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Wolves in the Throne Room live at Portland, ME’s SPACE Gallery

Wolves in the Throne Room at SPACE Gallery
Wolves in the Throne Room at SPACE Gallery, Words and Photos by Ben Stas

As the Pacific Northwest’s preeminent black metal act, Wolves in the Throne Room carry a mythical air. A press release for the recent reissue of their 2005 debut Diadem of 12 Stars paints a portrait of brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver composing their hymns of “lunar sorcery” and “wild spirits” in a “windowless, black room over the long dark nights of winter.” Their visual aesthetic focuses on cryptic and eerily beautiful forest imagery. Their Wikipedia page notes that they prefer to perform by firelight. If a black metal band somehow factored into the universe of Twin Peaks, it’d be this one. And should there be any doubt, rest assured that their live show manifests all of that Cascadian mysticism quite successfully.

Establishing a mood seemed to be on everyone’s mind on September 26 at Portland’s SPACE Gallery, where Wolves made a sold-out stop on their first expansive U.S. tour in several years. New Hampshire trio Northern Curse opened the night illuminated by ghostly projections and ripping through a blistering, blackened set that made space for the occasional mournful piano interlude. Feral, who hail from Portland, then received a warm hometown reception for a dark, densely layered performance anchored by the intensity of otherworldly vocalist M. Alex.

Wolves in the Throne Room at SPACE Gallery
Wolves in the Throne Room at SPACE Gallery

Minimum light and maximum volume had already characterized the evening, but the attention to atmosphere was upped considerably as members of Wolves began lighting candles and sage while a fog machine gradually filled the room with a thematically appropriate mist. The Gallery was more reminiscent of some woodland ritual setting than a nonprofit contemporary art space by the time the band opened with Diadem’s “Queen of The Borrowed Light,” and that’s precisely how they wanted it.

The Brothers Weaver, founding and constant members of Wolves, were joined by two auxiliary guitarists and a keyboardist to properly flesh out the complexities of their studio creations. For the duration of a nearly 90-minute set, that lineup traversed the band’s catalog in immensely satisfying fashion. The result wasn’t just crushing, but measuredly, precisely so. It’s rare to hear a triple-guitar live lineup that sounds as crisply defined as this one did. All the fog and flame ambiance was a key factor in the performance, but this live iteration of Wolves truly shines on technical merit. They sounded massive and entrancing, and the collective experience of the set was to feel transported to those haunted forests that the band so frequently evokes. Snapping back to the reality of the quiet city street outside was jarring after so effective a spell had been cast.

Northern Curse


Wolves in the Throne Room

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