Defined by their environment and the place where they live, Wolves in the Throne Room have managed to capture their feeling, sense and mystique of their natural habitat through a series of extraordinary records. Starting with Diadem for 12 Stars, the band led by brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver has produced a series of masterworks in Two Hunters, Black Cascade, Celestial Lineage and most recently Thrice Woven.
The deep, underlying spiritual core of the band is highlighted throughout their discography. Their tracks display an affinity towards the heavier side of extreme metal, but can also morph into ritualistic overtures and folk-induced passages. In their previous album, Celestite, the band went as far as creating a complete dark ambient work, devoid of the traditional black metal characteristics. And yet, this work still carried the very essence of the band’s identity.
Ahead of their performance at Supersonic Festival, the historic experimental festival taking place in Birmingham, Aaron Weaver discusses the band’s trip down the dark ambient realm of Celestite, and its subsequent return to black metal with Thrice Woven. This was also highlighted by a further step into the DIY world, with the brothers building their own recording studio and launching their record label, Artemisia.
Through this interview, Aaron further details the essential connection between Wolves in the Throne Room and the band’s home in Olympia, Washington. The band feels a part of a lineage that spreads wide and encapsulates the spirit of Neurosis, but also the aesthetics of the Seattle scene and Nirvana.
Now with a live line-up that includes Trevor Deschryver of Lycus, Peregrine Sommerville of Sadhaka and Brittany McConnel of Wolvserpent, the experience of seeing them live should be truly unique.
A few years back you released Celestite, making an unexpected turn towards dark ambient. How did this album come to be?
Well, we always wanted to do a dark ambient album. And when we were recording Celestial Lineage, the album that preceded Celestite, we just knew that we wanted to make an ambient record out of it. We took the sessions from Celestial Lineage and just ran it through our studio, and it was an exploration. That was what it was about.
Would you ever consider coalescing these two worlds, dark ambient and black metal, in one record?
That’s a good question. Yeah, we love making dark ambient music, and we will do this as a different project.
That is Drow Elixir?
Yeah, yeah for sure. And me and Kody do our music on our own under different names. That dark ambient music is a part of the process. It is where so many ideas and concepts, images that create the Wolves in the Throne Rooms record, [are] coming from these free explorations.
Because you have played with those dark ambient ideas in your black metal style before?
Yeah, I guess you already notice that we do that on our records, but we like to stay focused on the metal. That is what feels like central in the Wolves in the Throne Room. We never want to make a record that tilts too far out of the true spirit of metal that we love so much.
But did you want to step away from black metal for a moment?
We just wanted to learn. We just wanted to push ourselves and learn and grow. And when I look back at it, I realize that what we were doing was building our studio. We always had the dream of having our own recording studio in Olympia. So we could record out here in the woods and not have to go into the city.
That is what Celestite did for us. It made us build a recording studio. And it makes us want to start to burn that fire. And now Thrice Woven was recorded almost entirely at our studio in Olympia, and it is our favorite sounding album because it sounds so true and so pure. The music sounds exactly like our lives; it is right from our hearts.
What is the setup of the studio?
It is a hybrid. Celestial Lineage and Black Cascade were recorded on tape, and Thrice Woven was mixed down to tape. But for the most part we are working inside Pro Tools through a lot of analog equipment.
It feels right to me; it feels really immediate. I do not want to spend a lot of time worrying about the gear or trying to have some idea about what the perfect tone is. I want to get the music down. It filters between our creativity and our spirit and recording.
Luckily we have a really, really good mentor in Randall Dunn who recorded all of our records. And he told us what to do. I was going down this rabbit hole of trying to get the perfect recording console, and he just said:
“Hey man, you do not have to fucking do that, buy these super expensive Burl converters made in Santa Cruz, get a Pro Tools system, get some preamps, get some good mics, build a beautiful room that has got wood inside of it and make your space really beautiful. And that is all it needs.”
And you recorded everything apart from the drums in that space?
Yeah, that is right.
The drums were recorded in Seattle right?
No, you are correct. That was my favorite part of the record. We used the studio that is owned by one of the guitar players in Pearl Jam.
That is Stone Gossard?
Yeah, [the studio] is called Litho , which I guess is a reference to his name. It is kind of a commercial recording studio, but mostly it his personal practice space. So it has an amazing, really open vibe. And I love Seattle; you know so much of our hearts are with that music that we grew up with.
Do you feel that there is a continuity between your music and the Seattle grunge scene?
I mean Nirvana specifically. Nirvana was a huge influence on all of us, in terms of ethics. And uncompromising attitude towards art.
I guess that is what happened with most of the world and Nirvana.
For sure, but it is mostly metal for us. When we were kids, the big albums were the Metallica albums, Morbid Angel, Carcass and then a lot of punk and hardcore music. And of course black metal.
So you went straight into extreme sounds? You did not pass through a classic metal phase?
Yeah, right into extreme sounds. We never went through a phase where we listened to Poison or something. I think the main reason was [that] we grew up in a town where there was a very powerful underground scene. And we grew up going to shows in venues in Olympia and parties in Olympia at a really young age. And that is what really opens the door, cause once you hear real music that is coming from the heart, [that] it is not about money or some image, that stays with you your whole life.
Which was the show you remember the most?
The biggest life changing concert for me was seeing Neurosis on their Through Silver in Blood tour. So, that must have been in 1995. I was in high-school, and I remember helping them load in and setup. And you can just imagine, it really changed my life and opened my eyes to what tribal spirit is and what honor is.
