Wolves in the Throne Room’s Aaron Weaver Talks “Thrice Woven”
It's been almost exactly six years since Wolves in the Throne Room last released a black metal album. While their temporary absence from the genre has not impeded its evolution, this band's musical output always makes waves. No less is expected of their new album Thrice Woven which is out next Friday. Across its five tracks, Wolves in the Throne Room bring forth tighter, punchier, more aggressive Cascadian black metal, but they remain decisively on-brand.
With towering climaxes, newfound heaviness, and passionate interludes, Thrice Woven is both tactical and adaptive. The familiar "wall of noise" moments return in full force, with transitions into them drawn out for maximum effect. Live, the band continues to shine: their headlining set at Northwest Terror Fest was an exercise in stimulating and performative drama. Wolves in the Throne Room shoots for the "full package" in delivering an ethereal and touching experience, but also a deeply entertaining one.
That's not to say Thrice Woven doesn't require investment. The album features all the nuance and detail which made prior releases like Diadem of 12 Stars so re-listenable. At first, Thrice Woven may seem difficult; listeners may be immediately unsure how its varied parts fit together to form a cohesive whole. But after multiple runs, a vividly colorful picture comes into focus. Indeed, Thrice Woven is a sprawling attempt to translate Pacific Northwest nature's sights, sounds, and smells into mere vibrations in the air.
In anticipation of its release, we spoke with Wolves in the Throne Room drummer Aaron Weaver about Thrice Woven. Touching on collaboration with other artists (including Steve Von Till and Anna Von Hausswolff), the addition of Kody Keyworth to the band's full-time lineup, and the band's captivating live experience, Weaver helps decode Thrice Woven’s mysterious presence and all-encompassing experience.
Let’s jump right into what it feels like to put something out there in the black metal scene for the first time since 2011 -- what's changed, what your new approach, and how has the band adapted to what's going on in the scene now?
The way I have to answer that is that when we're working in the studio, we're not thinking about any other bands, not thinking about the scene, not thinking about black metal. When we're in the studio, we're on lockdown, and the only thing that exists is just the record. Like, how the record is unfolding, and what it is about for us. It's our emotions. I know it's kind of cliche, but we just don't give a shit about what anyone else is doing. We're doing our own thing.
Do you ever get tunnel vision from that approach? Do you sometimes get too focused in on the music, or is that kind of the point?
Well, it's a double-edged sword -- absolutely we get super-focused on the record. When we're working on it, that's kind of all there is: just the record. Everything is in service to the record. It's hard, you know, on other aspects of human life, but that's the way we've done things up to this point.
Speaking of the album and what you funnel into it, there's a lot of allegory and tie-ins to the Pacific Northwest (the whole "Cascadian" tag) -- what is it about the Pacific Northwest that fuels Wolves in the Throne Room and more specifically Thrice Woven?
It's our home, we're a band that draws all of our energy and our inspiration from literally just the earth that we walk on. That's what the music is: a way to honor and connect with this place that we're blessed to live in. It's such a beautiful place, cedar forests right on the edge of salt water, it's magical to live here. The music is just part of that blessing.
Is that magic in any way tied to black metal in general -- what about nature is black metal in that way? I hate to use the genre tag, but I think you know what I mean.
I like the black metal genre tag. To me, that's what black metal is: music that evokes a place. That's what drew me into the Norwegian stuff. That music rose up out of soil, rose up out of the rocks in a very real and honest way. I love that part of black metal.
It's interesting now that you have some collaborations going on with Thrice Woven. What is it like with Anna von Hausswolff -- how did you guys come together and build her integral parts into the album?
That was awesome, Anna is just a fucking amazing singer. The record was produced by Randall Dunn who also produced Two Hunters, the Malevolent Grain EP, Black Cascade, Celestial Lineage, and Celestite. Randall has always done that -- he's always brought collaborators onto our albums. On Celestial Lineage and Two Hunters, he brought Jessika Kenney who brought so much magic and beauty to those records.
Does Thrice Woven in that way feel like a collaborative effort, then? A combination of these disparate but still intertwined themes and motifs? Does it feel like a broad effort to put something forward as opposed to a few guys sitting in a room hammering it out?
