Wolves In The Throne Room - Black Cascade
With their previous two albums, Wolves In The Throne Room were in danger of becoming the 'Black Metal band for people who don't like Black Metal'. By discarding the bedroom Satanism and occasionally dodgy politics of their peers - and utilising swathes of treated guitars that owed as much to My Bloody Valentine as the Scandinavian masters - they had managed to catch as much positive mainstream press as any band from the genre had done previously.
Perhaps to prove themselves to the underground, Black Cascade sees the band ditch some the atmospherics for an altogether heavier set, although the use of analogue synths as backing creates more than a few moments that can be described as 'symphonic', especially as refrains and motifs recur throughout. This sense of organic unity binds the album as a whole and, in essense, that's the abiding feeling one is left with. Despite ramping up the volume and dropping some of the elements that made Two Hunters such a success, Wolves ... still manage to create something that is often quite ... beautiful.
The nihilism of Black Metal is self-indulgent. It may seek to hold a mirror up to its disgust with humanity (and therefore with itself) but who really notices? It is infinitely more subversive to rise to the challenge and find beauty despite the world we find ourselves in. Somewhere in the charred hearts of its proponents, BM recognises that - otherwise why romanticise the force of nature as so many acts do? The lyrics of WitTR are, inevitably, largely incoherent but there can't be too many albums of this type that clearly contain the phrase "I love you", who- or wherever the sentiment is directed towards.
Whether Black Cascade is the 'roots' album the band intended - at least in terms of re-establishing their underground credentials - is up for debate, but anyone enamoured with the furthest reaches of today's thriving alternative metal scene will find a solid album that slots perfectly into the band's artistic trajectory so far.
Do go down to the woods today. You're in for a big surprise.