Concert Reviews

Review: Wolves in the Throne Room at Rhinoceropolis, 9/30/11


After Skully Mammoth's set, some of us waited patiently, cracking jokes as various people brought in items needed to set up the room for the Wolves in the Throne Room performance, which was held next door at Glob as it's a bigger room than the one in Rhino. When we were finally let in after a preamble from Zach Khan, several people rushed up to the front and waited yet again in a room with mysterious tapestries hanging down from lights with a blue gel giving the room a sense of entering upon something sacred, no member of the band visible. In the background we heard a low drone that had the dual effect of calming and building anticipation. Someone said out loud, "Is this, a dungeon?" Such comments remind one of what Steve Martin once said to a heckler on one of his old comedy albums.

The two-piece No Thought, both of whom apparently hate posers (not to be confused with "poseurs," mind you), started off its set with a sludgy, doomy stretch of music between guitar and drums that seemed to be left behind in an instant once the guys it a certain point, going straight into charging jets of cutting sound. Both of them had a black substance smeared across their eyes like they were wearing some kind of bandit mask. At one point, the duo had a dynamic where the drummer accented the crushing, hanging down strokes of the guitarist perfectly. Most of the band's songs were short, sharp exercises in sonic brutality somewhere betwixt death metal and crust.

Read our interview with Aaron Weaver of Wolves in the Throne Room

By the time Skully Mammoth started the middle slot, main performance space of Rhinoceropolis was jam packed with people and it might not have actually been possible to make one's way to the front to take pictures that would show anyone in the band. But the Mammoth's blend of doom and psychedelia and whatever strands of music its eclectic tastes weave in have always been a powerful reminder that heavy music and the people that play it can evolve while not losing a sonic identity. Before the band's set, a girl asked what Skully Mammoth was like and when the word "doom" was mentioned, it immediately piqued her interest and she hastened to catch the set.

Even though a lot of us felt packed in tight near the front, even though people smoked with little consideration for others nearby, even though it was hot and sweaty and even though some people in attendance forgot, or perhaps never knew or acknowledged as valid, basic tenets of human decency and decorum, Wolves in the Throne Room turned Glob into some kind of chamber of secrets with its songs serving as the sermon of some kind of cthonic rite. Especially the performance of songs from Celestial Lineage -- which it sounded like the trio played in its entirety.

Fog filled the room and Wolves insisted on no flash photography so the sense of being underground was complete, except for the colored lights at the banners and projected from below on to the guys in the band. Zach Khan had to play referee in a way and keep people back so that no one stepped on Wolves' gear and for the most part, people cooperated. Late in the set, Nathan Weaver said that if only ten people were enjoying the show, it wasn't cool and that if anyone was bumming other people out with their actions, they needed to chill out. Maybe that happens at every show but some of us haven't seen that happen at a show for a band that incites joyous emotional reactions since Fugazi was last in town and kudos to Weaver for recognizing that some behaviors always bring a show down, though he probably had a culprit or three in mind.

But the misbehavior did not mar what was a remarkable sonic and emotional display from Wolves as it sought to create a special experience for itself and for the members of the audience able to plug into the vibe of the music with the directness and honesty of the music itself. When the set ended, many people chanted for more but after well over an hour of music, the early Leonard Cohen coming over the P.A. seemed entirely fitting and accomplished the goal of letting people know there would be no encore.

Critic's Notebook:

Bias: Wolves in the Throne Room has been one of my favorite bands in any genre for the last couple of years or so.

Random Detail: This show brought together people from many walks of life.

By the Way: Screaming that you have to get out, and trying to muscle your way to the front where there's no room between people at all, has got to be one of the dumbest ploys to get where you have a better view of the show I have ever witnessed.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.