No, it feels really singular, it doesn't feel broad to me. We had a very specific vision of Wolves in the Throne Room. That's what our collaborators do, they support that vision. That's what Randall does, he brings forth the deepest parts of ourselves.
What kind of aesthetic do you think that Steve Von Till added? How does that integrate into or reinforce the Wolves theme?
Well, the Wolves theme in a lot of ways is the Neurosis theme. In terms of spirituality, or a respect for old ways -- a deep yearning to really respect and love the place that you live and learn about it -- that's all stuff that I got from Neurosis, musically. Seeing Neurosis on tour in 1995 when I was in high school, that was a life-changing experience and a spiritual experience that turned me onto a whole new consciousness that changed my whole life.
Also interesting about the band is that you guys have added Kody [Keyworth] -- I think his influence (even listening to Fall of the Bastards, his old band) is noticeable on the album. What parts of the album stick out as his? If you were to listen to the album, where would you say "oh, that's Kody."
Totally. On the third track "Angrboda," the second half of that song -- it's kind of divided into three parts, there's a the synthesizer interlude in the middle, so the last third of that song where Kody is the strongest, the strongest vibrations. Just clean and cold and in some ways minimalistic, really dark, and really true.
Maybe deeper into that idea of truth and purity, to what extent does Wolves exude that purity? Aesthetically, how do put forth that pure feeling -- it may come into play with the stage-work, creating this ambiance and mood. You guys take time and pay attention to detail.
You're asking about purity and purification?
That word brings up a lot for me. One thing is that the music comes from a really pure place in my heart. A totally honest and and pure thing, just like the love we all put into it. That's one part of it. The other part is that it is a purification. This is heavy metal music -- it's harsh, extreme music -- just the physicality of playing it is purifying, in terms of just sweating -- the blood and the sweat we put into our performances. And the experience the audience will have as a physical entity. That's purifying for us, and that's why we do it. We play shows... it helps our own souls and our own spirits.
I guess there's a reciprocity between you and the audience -- putting on this show and creating this scene and ability for the audience experience to be ritualistic or even spiritual -- I guess that fuels your artistic spirit in a way?
Oh my god, yeah. I'm so unbelievably grateful to our fans because they give us so much. There's no way we could do what we do without the support and love of so many people, it's so humbling.
What kind of reaction have you experienced or seen in the release of the first track of the album? Have you seen any criticism or anything that stuck out to you which made you think again about the track?
No way, I never listen to critics ever. I think it's the perfect track -- the first track on the record, what better way to introduce the audience to the music and to our band (if they've not heard us before) than the first track off the album which we're so proud of and love so much.
I wanted to talk about the idea of climax -- triumphant ascendancy in a way -- you guys build and build and find a lead, a triumphant noise, a wall of sound, and you just hammer it home. Are you guys aiming for that build-up/release structure; or, is the structure on Thrice Woven more broken and fragmented in a more technical approach?
I'd say "Angrboda" is more fragmented in that way. It doesn't give the listener that opportunity to reach that ecstatic state. But the last track does. They're both parts of what we do.
I was talking to my colleague Jon and he mentioned there was a punk influence, maybe courtesy of Kody. Is there any aesthetic value to punk in relation to Wolves in the Throne Room? Are you guys drawing from punk, maybe the drum beats specifically speaking?
Totally. All three of us are absolutely one-half metal, one-half punk in terms of what we listened to when we were young, when we were first being exposed to great music and what music can do for your life, and the magic that it can bring. The three of us heard punk music and were exposed to DIY, underground, hardcore music (which has that immediate spirit), and we were also listening to the metal created by the gods. Metal created by Metallica, and huge bands and rock stars, for lack of a better word, and also bands that were mysterious. We came up during a time when all you had was the music and maybe a picture of the album artwork. It made metal so mysterious, so different than punk music which was so immediate and just present in our lives.
Working with family -- your brother being a part of the band -- do you think that connection helps make Wolves more cohesive or more familiar to people? Is there something special about working with family?
Yeah, it's unique. There's nothing like family, really, and nothing like that blood bond. It brings its own energy to it.
Generally, how do the lyrics reinforce the theme that the music puts across?
