Wolves in the Throne Room - Primordial Arcana
Relapse Records
Atmospheric Black Metal
8 songs (49:36)
Release year: 2021
Relapse Records
Reviewed by Goat

After repelling/delighting their fanbase with 2014's twinkly keyboard bullshit/mesmerising ambient beauty (delete as appropriate!) Celestite, Washington's favourite sons returned to pastures grim and blastbeat-strewn on 2017's Thrice Woven and here, on their seventh album, the formula is smoothly hewn and with a clear enough production to be far from the forest depths from whence the ecologicals first emerged. Ironic, considering that this is their first album to be recorded, produced, and mixed all by themselves in their own Owl Lodge Studios in the Washington woods! Yet maybe that's the direction they want to take things, as also hinted at in the generally shorter track lengths here, with only a single song going over ten minutes. The band haven't gone mainstream or anything, perish the thought; the album opens with the rather gorgeous Mountain Magick, beginning with ambience and percussion before building atop a cinematic melody, blackened drums and even shrieks in the service of that grandiose rise and fall, to the point of near catchiness. This is certainly the most accessible that Wolves in the Throne Room have been ever whilst remaining in the metallic realm, and criticism of the songwriting here is limited to how sudden certain shifts can be when once the band would have spent far longer developing themes.

Yet the growing experience and wisdom shows clearly otherwise, with the likes of Spirit of Lightning incorporating synths smoothly and naturally as a major part of the sound and to enhance the atmospheric impact of the track. The use of plucked instruments here and elsewhere is Negură Bunget-esque (regular readers will know what a flattering comparison this is) in its impact and such folky frills helps ensure the music remains an atmospheric thrill. And that's before you get to the opening trumpet blasts of Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire) or the raven croaks on Underworld Aurora - not that the base black metal is bad without them, of course. Masters of Rain and Storm, the longest track present, has a compelling groovy riff beneath the atmospheric embellishments, and despite a lengthy acoustic interlude doesn't drag or feel drawn out. Sure, the record is summed up well by the keyboard ambience and flowing river of finale Eostre, but the impact of the music is felt in the heart as well as the ears, and Primordial Arcana is a love story to nature. The best black metal is based in reality, and the shared human experience of walking in the woods and touching a tree that was there before you were born and will likely be there many years after you die is something ineffable. Wolves of the Throne Room aren't quite as awe-inspiring, but their music is heartfelt and this is an excellent album from them.

Killing Songs :
Mountain Magick, Spirit of Lightning, Masters of Rain and Storm
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Wolves in the Throne Room that we have reviewed:
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestite reviewed by Neill and quoted 10 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - BBC Sessions 2011 Anno Domini reviewed by Neill and quoted no quote
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage reviewed by Alex and quoted 76 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade reviewed by James and quoted 86 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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