Wolves in the Throne Room

Diadem of 12 Stars

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Hailing from what's fast emerging as the American equivalent of Scandinavia (at least where heavy metal is concerned), the Pacific Northwest, Wolves in the Throne Room compose haunting black metal inspired by fog-draped forests and long, dreary, dark winters. But the imaginatively named trio is not your everyday, pagan-worshipping, blood-sucking, corpse-paint-donning black metal band, either; but rather residents of a self-sufficient commune situated outside of Olympia, WA, where frugal living conditions help dictate the band's focus on music -- not dressing up like it's Halloween all year-round. Well, maybe just the mandatory hooded cloak, but that's almost de rigueur when signing to an independent black metal label like Vendlus. Anyway, cloaks or no cloaks, the music presented by Wolves in the Throne Room on their full-length debut, Diadem of 12 Stars, is truly powerful stuff: consisting of ten-plus-minute agglomerations of alternating furious blastbeats, sweeping mournful melodies, buzzsaw riffs, and scorched earth vocal screeches. Ultimately, the music's desolate ambiance is arguably taken to extremis on the 20-minute title track, which, with its additional neo-folk elements, atmospheric quiet passages, and eerie female voices decrying lyrics about mankind's lost affinity with nature, evokes almost palpable visions of cryptic pagan rituals. Yes, the band's instrumental execution could be a little bit tighter all around, their arrangements from passage to passage more fluid, and of course there's little on offer that hasn't already been done before; but that doesn't mean Diadem of 12 Stars won't provide a stimulating listening for experienced fans of black metal.

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