Gnomes in the Throne Room

If you listen to [black metal], but you don’t know what phase the moon is in, or what wild flowers are blooming, then you have failed.

Lately I have been listening to the cd “Diadem of 12 Stars” by Wolves in the Throne Room. It is pretty darn solid– another US based “post-black metal” project from the northwestern US. I suppose in that sense I would group it with bands like Nachtmystium and Agalloch.

The music is rather good, drawing out long melodic phrases that progress into discordant ominous segments, with excellent, layered, dirty, droning distorted guitars, sparse melancholy acoustic guitars, chanting and some other piano-like sounds. There is also some female singing which really boosts the atmosphere, and the focal vocal screaming is very effectively performed and sounds very human. I also like the recording. For some reason the drums are panned a little bit to the right, but I do think they are recorded rather well– a little flat on purpose. This works because everything has a very wet and slightly dull sound across it (and not in any way that hurts the songs, but accentuates them). So I do like this music quite a bit: sad, epic music that draws on the landscape and thus paints a portrait in the background rather than demanding your “total active attention.” It feels like you are watching a skyline or landscape change shape. One thing to note is that these songs are pretty damn long (13-20 minutes apiece). This does not always work in favor of the music, as it is not length per-say that makes songs feel long, but effectiveness of the time used.

Naturally, I visited their website and discovered that they do present themselves quite seriously in an artistic sense. Their website is minimalist but well-designed and has a small manifesto or artist statement describing their intentions and inspirations*. I don’t really buy all the things some bands say about how great life was way back when and how people are miserable now because they’re not allowed to kill each other daily, etc. (I’m exaggerating and paraphrasing – they don’t actually say this)

There are some nice portions of their statement though:

Our music is perhaps what happens after the initial, necessary, hateful burst; after the psychic explosion that is Black Metal wipes away that which came before: the sick and twisted “truths” of our modern condition. For in Black Metal, we see great truth, transcendence and power. Black Metal is the cleansing fire that frees us from the bondage of rationality, science, morality, religion, leaving us free to choose our own path.

This music often feels like an anti-thesis of the modernistic, over-the-top, bleached-white Space Odyssey 2001-decor we are living it. You know, the iPod marketing that tricked everyone and their business into making things marketable toward tiny niches and at the same time allowing customers little or no power over the function of their products (I include the sale of bottled water in this kind of scheme). On the most blatant level, it’s the death of customer service, but on a more significant level it implies the death of community and tribal values– something these bands lament. I do think that this modern consumerism and the “post-Satanic” bands opposing it are intrinsically linked in ways that are sometimes difficult to describe.

This is addressed appropriately by the band in an interview on Nocturnal Cult, featuring some interesting reflections on the nature of the black metal movement and how it relates to modernity.

True Norwegian black metal is completely unbalanced – that is why it is so compelling and powerful. It is the sound of utter torment, believing to one’s core that winter is eternal. BM is about destruction, destroying humanity; destroying ones own self in an orgy of self loathing and hopelessness. I believe one must focus on this image of eternal winter in order to understand Black Metal, for it is a crucial metaphor that reveals our sadness and woe as a race. In our hubris, we have rejected the earth and the wisdom of countless generations for the baubles of modernity. In return, we have been left stranded and bereft in this spiritually freezing hell.

Unfortunately, he does reference Garm at the end of the interview. I think, if you mention an interview with Garm in your own interview that decries popular music and culture, you are discrediting yourself. Especially when you are revealing your Garm-lust over a statement decrying those who possess Garm-lust.

Check out some sample tracks here:

Alternatively you could read this better-written blog review of this album, replete with an mp3 download.

Bonus for all you people who don’t bathe: they’re eco-green!


* It seems they’ve taken down that artistic statement since I wrote this. Splendid timing on my behalf, since I actually wrote this like 2 weeks ago. I guess the band should let me know if this is a problem.


~ by chaosrexmachinae on September 8, 2007.

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