Wolves In The Throne Room “Primordial Arcana” Review

Wolves In The Throne Room
Primordial Arcana
Relapse Records
Released: August 20, 2021

Wolves In The Throne Room return with Primordial Arcana, their Relapse Records debut

Lush, temperate rainforests. Crisp, clear glacial springs. Forested foothills and deep, dense valleys enveloped by majestic mountains of might. When such images are paired with black metal, one might be immediately transported to Norway, the land of fog, fjords, and Fenriz. Well, not this time. Nope. This time, folks, you are about to burn in the Pacific Ocean’s ‘Ring Of Fire’, a literal ring of volcanoes and mountains that make up much of the American Northwest (also known as The Cascades). Does there exist a more fitting locale for today’s review subject? Me thinks not!

Wolves In The Throne Room. You know them. You love them. Not much by way of introduction needs to be done here. For the uninitiated, the band throw-down a sometimes melodic, sometimes vicious blend of USBM (United States Black Metal) that occasionally recalls their forebears of True Norwegian Black Metal. That’s about all you need to know to follow along.

See Also: Spirit Adrift “Forge Your Future” Review

Today, we’ll be focusing on Wolves In The Throne Room’s most recent full-length studio effort, their seventh, entitled Primordial Arcana. Immediately, the most interesting thing about this release is that the band members handled everything themselves as it relates to the recording, with the tracking, mixing, and mastering being done at their very own Owl Lodge Studios on their farm in the middle of Washington State’s vast forests. Not surprisingly, as these guys are consummate pros at nearly everything they touch, it sounds absolutely incredible. One aspect that really stands out on this self-recorded beast is the drum production… a resonance and ring nearing on perfection.

The guys don’t stray too far from their now-perfected formula; though, Primordial Arcana does seem to have a touch more bite/ferocity than anything found on the last few releases. Perhaps not immediately discernible upon  first listen, subsequent spins have unearthed some nods to early American death metal. Peppered throughout the album are riffs that gallop at a pace befitting of Morbid Angel and Deicide, with a sprinkle of down-tuned morbidity à la the mighty Obituary. As a result, the album has achieved a breathability that I never knew was missing from Wolves In The Throne Room’s previous material. There is an ebb and flow that shifts seamlessly between extremes, yet does it so organically that less astute listeners might never, ever pick up on it.

The album starts off with the fittingly-titled Mountain Magick. It’s here that the tone of the album is set, all the grandeur and splendor can be found in spades. What one might expect from their ‘black metal’ isn’t necessarily the brew on tap here. Instead of an icy, arctic-chilled IPA, we get a frothy, room-temperature stout… a song whose robust, warm composition is more fitting of a humid summer day than a cold wintery night. This is a good thing. Very reminiscent of the late, great David Gold of Woods Of Ypres.

Of course, as expected, the majority of this album rides the frigid-yet-somehow-warm waves of melodic black metal. A good example of this tried and true template comes in the form of the song Spirit Of Lightning, displaying a cadence and woodland swagger of their fellow statesmen in Agalloch. To be honest, this is probably the least exciting of the eight songs on display. It isn’t a bad song, just a bit one-dimensional in a set of songs that seems to breathe in multi-dimensions. In fact, when stacked up against a song like Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire), there is just no comparison, with the latter being a booming, symphonic ode to cosmic funeral doom.

In closing, though not even close to being a death metal album, Primordial Arcana is an album that could have dropped in the hey day of early 90s death metal, and lived comfortably. It makes as much sense in today’s world of diversification as it would have back then. Let me draw a parallel: remember when you first saw Cathedral‘s Forest Of Equilibrium peeking out at you from behind the Carcass card in the record store? Remember being so intrigued by its cover art you took it home, pulled your Bolt Thrower tape out of your Walkman and popped this strange looking cassette in? Remember the first minute of Commiserating The Celebration? Remember how it all just made sense, even if your badass death metal self didn’t want to admit it? Yeah, kinda like that.

With Primordial Arcana, Wolves In The Throne Room have created a piece of music that transcends time and limitations. It lives and breathes in dimensions that exist beyond the plane of human consciousness. Sorry for the hippy, trippy stuff… this is what a Wolves In The Throne Room listening experience can do to a person.

For Fans Of: Agalloch, Emperor, Leviathan
Track Listing:

01. Mountain Magick
02. Spirit of Lightning
03. Through Eternal Fields
04. Primal Cham (Gift of Fire)
05. Underworld Aurora
06. Masters of Rain and Storm
07. Eostre
08. Skyclad Passage (Bonus Track)

Author Rating

  • overall
  • composition
  • enjoyment
  • production
  • variety
  • memorability