If there is any US black metal band you can always count on to deliver groundbreaking, quality extreme music the last few years, Washington's Wolves in the Throne Room is certainly at the top of the list. The band's two previous releases, Diadem of Twelve Stars and Two Hunters, are adventurous examples of what happens when you combine Norwegian styled black metal with atmospheric, folk, and psychedelic elements. Here on their latest, Black Cascade, the band once again pushes the boundaries of the genre, four long tracks dripping with atmosphere, drama, beauty, and violent aggression. From the opening notes of "Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog", the listener is quickly sucked into Wolves in the Throne Room's world of haunting savagery, tortured vocals stabbing through the mix of varied guitar textures and pounding drum blasts. The guitar work is especially well done, as there is an assorted mix of clean shimmering chords, trademark black metal tremelo picked riffs, and melodic lead lines. The brooding "Ahrimanic Trance" is one part raging epic, the other a dark, ambient nightmare, the band doing their best to create spooky soundscapes that are as powerful as they are stark. The use of analog keyboards only adds to the already dense and layered sound that the band is able to conjure up. Gravelly vocals, some of the most chilling you will hear in the genre, permeate the epic feel of "Ex Cathedra", a ponderous, swaying gem that gives you the feeling of a midnight journey through a dark, ominous forest, with strange sounds and shadows surrounding you at every venture. Closing number "Crystal Ammunition" kicks off with pummeling blast beats and textured guitar riffs, slowly morphing into a majestic black metal headbanger, keyboards and fast picked tremelo chords adding a symphonic element while wailing vocal rasps provide the chilling theatrics.
Wolves in the Throne Room have moved from talented upstarts to potential leaders of the 'new wave of black metal' with Black Cascade. This is intelligent stuff, geniously well crafted, with surprises at every turn. I'd even advise not only black metal fans to devour this as quickly as possible, but those into the more aggressive ends of the prog spectrum might also find lots to love here. Southern Lord's got a guaranteed winner with this one!
01. Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog
02. Ahrimanic Trance
03. Ex Cathedra
04. Crystal Ammunition