissected, mimicked and watered-down in their absence.
Though they easily fit back into that chilly atmosphere, Wolves in the Throne Room are not keeping things tidy. There’s always been a willingness on the band’s part to work with outside collaborators, infusing their music with creative embers that couldn’t be sparked by them alone. Don McGreevy provides acoustic guitar on opening track “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and Neurosis’ Steve Von Till does the same, as well as some vocals, on “The Old Ones Are With Us.”
It’s Anna von Hausswolff, however, who makes the lasting mark on the album. The Swedish singer/songwriter put out a fantastic album in 2015 with The Miraculous and her vocal presence on “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” is a revelation. She adds herself to a long list of stellar guest singers the group has employed on most of their albums since Diadem of 12 Stars.
Outside of the other musicians involved, the core of Wolves in the Throne Room is a towering hunk of intensity and incorrigible madness. These songs sway with tension, bouts of calming synths challenged by a stifling tide of overwhelming darkness. Keyworth immediately fits into the band’s dynamic, adding vocals alongside Nathan Weaver and having influence on the progression of certain songs, including the dirge unleashed in the finale of “Angrboda.”
Six years can be an eternity in the evolving world of metal, as bands come and go, sounds change and stay stagnant. Though Wolves in the Throne Room was never really gone, they seemed content to take time off and refocus. This makes their return on Thrice Woven the more rewarding, as they have not succumbed to the temptation of regurgitating what has been done by dozens of bands in the current decade.
(released September 22, 2017 on Artemesia Records)