Wolves in the Throne Room / Alexander Tucker

  • Brighton
  • United Kingdom
  • Engine Rooms
  • 2010-05-21

Alexander Tucker’s association with metal and dark experimental music is clear from the fact of his inclusion on this bill — though when taking the stage with his cello you could be forgiven for thinking it was a weird stretch to move from this to Wolves in the Throne Room’s black metal. Though folk and chamber influence are definitely found as a strong presence in Tucker’s music (the man comically introduced his set as classical music), his string instrument is much less the defining force of the sound than the bank of pedals and samplers that sit at his feet. His work has an organic experimental nature as he layers up riffs with his sampler intuitively and exploratively, building up, cutting out, building up again — bringing out influences from noise, improv and the heavy end of post-rock. The layering is effective, though sometimes heavy handed and with some off timing in effects-heavy section switches. The vocals unfortunately too are often a disappointing addition to the music, somehow lessening it’s experimental interest as well. The set overall is engaging though and whether they were expecting to be or not, the audience were definitely captured by the end.

Wolves handle these mood changes and shifts of gear masterfully

US black metallers Wolves in the Throne Room have been making a name for themselves over the last few years, their last two records released on thinking man’s metal label of choice Southern Lord. Their style, blasted through the tiny Engine Rooms, is built around two distinct sounds, the first being classic shredded, treble-heavy guitars over frantic double-kick and snare work, under vicious screaming vokills. The band tear through these sections with a powerful intensity and the required sense of disquiet. The drums also effectively often drop from full pummel to half pelt giving the music more space to rock out with thrashing guitars. What elevates Wolves in the Throneroom above some other BM groups though is their use of a counterpoint sound. It’s not unheard of to match the agressive blast sections with quiet spaces, to offer symphonic plateaus with sweeping musical gestures or to pick at delicate guitar notes before ripping back in — but Wolves handle these mood changes and shifts of gear masterfully, with different approaches always working in the song’s context and forever keeping the music interesting. Sometimes the drums will cut out to ringing distorted top-end guitar notes which harmonise over time as patterns develop, elsewhere guitar will chug away as an atmosphere builds. At other points the drums may keep beating a slow, post-metal mood, whilst deep chords are droned and sustained. The interplay between the rise and fall, the intense and the contemplative, is worked effectively, and if you add in the continuation of the ambience brought by the on-stage foliage and stormy sound-effects, alongside head banging that could break walls, you’ve got a full package.

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