Forest Doom 

Black Wolves Hunt Souls in the Throne Room

IN A PHOTOGRAPH, a serene-looking, fire-lit girl stands naked in a dark forest clearing. Candles are lit around her, and crooked spears of deer antlers protrude from the ground. Playing acoustic guitars and wooden flutes, Wolves in the Throne Room sit off to the side, around a campfire, which blazes up into the night. They look like satyrs, or maybe wood trolls. This is a great photograph; other photographs get jealous, then shrink into themselves from fear and light off into the night like sparks and embers.

On their record, Diadem of 12 Stars, the earthy darkest-night trip continues. Black metal is twisted into massive, doomy, slow-rolling 10-minute slabs. Guitars drone heavier than mountains, menacing and funereal, punishing and THICK. Vocals run the gamut from rasp-scream to dog growl to witch girl/virgin sacrifice wail. It is a hopeless sound, gray as a Pacific Northwestern winter day. This, I guess, is to be expected from the Wolves guys, who live off in the woods of Olympia, eschewing technology, convenience, and modern ephemera for a rustic back-to-the-land simplicity.

Diadem of 12 Stars' four songs (12:58, 13:20, 13:58, 20:22 minutes long, respectively) are rainsqualls of unrelenting metal deluge. It's heavy, heavy, heavy, crushing, weighing down like granite boulders lain across your ribcage. (Can you breathe under that weight? Better than you might think, really.) Then comes sylvan folk breakdowns and suddenly we're back in the pines, in that forest glen, jamming around the fire, and drinking menstrual blood from silver goblets inlayed with tiny white squares of human ivory. This is a good place to be.

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