Wolves in the Throne Room

Malevolent Grain

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As one might imagine would be the case on a two-song EP, Malevolent Grain splits evenly in half. Still, Wolves in the Throne Room helps listeners cleave this artistic statement in two by producing a pair of tracks of such clearly separable intent and success: the first a gaudy distillation of the worst moments of their previous record, the second a thrilling affirmation of the brutality explored on their following one. "A Looming Resonance" seems, with its phasing guitars, maundering pace, and lightning-crack drums, to be aiming for a sort of Burzum-influenced melancholia. But for the first time in the band's discography, they don't sound invested in the performance, and female vocals parsing into clean harmonies and (horror of horrors!) discernible lyrics evoke Evanescence at their most high budget. The feminine countermelodies that once grafted a haunted quality atop Two Hunters' sonic violence are indulged here to garishness, teetering off black metal's tightrope into outright juvenility. Such terms, however, don't apply to second track "Hate Crystal," which pulses with a white-hot fury in full ebb. Aptly titled, even at ten minutes it contains a fury much larger, as if compressed for centuries and now something brilliantine. It dissolves in its final third into something looser and more ambient but retains every ounce of its opening bluster: a ten-minute masterpiece of black metal, foreshadowing the breathless growth exhibited by the band's third record but tragically sharing space with an absolute clunker. Those entranced by Black Cascade's power will find its root in "Hate Crystal"; more casual fans may wish to remain oblivious to "A Looming Resonance."

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