Review Summary: Wolves in the Throne Room swap personality for aggression.
Fans who've been following Wolves in the Throne Room since they debuted onto the black metal scene with Diadem of 12 Stars
(or perhaps earlier) will immediately notice an ideological shift on Black Cascade
, though perhaps not the one they envisioned after the surprisingly controversial Malevolent Grain
EP. Unlike Malevolent Grain
, an album that was highlighted by guest-vocalist Jamie Meyers' (ex-Hammers of Misfortune) stronghold over the music's decidedly (and unexpectedly) shoe-gazy sound, Black Cascade
does not feature further departure from the band's more primal, aggressive black metal beginnings. In fact it's quite the contrary. While the album still features the band's windswept tremolo picking and harshly contrasted shrieks, their previous penchant for extended ambient passages has been given the boot, resulting in what some would call a loss of character.
Of course debating the merits of the band's former albums' use of ambiance is a highly personal argument. Fans of the band traditionally split into two schisms: while some prefer Diadem
's textured ambiance as an accent to the band's black metal sound, others prefer Two Hunters
effectiveness of focusing more on ambiance and using black metal as the accent. Black Cascade
does not in any way present the happy medium. In the interest of the band's now rigorous intent to tour, Black Cascade
sets out to present the band at their rawest. However, given that the band has not simplified track durations in-lieu of their more streamlined sound, the music does slightly overstay it's welcome. But for those who have the patience to endure 49.9 minutes of surprisingly traditional black metal, Black Cascade
does a more than adequate job.
Ross Sewage, session-bassist on Black Cascade
, is the odd man out on Black Cascade
. Known for his work with the Carcass-worshipping death metal band Impaled and the tongue-in-cheek death-thrash of ex-Razorback steadfast Ghoul, Ross isn't typically the first name that pops into mind when I think “black metal”. Fittingly, bass is much the same. An instrument not traditionally used in black metal, Ross' work is much like his relativity to the rest of the band: relatively inconsequential. That being said, his work on the bass is at least present and it does underpin the band's two wheel-men. The brothers Weaver --Nathan on vocals and guitar and Aaron on drums-- are still the band's call to fame, wonderfully balancing visceral and earthly tones in spite of their less than spectacular technical ability.
ultimately presents the band with a perplexing dilemma. For many fans of the band, Black Cascade
's mostly absent ambient element will prove to be a shift more dynamically disappointing than Malevolent Grain
's cleaner, dreamier aesthetic. As such, Black Cascade
is perhaps more suitably recommended to black metal's more traditional listeners, a group that has been largely alienated by the band's past outputs. This all results in an album that deserves the attention of those who've written them off in the past but demands that their fans approach it with caution. Those who are willing to take the plunge may be surprised in what they find. Or maybe not. In the end, Black Cascade
should be taken for what it is: fodder for the band's increasingly heralded live show and, at its simplest, a strong output in an increasingly stagnant, attention craved US black metal scene.