Review by Andrew Bansal
[Video by Matt Nielson]
July 20th 2014, The Echoplex, Los Angeles CA: Purveyors of the ambient black metal sound for over a decade, Olympia WA-based Wolves In The Throne Room released their fifth studio album ‘Celestite’, an instrumental, soundscape-oriented and synthesizer-driven adaptation of the previous effort ‘Celestial Lineage’ that takes them into a whole another realm in terms of musical style and scope. But they embarked on a short US West Coast run with support act Nommo Ogo immediately following the album’s release to deliver shows filled with the kind of music their fans have known them for. The final show of the tour was at the Echoplex in Los Angeles last night, and the band was greeted with a very healthy turnout at the venue.
Doors opened at 8 and the show began at 9 with touring support act Nommo Ogo taking the stage. Originally hailing from Anchorage, Alaska and relocated to Northern California, the trio has been in existence since as far back as 1996, and here they played a set that could be best described as a combination of psychedelic, goth, industrial and noise tendencies, through analog synthesizers, drum machines and minimal vocals. Their sound isn’t metal by any stretch of the imagination but it completely befits Wolves to take out an act like Nommo Ogo on tour with them, and for fans of the ambient elements in Wolves’ music, Nommo Ogo’s set came across as interesting and appreciable, as one could tell by the applause they received from this crowd at the end of each tune in their set.
Next up was local support act Volahn, who turned up the metal and brought forth a straight-up black metal presentation, complete with the band members’ faces covered in corpse paint. Generic black metal of this nature, unless it’s layered within other musical elements, no longer appeals to me so I may be biased in my opinion of Volahn’s set, but in all honesty it did nothing for me, sounded extremely repetitive and bland, and I couldn’t wait for it to end. Quite a few in the crowd seemed to be having a hell of a time during their set though, and from black metal fans’ perspective, Volahn by all means looks and sounds like an enjoyable live band.
At 10:50, the three members of Wolves In The Throne Room walked onto the stage and following a piece of intro music, they laid into an extremely intense and mesmerizing hour-long set that transitioned back and forth between ethereal ambient passages and unbridled black metal rawness, taking the audience from states of altered consciousness to a full-on fury of head-banging and mosh pits. Their spine-chilling ambient segments had a meditative effect, and with the stage engulfed in near darkness, there’s not much to see and it’s even easier for you to just close your eyes and soak it all in. My own meditative state through these periods was disturbed only momentarily when a few people pushed past me to get closer to the stage. The black metal outbursts stood out that much more as a result of being preceded and followed by such contrasting soundscapes, and the violent head-banging in the crowd was a resounding evidence of it.
All in all, my first ever Wolves In The Throne Room live experience was as captivating as expected, and stood true to everything I’d heard about them from fans. There were traces of ‘Celestite’ in the set but it was mostly a representation of the band’s older material. With that said, a live performance of ‘Celestite’ in its entirety would be absolutely incredible, and given the right opportunity, one can be sure the band will do it at some point. For me, if/when it happens it would draw parallels to German progressive metal band The Ocean’s ‘Pelagial’ live show, and would be a sensory onslaught in no small measure.
Check out this killer 15-minute video footage from Wolves In The Throne Room’s set, by Matt Nielson:
Listen to ‘Celestite’ on the Artemisia Records bandcamp page here
01. Thuja Magus Imperium (A Shimmering Radiance)
02. Diadem of 12 Stars
03. Dia Artio
04. Vastness and Sorrow
05. Prayer of Transformation