Wolves in the Underworld

2 Feb

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Caught Olympia, WA’s WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM earlier this week at the Camden Underworld, on the urgings of this black metal-loving coworker of mine and his righteous galpal. As I shy away from bands who use highly-stylized, unreadable fonts on their CD cover artwork, I’ve consequently missed out on nearly all this scene has offered up, pretty much since its VENOM inception. But as WOLVES are proud serfs in the feudal Southern Lord kingdom, this time I said hell yeah to going.

Openers POMBAGIRA – with diminutive chick drummer – gave extendo sludge the ol’ college try and came up well short, sounding more like a trail of gooey molasses that anything rhythmically compelling. I’ll admit doom is fucking tough to nail, so I’ll check back with them in a year or so. MIDDENHELM were much more together with a nutty black metal/battle metal hybrid – my pal commented that “these guys sound like early EMPEROR demos” if that means something to ya. But really: how serious can you take a singer who acted like Roger Miret of AGNOSTIC FRONT while wearing big white ear plugs onstage? Hey if I’m gonna lose some of my hearing, the least I expect is that the band is willing to do the same.

But WOLVES ripped everything/everybody else to bits in the place with a mere flick of their claws. All the little studio subtleties found on their latest Two Hunters CD – forest sound effects, female backing vocals, sonic separation – here were wiped away clean. In their place were even gnarlier twin gtrs (WOLVES are now a 4-piece) and a monumentally loud blastbeat wallop that flattened me like a pancake against the backwall. It was a heavy, multisensory experience. Their mix of brute physicality and melodious riffing bolstered a sweeping sense of grand tragedy, reminding this black metal newbie of nothing so much as THE SWANS, circa their Feel Good Now tour on the back of their great Children of God rec in 1987. But unlike THE SWANS’ Ted Parsons, this drummer wasn’t just stone pillar – he was propellor, helm, and compass on this ship, all rolled into one. Shit if all black metal was this musical, I’d be all over this stuff. See em live if you can, they’re channeling something powerful indeed.

Thanks to benn oudeman for the photo from the Underworld gig

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7 Responses to “Wolves in the Underworld”

  1. mark February 2, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    I have a friend who is a staunch non Metal guy who loves this band. He was urging me to check WITTR out. Gonna do that ASAP! Sounds like a good show! Remember Boyd Rice’s comments re: hearing loss in RE/Search?

  2. mrowster February 3, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    Though somehow I find their CD a bit underwhelming – the arty production syphons off some of their power.

    So what did Boyd say?

  3. mark February 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

    Something like, “hey, it comes with the territory”. Typically fearless statement from the dark one. That said, my tinnitus drives me bonkers sometimes! I don’t think earplugs really help once you get past a certain volume level.

  4. mrowster February 3, 2009 at 6:10 pm #

    OK so I found it – Industrial Culture Handbook, p.51:

    “Yes, I always tell them I want maximum volume, but they’re afraid. You need to have somebody right there to push it up a little louder when they turn it down.” Right on!

  5. mark February 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    Recently re-read that one. I just found out today that TG is playing in SF in April. Oh, yeah. Nice.

  6. Dave Lang February 4, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    Good review! I’ve got the first WITTR CD somewhere ’round here and I remember it being a pretty good take on the now rather generic music form known as Black Metal. I gotta admit, despite my early touting of the genre on the blog, I haven’t listened to ANY of it since the birth of my daughter nearly 2 years ago. Has fatherhood turned me into a pussy? Possibly. I’d rather listen to Ian Matthews than Burzum these days… what a lame-o!

  7. mrowster February 4, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    Dave: Ian Matthews could probably burn that silly BURZUM church to the ground with his gorgeous voice alone if he wanted to.

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