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|1.||Queen of the Borrowed Light|
|2.||Face in a Night Time Mirror - Part I|
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|4.||(A Shimmering Radiance) Diadem of Twelve Stars|
Review for 'Wolves in the Throne Room - Diadem of Twelve Stars'
Upon first hearing the name Wolves In The Throne Room, you may be tempted to guess what style of Black Metal this curiously named band plays. If you were guessing something along the lines of a brilliant and atmospheric form of Pagan Black Metal that summons the listener to the barely surviving ruins of some ancient mountain stronghold long since overgrown by the vast forest that surrounds it, revolving around themes of nature and sorrow, then you guessed correctly.
Chances are you may have already heard one or more songs by Wolves In The Throne Room before, as they tend to feature regularly in even the most generic of crappy metal magazines and have gained much attention and "hype" due to this, but don't let that put you off, because Wolves In The Throne Room live up to their hype and beyond, while unfortunately the same can most definately not be said about the vast majority of other Black Metal bands that feature regularly in so-called "Metal" magazines.
The reason for their hype and prevalent appearance in these magazines is a combination of their accessibility, their apparently "new" take on Black Metal, their typically North American band name, and also probably due to the fact that they live in some exclave in the most northwestern parts of the state of Washington, which for some bizarre reason is a fact that all the magazine-consuming kiddies take great pleasure in repeating to each other to prove their knowledge of the extreme metal scene... or something.
Back to reality, the reason for their success within the realm of real metal is the simple fact that their music is inspiring, beautiful and downright excellent, in much the same way that Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas musically lives up to it's infamous hype, and beyond.
Wolves In The Throne Room was formed in 2003 in Olympia, Washington, by brothers Aaron Weaver and Nathan Weaver, and Diadem Of 12 Stars is their first full length album, released in 2006 following a couple of demos that were produced between 2004 and 2005. Suffice to say, they couldn't have started their career in a better way, as Diadem Of 12 Stars is a magnificent album in every sense of the word. It consists of four tracks, with the first three tracks being roughly 14 minutes in length each, and the fourth track just surpassing the 20 minute mark.
The sheer length of each track allows Wolves In The Throne Room to take their time at building up the atmosphere of each song without having to rush anything, while bathing the listener in nothing but trance-inducing riffs. The themes around which Wolves In The Throne Room's music revolves, basically nature, shamanism and melancholy, coupled with the length of the songs, sets the scene perfectly for a Pagan Black Metal album of epic proportions. Imagine Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, smooth out the rough parts, add an extra layer of guitars and a range of slightly softer vocal styles and give it a slighly more peaceful vibe. What you have left is Diadem Of 12 Stars. Perfect.
Diadem Of 12 Stars begins with "Queen Of The Borrowed Light", and you can tell right from the first few moments exactly how the whole album is going to sound, but this is by no means a bad thing. It's actually reassuring, as knowing very well that you are going to enjoy every second of an album after hearing only the first few moments isn't something that every band can pull off. The sound in question is a very pleasant mixture of tremolo guitars, slightly muffled drums, and a fuzzy production that all give off a feeling of being in the middle of a distant rainy forest (but not exactly a rainforest), with the sun hidden by the thick mist that covers the surrounding cliffs. The atmosphere on this album is impossible to ignore.
The vocal performances are exemplary, with Nathan contributing the main shrieks, and guitarist Rick Dahlen, performing some lower-pitch backing growls, although the latter are slightly less prevalent. Also contributing is Jamie Myers who provides occasional female vocals that fit in perfectly and aren't overused at all, making their sparse appearance very welcome over the course of the album.
The next two tracks are in reality two parts of one song, "Face In A Night Time Mirror Part I" and "Face In A Night Time Mirror Part II", with the first part's highlights being an excellent build up throughout the whole first half of the song, beginning with Jamie's most outstanding performance by far and ending with some really monumental riffs, while the second part is slighly faster paced right from the start and features a gradual decrease in speed as the song approaches it's end.
The last track on the album is the title track "Diadem Of 12 Stars - A Shimmering Radiance", and it is a great conglomeration of many different playing styles, all interconnected and spanning a total of 20 minutes, including some of the most intense parts of the album where both the vocals and drums take on a more aggressive stance than on any other song. That said, the track also contains various pauses and slower passages too, making it a great overall experience to listen to and a perfect way to conclude this fantastic album.
What other albums sound similar to this?
Luckily, Wolves In The Throne Room have so far produced three other full length albums bearing their trademark majestic sound, with each album being a real work of art. In chronological order, they are Two Hunters from 2007, Black Cascade from 2009 and the recent Celestial Lineage from 2011. The variation in the way the instruments are played from album to album is minimal and almost unnoticeable, with Wolves In The Throne Room sticking to their successful formula, a formula that is just about perfect enough to not require any improvements or modifications. However, each album has it's own unique feel and it's own brilliant riffs, giving the impression that they are all different points of view focusing on the same theme, and because of this they all share the same epic atmosphere while retaining their individual identity.
If you have already exhausted each of Wolves In The Throne Room's albums and want to check out other bands, then your first stop should be the Ást album by Canadians Skagos, followed by Hvis Lyset Tar Oss by Burzum which is a close relative to Wolves In The Throne room's music in many aspects, and also Graveforests And Their Shadows by the Russian band Walknut.
Of course, there are many bands that play a similar style of Black Metal to Wolves In The Throne Room, some of which also proceed from the Northern U.S. states such as Alda, Agalloch, Velnias, Wilt and Falls Of Rauros, to name a few. Also worth mentioning are British bands Wodensthrone, Winterfylleth and Nhor, and last but not least some of the masterpieces by German legend Nargaroth such as Herbstleyd and Geliebte Des Regens.
Also, while not necessarily revolving around natural or pagan themes (at least I don't think it does), fellow U.S Black Metal band Abigail Williams provide an equally stunning atmosphere on their latest album, Becoming.
In a nutshell...
Sometimes an album's cover art speaks volumes, describing its contents better than words ever could, perfectly representing the atmosphere contained within the music. So, if you want to know what it feels like to stand in the middle of a majestic forest, surrounded by cliffs shrouded in mist, mighty trees, fallen boulders and a myriad of ferns, then Diadem Of 12 Stars is the album for you. Just stay the fuck away from the throne room.
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