The black-metal scene in 2017 is split: On one extreme are neo-Nazis who believe that black metal connects them to the pagan religions of an Aryan motherland that never really existed; on the other are anarchist black-metal enthusiasts linked to antifa and other anti-racist groups ready to shut down neo-Nazi shows. Many black-metal bands find themselves between those two poles, without much of a political mission, just wanting to make pure dark music.
For Wolves in the Throne Room, an American black-metal band that writes ripping songs and hangs out on its farm in Olympia, Washington, the current state of black metal is depressing.
"It's really heartbreaking," says Aaron Weaver, drummer, bassist and synth player for the group, regarding the upsurge in Nazi black-metal bands and white-nationalist fans. "I don't have an answer. I don't think brawling in the streets is going to work in the long run. The Nazis I have met are broken, sad people who feel so small and weak. They are lashing out. They crave violence to fill the emptiness inside. The way I can serve justice and goodness is to make music. Wolves in the Throne Room honors the old gods and the old ways, and we love and respect all people, all cultures. It's the only way for this earth and for human beings to survive."
The band is touring the U.S. in support of its most recent record, Thrice Woven. The album is melodic, brooding, a little bit dark and a little uplifting. It also gets back to the basics of playing metal and getting heads to bang, a change of pace that fans will surely welcome, since its 2014 album, Celestite, was more experimental and synthesizer-based.
"I'm so proud of it," Weaver says of the album. "Everyone who has heard it loves it. Our last album was a studio-oriented, synthesized record, quite a departure from what we have done in the past. It was a wonderful experiment and taught us a lot about recording. But we had lots of fire in our hearts to get back to what we do best: playing metal."
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The latest record was released on Wolves in the Throne Room's own label, Artemisia. Weaver says that it plans to put out more records on that label, as well as side projects and records by affiliates. This isn't surprising, given its affinity for DIY. Its studio is isolated in the woods, surrounded by enough natural beauty to inspire the bleakest of black metal.
"Our studio is at the edge of a beautiful forest," Weaver says. "I'm blessed to be able to walk in the woods every day. It gives me so much strength and inspiration. I love listening to the ravens and eagles. Swimming in the cold saltwater in the Salish Sea, which is a short walk from our studio, was a major influence on Thrice Woven."
What has all this epic beauty taught Wolves in the Throne Room when it comes to artistic vision? It values community — not a surprising sentiment for a band reared in the tight-knit community of Olympia.
"Honor, respect, generosity, hospitality," Weaver explains, listing off ideals he holds dear. "Old values! Community is the biggest thing for me. I love my community at home in Olympia, and I love the huge family of musicians and artists we have met all over the world."
Wolves in the Throne Room, Monday, October 2, the Black Sheep, 2106 East Platte Avenue, Colorado Springs, 719-227-7625.