Review Summary: Ley lines woven with exquisiteness.
While arguably being one of the most influential names that contributed to the evolution of what is now known as Cascadian black metal, Wolves in the Throne Room’s brightest moments reside in the latter part of their discography rather than the early one. The band managed to release their most complete album, Thrice Woven, in 2017, and then topped it with an even more grandiose, monumental work in 2021, Primordial Arcana. It has been quiet for them in terms of new material since then, but a studio return in 2023 comes in the form of this short but wonderful EP.
Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge balances between deep, haunting atmospheric black metal that the band is so proficient at, and a healthy dose of dark ambient (which they have also tried in the past, but arguably not in full success). It’s barely 20 minutes long, which is quite normal for the EP format but rather short in the timescales that Wolves in the Throne Room usually communicate at. Nevertheless, the compact material, wrapped in this stunning artwork, makes a good case for itself under this duration. The textured synths, along with melancholic / melodic guitar lines in the first two tracks “Beholden to Clan” and “Twin Mouthed Spring”, will resonate well with all the fans of the band and demonstrate its established sound.
In a way, multiple elements take turns and are showcased in short bursts in the EP, from the middle / slower paced parts of the aforementioned two tracks, which also feature distinct keyboard use, acoustic guitars and the familiar, worn out shrieking vocals, to the ambiance that takes hold from track three “Initiates of the White Hart”. While the fourth and closing three minute outro “Crown of Stone” has more of a clear ambient approach, the one prior to it features more pagan / ritualistic sounds that connect it with Primordial Arcana, and that is more or less the whole of the current state of Wolves in the Throne Room. The band does throw a couple of punches with a few more ominous guitar riffs at a couple of moments too, e.g. at the intro of “Twin Mouthed Spring”, and a rather intimidating synth based section in the middle of “Beholden to Clan”.
While it’s all there, you might be left yearning for more after Crypt of Ancestral Knowledge concludes. The listener gets a proper feel of everything but only a bit of it, and it will probably work well building your mood towards diving into their previous records again, if you haven’t spun them in a while. There’s nothing much to complain about here, and a day with new Wolves in the Throne Room material is always a good day now, especially since the band is in that form.