Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
Southern Lord
Black Metal
4 songs (49:16)
Release year: 2009
Southern Lord
Reviewed by James
Major event

The annals of music history are littered with brave albums. There was Ulver's step into the avant-garde that was Themes From William Blake's The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell. There was Between The Buried An Me's ridiculously ambitious Colors. But it's very rare to find an album that's brave because it takes a step back. I'm sure we all thought Wolves In The Throne Room would continue down the path they started on with Two Hunters, making epic, experimental, post-rock-influenced black metal. So to do what they've done with Black Cascade, that is, to strip it all down to basics (even more so than Diadem Of 12 Stars, as the female vocals have been excised completely here) is certainly a maverick move. It's likely to cost them many of the fans they gained with their last effort, but then, isn't black metal about doing whatever you want, other people be damned? Indeed, it could be argued Black Cascade is a raging riposte to those who claimed that their refusal to buy into black metal cliches makes them somehow less “true”.

Black Cascade is certainly a very apt title, as from start to finish it's an unrelenting torrent of furious riffage and blasting drums (for a close point of comparison, imagine the latter two-thirds of Fauna's masterful Rain). This is Wolves In The Throne Room at their rawest and angriest, Nathan Weaver howling over each winding slab of black metal like a wronged man, tearing up his throat in order to sound like the primal fury of nature herself. And yet, that familiar Wolves In The Throne Room sound is ever present, each song stacked with sorrowful melodies that show regret for the destruction of the planet, as well as rage against its perpetrators. Indeed, playing such a no-frills style of black metal seems to have encouraged the band to focus on writing some of their best riffs yet. The band certainly have a talent for it, and stacking them end on end without respite means that we remember how, despite all the dabblings in other genres, Wolves In The Throne Room are still very much a black metal band, and one of the best there are today. There's still the odd unorthodox move here and there (Wanderer Above The Sea Of Fog even has a drum solo!), but from beginning to the end (well, almost the end, but I'll come to that in a bit), Black Cascade is a blasting, snarling beast of an album.

I'd be lying if it was perfect, as always. As good as Wolves In The Throne Room's atmospheric black metal is, it's a whole hour of it (NOTE: After writing this I found the album was 10 minutes shorter than I thought it was, which I think says something about how difficult this album is) and if you're not in the right mood, it can seem very dry without all the bells and whistles of Two Hunters. Wolves In The Throne Room seem intent on challenging you here, and you're going to have to sit down and give this a few listens if you really want this to click with you. It's certainly not got the instant appeal of Two Hunters, it's an investment more than anything else. It's too early to say how time will judge Black Cascade (you could argue that the greatest albums have some sort of instant appeal as well as a long-term payoff), but at this point in time, Black Cascade is a more than worthy addition to the Wolves In The Throne Room catalogue, and it should crop up somewhere in my end of year list. Now let's see if there are any more hidden depths this album has yet to reveal...

Killing Songs :
All, pretty much.
James quoted 86 / 100
Alex quoted 93 / 100
Goat quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Wolves in the Throne Room that we have reviewed:
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestite reviewed by Neill and quoted 10 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - BBC Sessions 2011 Anno Domini reviewed by Neill and quoted no quote
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage reviewed by Alex and quoted 76 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - Diadem of 12 Stars reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
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