Review by Vinny for Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters (2007)
The variety of the black metal genre is dizzying to say the least. However, whether it is the nihilistic fury of the genre in its conventional form or the catchy infusion of rock in black ‘n roll that floats your boat, any variance on the central theme of black metal for me can only be deemed successful if it retains that “spine” as the core of what it does. Atmospheric black metal has an obviously well-established presence in music already. With bands like Drudkh creating earthy and organic outputs under the sub-genre alongside more cosmic creations from the likes of Darkspace also occupying the same space. The infusion with the niche is also a recognised branch with artists such as Summoning taking a more symphonic approach to their version of atmo-black.
In the case of WITTR, we are on the more earthy side of proceedings, not in a foul or uncouth sense of the word though, more in the meaning that this sound close to nature. For clarity though, this feeling of proximity to nature does not rely on any samples of running water or birdsong. What we get here is all done using balance, repetition and consistency that breeds a real sense of evolution in each song.
Two Hunters has not been an instant connection for me by any means. As I write this review, I am about five listens in this time around and have previously tried to connect with the record on numerous different occasions over the past decade or so. What is obvious to me from these repeated visits, is that this is a record that rewards quality time spent with it. It is an album that is not written to grab the attention in a gawdy manner. I would go as far as to say that any attempt by me to do anything else other than sit in front of the speakers for a good few listen throughs of this would be futile. The beauty within the record lies within its simplicity and subtle variations (not all of which work, more on that shortly) in pace, atmosphere and direction. There is a steadfastness to Two Hunters that makes it the success that it is, coming across as an album written to be exactly what the artist wanted it to be as opposed to being composed with any appeal-factor considered.
Now, it does not always work for me in terms of them getting the balance correct. Jessika Kenney’s ethereal vocals are haunting and moving I agree, and their inclusion is a positive here, but I do not think they are positioned quite correctly on the beginning of Cleansing. I get the feeling that they could have layered the tempo change better with a better use of build as opposed to the hasty sounding interruption of the guitar which destroys the mood that has been so beautifully built by those clean vocals.
That is my only criticism though. In a life were time to sit down and enjoy a record seems increasingly stretched it is always endearing to find an album that can provide such immediate gratuity for you spending a shade over forty-five minutes of your day with it. Going back to my opening paragraph on this review, the sound of WITTR is obviously routed in black metal and it relies on little variation from that conventional sound, using mood superbly to deliver an authentic and textured listening experience.