Wolves in the Throne Room – Primordial Arcana (Review)

Wolves in the Throne Room - Primordial ArcanaThis is the seventh album from US black metallers Wolves in the Throne Room.

A new Wolves in the Throne Room album is a huge event, especially for me, as they’re essentially one of my favourite bands.

With a rawer, sharper sound than Thrice Woven, the journey that Primordial Arcana embarks on is a richly textured experiential one that takes the listener back in time. Every Wolves in the Throne Room offers something a bit different, and on Primordial Arcana the band delve deeper into the old-school for inspiration.

Primordial Arcana consists of 45 minutes of nuanced, idiosyncratic black metal. It’s atmospheric black metal, but of a form that’s shaped not only by its creators’ usual charismatic and highly talented hands, but also this time by an increased influence from old-school symphonic black metal. This is a synth-driven expansion that enhances the band’s natural energies very well. It recalls in me the 90s era quite distinctly, but without transporting there completely due to the simple fact that Wolves in the Throne Room always stand alone. In fact, I’d argue that Wolves in the Throne Room’s Cascadian style of atmospheric black metal has here taken somewhat of a back seat to the Scandinavian symphonic original, while simultaneously infusing the latter with the former’s own characterful nature-inspired power. Couple this with some additional influences, (Bathory, death metal, pagan), and the end result is an album that straddles both styles with ease, and has produced something that belongs to itself.

As mentioned above, a minor death metal influence can be heard in places. This is partially down to the greater use of death growls across the album, (which the band’s guitarist selectively deploys to great effect), but mainly because an edge of brutality has crept into some of the more aggressive sections that are occasionally used, (near the beginning of Masters of Rain and Storm has a blatant example of this, and puts me in mind of Morbid Angel). Either way, this influence merges seamlessly with the symphonic and atmospheric styles that lie at the heart of this record.

The band’s melodic, rhythmic, and percussive strengths are on display for all to see, crafting real atmosphere and mood throughout the album. The music is well-written to the point that it seems almost naturally-formed, as if it was found under ancient bedrock rather than recorded in a studio by humans. Every track is a blackened soundscape of prodigious proportion, and as a collection of songs Primordial Arcana is wonderfully sequenced and structured, with each having its own personality and direction.

Primordial Arcana is yet another incredibly strong release from Wolves in the Throne Room. Where exactly I’ll eventually place it in my order of favourite albums from the band remains unclear, (due to just how well I know the rest of their material compared to this, despite multiple spins), but all I know is that it’s a great record, and a highlight of 2021 for me so far.

Essential listening.

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