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Wolves In The Throne Room - Primordial Arcana review

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Band: Wolves In The Throne Room
Album: Primordial Arcana
Release date: August 2021

01. Mountain Magick
02. Spirit Of Lightning
03. Through Eternal Fields
04. Primal Chasm (Gift Of Fire)
05. Underworld Aurora
06. Masters Of Rain And Storm
07. Eostre
08. Skyclad Passage [bonus]

Back in my day, Wolves In The Throne Room only needed four tracks to be impressive!

In all fairness, back when WITTR first deviated from the 4-songs formula with 2011's Celestial Lineage, it was mostly to separate the interludes into their own tracks. And Celestial Lineage was the last absolutely fantastic WITTR album, so even without the same tracklist formula, they've shown that they can be great. WITTR's trajectory since deviating has been a bit interesting. First branching out with an ambient / progressive electronic detour with 2014's Celestite, and then returning to the atmospheric black metal sound with something that was a bit more polished and somewhat straight-forward with Thrice Woven, to mixed results. So even if their 2010s material wasn't really on the level of their 2000s material, you still could at least have one guarantee: long songs. And upon meeting the tracklist for their newest record, Primordial Arcana, there was one thing that I noticed that made my heart skip a beat: only one of the songs was over 10 minutes, and only by less than a minute.

So one of atmospheric black metal's most beloved epic-writers is pivoting to even more straight-forward material? That was my initial thought upon hearing the advance singles too, and that hasn't changed much upon listening to the entire thing. So calibrate your expectations, folks! Primordial Arcana is Wolves In The Throne Room re-inventing themselves. For better or worse, because it's still recognizably the same band that released all those masterpieces and it's hard not to compare the two, but compared to Thrice Woven, which was still pretty much in that style, albeit with some signifiers of the coming direction, Primordial Arcana takes a bigger leap into melodic black metal and a bigger emphasis on riffs and rhythms rather than atmosphere. Now don't get me wrong, this is still first and foremost an atmospheric black metal album, and while you can tell it's the same band, this is the further they ever went from home without completely abandoning black metal like they did on Celestite.

So, it's no Two Hunters stylistically, that much is settled. It's still atmospheric, but there's a bit of a different vibe that is being presented. You can still stick different signifiers like "epic", "dark", "pastoral", "naturalistic" and whatever to it, just like you did to their previous albums, but this one feels less "celestial", which is rich coming from a band where half of the album's titles have to do with the astral plane. This one feels more down to earth, even if it's still as far away from what we could call "civilization". I mean "primordial" is in the title, so you can expect it to be a bit more pagan and ancient, and that is clearly reflected in how the album feels. There was never a Wolves In The Throne Room album that didn't feel like it was connected to the Cascadian landscapes, but this is the closest it felt like it is alive and it could bite you. Far from the most rabid black metal out there, even by atmospheric black metal standards, but for Wolves In The Throne Room to sound this direct, it's quite something.

It does have some similarities with Thrice Woven in its directness, but compared to the more muddy production of that one, Primordial Arcana somehow manages to sink the album back into an ethereal dreamlike feel akin to their previous work, something that I felt was missing on Thrice Woven. Though Kody Keyworth has been a live guitarist for the band since 2010 and has formally joined in 2017 and performed on Thrice Woven, this is the first album that he's joined the Weaver brothers as a songwriter. Which might explain why the songwriting here is tighter than on the previous record, even if it doesn't live up to the classics, it still shows just how exciting it can still be to have a new Wolves In The Throne Room album to join you on your nature walks.

Written on 21.08.2021 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments: 10   Visited by: 118 users
21.08.2021 - 20:55

I's different indeed, but it's still WITTR.

"We have to change in order to remain the same" (my favorite management guru quote)
Cthulhu for President! Why settle for the lesser evil?
21.08.2021 - 21:03
Dudeist Priest
There is SO much happening in the new BTBAM, I've just been listening to is since yesterday. I think come Monday, I can give this a spin.
That rug really tied the room together, did it not?
21.08.2021 - 21:12
Meat and Potatos
I don't know if I'm just in a non-atmo mood nowadays but I didn't feel this one very much
Rose is red, violet is blue. Flag is win, Baba is you.
21.08.2021 - 21:37

I've listened to the album several times now. And I generally agree with the review. It's certainly not as good as their first 4 albums. It's better than Thrice Woven, but there is something wrong with it. After listening to the singles when they first came out I was convinced this would end up being a mess or a disaster. It's better as a sum of its parts. The production is my problem with it. I get that it's "atmospheric" but the production makes it feel toothless. There's a distinct lack of ferocity to it. Not their earlier works were the most feisty but there was still some feral level of rage to it. Black Cascade comes to mind.

Overall it's in that 7 to 8 territory for me, which is certainly better than I was expecting after initially hearing the singles but overall a bit of a let down considering how much I love their first 4.
22.08.2021 - 08:05
Lord Slothrop

I need to give it some more listens, but so far I'm really enjoying it. It may not have a lot of bite to it, but I find myself getting caught up in the melodies and atmosphere with ease.
22.08.2021 - 20:49
Lou Rambler

It is not only a problem of changing the style (wich for me it is up to a point) or longer or shorter songs... I've listened to the album several times along the weekend, but i also gave a spin to Celestial Lineage and Two Hunters... and man it's so sad. Throughout those albums there is a kind of tension that keeps you enganged fron start to finish. But the songs on this one completely lack this tension. Even the longest track i think is the weakest, wich being who they are is very significant.
Maybe it has to do with the composition (i think "Thrice Woven" is even better than this one) but, above all, my complain is with the whole sound of the band.
There was a sense of uniqueness in the sound of WITTR that kept them apart from the rest of bands of similar genre, and this sense is almost lost here. They sound just like an atmoblack band, not very different from many others... And I never would have thought that I would say this about WITTR.
22.08.2021 - 23:46
The Ancient One
Will give it a shot. I remember really, really enjoying them back in the days of yore and four (tracks) ... before just sort of being nonplussed by a couple albums and forgot about them largely.

well written review.
get the fuck off my lawn.

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23.08.2021 - 09:27
Cynic Metalhead
Nasha Vich Paisa
Wolves mentioned somewhere about the change in musical direction many moons ago. Like BC said, I've forget about them largely.

Great review.

Goes in my checklist.
14.10.2021 - 06:47

I agree to most of tge comments here. The album feels toothless, the production, lifeless. The biggest song is the biggest disappointment. Other than the 2nd ,3rd and the 8th track none of the other songs does anything remotely interesting. A very weak atmo black album in my opinion.
14.10.2021 - 10:33
Mr Nice Guy
I never found WITTR to be very intresting imo, this album is no exception, it just doesn't do Anything for me.
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