By Eric Wendt
For people unfamiliar with Wolves in the Throne Room, diving into their oeuvre might feel kind of like walking into an abstract film halfway through its running time. But that’s kind of the point. As the band itself states, “[Black Metal]… needs to be deeply personal and obscure. The lyrics, the images, the melodies should be shrouded in mist and fog.” And if you’re a heavy music fan, you’re probably aware that the band knows what the fuck it’s talking about. But if you’re still not sure what it’s all about, have no fear; WITTR, comprised of brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver, allowed Synthesis to prick their brains some. It was heavy, doc.
Do you see your music as purely art, in the abstract sense, or as more of a catalyst to get people to change the way they think and live in modern society?
At its best, Black Metal is a romantic worldview for our post-industrial world, a world facing the possibility of paradigm-shattering technological upheaval. It is an attempt to unleash a wild and feral spirit that is the adversary of the modern materialistic culture of the west. It yearns for an imagined lost, ancient way of life that stands in stark contrast to the banality of mainstream culture. So there is an “activist” element. We’re trying to push these ideas into people’s consciousness. Which, I suppose, is the role of art in society.
What is it that draws you to metal, as opposed to say something like hip hop?
Mainly because we’re coming from a deeply rural perspective. We live in the woods; my wife and I have an organic farm. Metal evokes an ancient, transcendent, pagan spirit that reflects the lifestyle that we aspire to. The energy of cities has little to do with our vision for things. It is too hard to create your own world in a city, so it’s better for us to live in a small town.
We want to live in an alternate dimension. And I feel like it is happening all around us. On our record Black Cascade we have a song called “Crystal Ammunition” that has an interesting story behind it. We have an eccentric friend who buys old houses and buildings and paints them black inside and out. He owns maybe 30 houses and a number of performance venues. These buildings are the home to many fringe dwellers and visionaries. His intention is to create a black world within this one — it is an occult vision manifested in brick and wood. One building he owns is an old grange hall that is hidden in a very secluded bit of forest (a grange hall is where pioneers in the 19th century would gather for dances, community events and whatnot.) Around the time we were about to record Black Cascade, we performed there. After the music was done, people gathered around the fire outside to talk and drink mead. I started talking to a young family. The couple had a number of children, dressed like gnomes, who are all fans of WITTR. These kids told me all about their “schooling.” One thing they did was to create shells loaded with gunpowder and crystals to wage a spiritual war. This was all very matter-of-fact to them. It was all very clear to me. Here was the manifestation of this occult city superimposed over the “real one.” People are living by their own rules in a space of myth and boundless promise. This is the potential of Black Metal, though it rarely delivers.
Your band gets pegged as Black Metal, but the content of the songs, the whole aesthetic, doesn’t seem to fit the cookie-cutter ideal of that. How do you feel about the label?
Wolves in the Throne Room is a special case perhaps, because we don’t consider ourselves to be a Black Metal band. We’re basically tripped-out death hippies. We took aspects of Black Metal and twisted them to our own ends. We’ve got no interest in staying true to genre conventions. So I guess I don’t have any particular attachment to the label. We’ve been doing this long enough to be our “own thing.”
You’ve said that Celestial Lineage [latest record] is the third part of a trilogy that started with Two Hunters. Could you expand on how this record connects to the others, as well as how it differs?
We knew that this record would be about temple building, both physical and metaphorical. Two Hunters and Black Cascade show an idea emerging out of the mist. With this record, we give it form and destroy it at the same time. We wanted the record to evoke liturgical music, weighted with ancientness and melancholy grandeur. We wanted the instruments to be hazy and hard to define, almost to blink in and out of existence. We wanted the focus to be on the stars and the moon rather than the bowels of the earth.
Between the new record and the tour, I’m sure you guys are plenty busy, but have you given any thought to what the future might hold for the band?
I’m more interested in focusing on other things in my life — I want to build a new house at my farm and reconnect to all my friends at home. We’ve been focusing almost exclusively on music for the past few years, and I look forward to getting back to a more quiet woodland lifestyle. But we definitely have some vague ideas about future music. We’ll do something more out-there than what we’ve done in the past. I want to go deeper in the direction of chaos pulsing, astral blur, dust and moss. The new record is really an ambient record recorded over a metal record. We’ll be expanding on the psychedelic and dreamy sounds.