Wolves In The Throne Room At Bottom Lounge

[from The A.V. Club Chicago / May 19, 2009]

Wolves In The Thone Room’s doom-informed black metal doesn’t lend itself too easily to the typical metal-show reverie. The near absence of conventional riffing makes headbanging almost a chore, and the glacial pace of some sections of the 15-minute songs sit as far from mosh conducive as possible. Couple those perceived limitations with the relative sameness of the three opening bands on Saturday night at Bottom Lounge (and the seemingly endless soundchecks between each opener), and the casual observer might suggest the headliner not even bother go on. Yet mere seconds into the set, the crowd that sat politely still during the first three bands (quite often seated on the club’s concrete floor) was awake and alive, throwing the horns in approval and bobbing its collective head with the wild percussion of drummer Aaron Weaver, thunderously plucked bass of Ross Sewage, and alternating growls of singer/guitarists Nathan Weaver and Will Lindsay.

On a stage adorned with candles and throw rugs, Wolves In The Throne Room emerged from a smoke-machine haze into soft blue and white lights, turning itself into a vague representation of the cover art from this year’s highly acclaimed Black Cascade. This minimalist setting served the group’s bare-knuckled arrangements well, forcing attention to the furious downstrokes and frenetic double bass of “Ahrimanic Trance,” or the visceral cackling and half-thrashing of “Ex Cathedra.” The band gave the near-capacity crowd a set list entirely from Black Cascade, with the addition of “Face In A Night Time Mirror, Pt. 1” from its 2006 debut, Diadem Of 12 Stars—a delight for any salivating fan.

Unfortunately, Wolves In The Throne Room faced one constant, major enemy throughout its entire set: the venue itself, mainly in the excessive drum-induced floor shaking, bleeding guitars, and the virtually inaudible vocals of both singers. Bottom Lounge normally boasts some of the better acoustics in the city, which made the band’s overly muddy performance somewhat perplexing. It was probably a safe bet nobody came for a sing-along, nor was anyone likely looking to pick notes out of the sludge of the group’s guitar work. This is a band that plays a sound more than it plays songs: a sound of darkness, forests, thunderstorms, and endlessly mutating chord progressions, all means to a crowd-hypnotizing end. For about an hour among their court of doom and gloom, these wolves were kings.