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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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