The lyrics are just direct recitations of what we picture in our minds when we hear the music. That's where the lyrics come from. Listening to the lyrics gives you a glimpse of the world that we're seeing in our mind's eye.
Interesting that it's an immediate reaction to what you're feeling in the moment -- and then the lyrics pour out of that sensation, correct?
Speaking of immediacy and presence, I think a Wolves live show has that. It sucks you in such that you don't think about the past, and you're not caring about the future. It's an all-encompassing, enveloping moment. That's the target, right, if you were to assign it a goal?
Well, I wouldn't assign it a goal, but if I had to, I'd say that changing time -- changing the perception of time -- that's part of it.
What was on your playlist during writing -- you mentioned those early influences as the album came together. Let's say during the production or writing of Thrice Woven you encountered a challenging moment or you got frustrated with something, what did you turn to for release?
Coil. They were affiliated with Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Same crew. For me, when I reached a dead end, or I needed inspiration, Coil was there for me. And I'm pretty sure Nathan had the same experience. I know Nathan listens to Coil all the time now.
What is it about Coil, aesthetically, specifically, emotionally?
For me, their music is so free. No rules, no boundaries, and it opens me up to a space where, if in my head I'm saying "that's not good enough," "that riff is garbage," or "you're the worst drummer on Earth," I don't have to listen to those voices if I don't want to. Coil gives me permission.
Talk about the music video, a first for Wolves in the Throne Room. How does the video visually establish the band for viewers and listeners?
We shot the video right around our studio, and for me the most important thing is being able to show people where we come from. Literally, show the place where the band is from and what this band is all about.
Do you think the video represented the band well? If you were to compare watching the video to going to a show, there's a connection there? A meditative element to it that's shared between the visuals on the screen and the reality in front of you at a show?
That's what we were trying to do -- trying to truly represent what the band is about. I think we did it. I think it's a great introduction, and I can definitely see us making more videos too. We learned so much doing that, even with very limited time and budget. It made us want to do it again.
My personal reaction to Thrice Woven: if I were to criticize it, and it's actually a positive criticism, but I wish it was longer. When you were writing and putting the songs together, did they end naturally, or did you guys consciously decide "this is the point where we're going to transition, or this is the point where we're going to break?"
The way we approached it was song-by-song. I think we had the idea of making a slightly longer record, but as the songs develop, they became more concise.
Do you feel that approach might increase the impact the band has live? The new tracks feel punchier, a bit more aggressive, and more short-form. Does that influence how people are going to find this music as meditative? More disturbing or disorienting in a way? Trying to find the right word to describe the new approach or the Thrice Woven-mode of Wolves.
Who knows? There's a lot of people on stage, and the band is developing. To me, it's the chemistry of the musicians and how the songs evolve on stage. Once these new songs start getting played out over the months on the road, they're going to take on a life of their own. I'm stoked to hear what they turn into.
When it comes to your fans, what do you expect them to say for Thrice Woven? Do you expect them to be blown away by a new approach, or satisfied because they received what they expected?
Here I am in my mind right now, I'm imagining a Wolves in the Throne Room fan, and it's just so hard -- so many different kinds of people. Every kind of person is going to have their own reaction to it. I love that. When you go to our shows, it's not just 100% metal audience. There's goth people, punk people, train-hopping crusties, hippies, whatever. I feel honored that our band can draw a lot of people together.
Pre-order Thrice Woven here. Wolves in the Throne Room will be on tour in the United States later this month and throughout October. Check out the dates below.
September 29 -- Boise, ID @ Neurolux
September 30 -- Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall
October 2 -- Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
October 3 -- Albuquerque, NM @ Launch Pad
October 5 -- Houston, TX @ White Oak (downstairs)
October 6 -- New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
October 7 -- Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
October 9 -- Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
October 10 -- Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade Hell
October 11 -- Richmond, VA @ Capital Ale House
October 12 -- Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Sound Stage
October 13 -- Brooklyn, NY @ Villain
October 14 -- Pittsburgh, PA @ Villain
October 16 -- Cincinnati, OH @ The Taft Ballroom
October 17 -- St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall
October 18 -- Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th St. Collective
October 20 -- Tucson, AZ @ 191 Toole
October 21 -- Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
October 22 -- Berkeley, CA @ Cornerstone
October 24 -- Portland, OR @ Tonic Lounge