Prayer of Transformation: Wolves in the Throne Room live in Kansas City, MO 09/22/16
Black metal is a strange genre. It either relies heavily on the minute changes in the undercurrent of songs to slowly build to the song’s release, or it pounds your face into dust with unrelenting riffs and blastbeats. The former kind, the less-aggressive yet still-menacing kind, is one of the most popular forms of underground extreme metal today. Groups like Deafheaven, Liturgy, Alcest and more have moved the genre forward by blending the typical black metal traits with post-rock and even shoegaze. But these groups probably would have never gotten started if it hadn’t been for Wolves In The Throne Room and their radical take on black metal back in 2006.
WITTR’s first album, Diadem of 12 Stars, was recently re-released and the band announced a tour that included Kansas City’s Riot Room. It’s been a very long time since the group played near this area (maybe the first time ever?) and because of that, the Riot Room was packed – especially for a Thursday night in September. With giant banners onstage and flanking each side of the crowd, Wolves in the Throne Room opened their set with Queen of the Borrowed Light from said Diadem of 12 Stars album and what followed was an hour of a refreshing take on monolithic and expansive black metal without encroaching on any other genres. All in all, WITTR’s performance was absolutely massive and a welcome respite from most other post-black metal bands at large.
Dea Artio and Vastness and Sorrow from the group’s sophomore effort Two Hunters were a treat as well – the album is a near-perfect mashing of everything good about American black metal circa the year of its release – 2007. Astral Blood off 2011′s Celestial Lineage album was massive as well and really showcased the stylistic differences between their early albums and their later albums, but while retaining the heaviness and atmospherics that made them so beloved in the first place. Frontman Nathan Weaver, after the second song of the night, took off to the bathroom at the Riot Room’s stage to upchuck – it seems like touring has started to take its toll, but the interruption lasted all of five minutes and he came back and the band continued on (although omitting the penultimate song of the night, Prayer of Transformation).
Now here’s where things get strange. A few minutes into their set closer, the magnificent I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots, Weaver leapt off the stage and into the crowd, to confront someone or attack someone – it’s unclear. But the band played a few more bars before they followed him into the crowd, realizing something was wrong. Most of the crowd was stunned into silence – the show up to that point had been relatively calm. Some headbanging occurred, but there was no moshing or really any belligerent drunk crowdmembers (at least to this author’s knowledge). Weaver disappeared either into the bowels of the Riot Room or to the tour bus outside, but the rest of the band climbed back on stage, gave a wave and the house lights came on. In a way, it’s kind of a perfect way for a black metal show to end – it is a genre that was born out of extremity, noncompliance and maliciousness – it’s just too bad it had to happen during possibly the highlight of the entire set.
Opening duties came from Cloud Rout, a three-piece grind group from Michigan. Like any self-respecting grind band, they didn’t make use of a bass guitar but made use of about 75,000 riffs in their half-hour set. Some parts of some songs gave off a sludgey/stoner kind of vibe – it’s almost worth saying Cloud Rat has more in common with a band like Dragged Into Sunlight than Repulsion. Extremely impressive given the major sonic difference between them and Wolves in the Throne Room.
One huge positive was the sound at the Riot Room during the performance of the headliner and the support. It can be difficult to layer guitars upon vocals upon synthesizers and make sure the percussion doesn’t overpower everything – but this was some of the best soundwork the Riot Room has ever done.
Wolves In The Throne Room’s set:
- Queen of the Borrowed Light
- Astral Blood
- Dea Artio
- Vastness and Sorrom
- I Will Lay Down My Bones Among The Rocks And The Roots (cut short)