So how was it having Steve Von Till now on the new album?
Yeah man, what an honor. He is definitely a mentor and a teacher to us. And now that we are running our own record label we can send him a text sometime and say “Hey man, how do we do this? How do we make sure that this shit works?” and he always got some really good advice.
Did he record his part from his own studio?
Yeah man, it was so special. He’s got his own studio at his place in rural Idaho. And he did his music there. He went outside, sat for a time by himself, got the lyrics, came inside and recorded them. [He recorded] the guitar as well.
And you also had Anna von Hausswolf perfoming on the new album. How did that came to be?
Randall hooked that up. We knew we wanted a voice, and we had this voice in our mind.
You always have some very impressive guests on your records, like Aaron Turner, Jessica Kenney, Faith Coloccia, Jamie Myers just to name a few.
We love to collaborate with other people. And just draw inspiration from everyone. And just play music with other people, especially singers is just pure magic. And we learn so much from it.
You have a clear DIY ethic, and that also shows in the launch of your record label Artemisia. What is the plan there?
For the time being it is going to be just for Wolves In The Throne Room. And me and Nathan and Kody all have our personal side projects so we will put that shit out. And we are going do two other records. We are going to do a record from a band called Vouna, whose a friend of ours from Olympia, and I’d say it combines funeral doom with Greek pop music from the ’90s.
Tell me that you are joking.
No, I am serious. Yeah, the woman Gianna she is a serious Greek. She has gone to Greece right now. […] I have a feeling you will love the record. We got plans to release [through Artemisia] one more [record], but we have not recorded it yet, so I am not going to say anything about it for the time being.
So, how did it feel going back in black metal mode with Thrice Woven?
Oh man, it was so necessary, it was crucial. It was like we did not have a choice. The music was ready to flow out, and the power was there. And when the lightning wants to strike we just got to do it.
You made a slight turns regarding the lyrics in Thrice Woven, exploring mythology more. That was not present in the past records?
Not as explicitly no. For me, it has to do with the stories that I say to my son. I have a four and a half-year-old son, so I have been telling him a lot of stories. I just tell him the stories I love, the stories that mean everything to me and the stories that are wisdom, true wisdom. And a lot of those stories are those old stories of the Norse gods. Just those ideas and those concepts, these old ways and these old values that I feel in my heart. It is wisdom from grandfathers and grandmothers that is the real truth, and I see that in the old stories. But it is everywhere; it is in all of the old stories and the old ways.
It is also a concept that is presented in the cover (created by Denis Forkas) with the depiction of the imprisonment of Fenris.
Yeah that is right, the god Tyr placing his hand in Fenris’ mouth.
Considering the name of the band and Fenris being a wolf in Norse mythology do you feel a deeper connection with that specific figure from Norse mythology.
I do no think more than any other, no. Fenris is such a mystery to me. It is such a deep figure to look at.
In what way?
The story in which Tyr puts his hand in Fenris’ mouth. Tyr, the god of justice, the god of truth-telling is forced to tell a lie to save what he loves. You know, just to sit with that is enough.
By exploring these themes of Norse mythology, do you feel that brought you closer to the Scandinavian black metal scene?
Not really actually. This music is not about Norway; it is not about icy fjords and Vikings. No, it is about our forest right here, and I am standing outside in it right now. And it is raining, you can see the trees, and there is a pile of dried Douglas fir from a deadfall tree that split up, and I got to go stack it. You know, but it is cold and raining and the saltwater is just around the corner, and in the fall it will be filled with salmon.
What is it about the Pacific Northwest that you love so much? If you had to boil it down to one thing what would that be?
It is just so bountiful, this land embraces us and loves us and welcomes us. And I am just so honored to be able to make music that is inspired by it.
Do you feel that there is a disconnect between man and nature? Considering that humans appear more enamored with technology today.
I don’t know man, I don’t hang out in the city, so I do not necessarily know what most people’s lives are like. But, I do know that I can feel a connection to it and I got all the technological stuff too. I’ve got a phone; I use a computer to run our business. But the spirit is right there in the ground and it is everywhere. We all have access to it at any moment.
The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog from Black Cascade was named after Romantic artist Caspar David Friedrich’s painting. Given the connection between Romanticism and nature, do you view that scene as a kindred spirit?
I do not know much about art history, but the idea of romanticism… that word does not really make much sense to me. But you are right though, the Romantic painting hints at this concept of finding a way, no matter where you live, what time you live in, to connect to the great spirits. And to connect to the holy mother of the Earth. And I see that in that painting [The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog] and that is what our music is all about.
You are playing soon at Supersonic Festival in Birmingham, which gathers a diverse audience. What should people expect from you when you perform live?
Fuck man, the live show is sounding so good right now. It has everything to do with the people that are playing with us. I do not know if you have seen the band playing recently. Nowadays we have three guitar players because on the records a lot of the parts really depend on having three guitars. So, now we have three guitar players on stage and that really changes everything. And the person playing guitar [Peregrine Sommerville of Sadhaka] is our dearest brother and friend, he is in our tribe and it is just perfect. And you know, Brittany [McConnel] from Wolvserpent is playing keyboards and percussion in Wolves in the Throne Room. It is fucking awesome man! She is a goddess and I just bow with complete reverence and gratitude to her for playing music with us on stage, she is fucking awesome.
Any final words?
There is so much to say. My heart is so filled with gratitude to Birmingham for creating heavy metal and I am so grateful to the people at Capsule because they are fucking slayers and I am so grateful that we have fans to listen to our music and give a shit.