“Our music invokes the Spirits that reside in the mountains and rivers—the Sun and Moon, the plants and animals. These deities have been with us since ancient times, but their voices have been drowned out in the modern world.”
That’s Aaron Weaver talking about the driving force behind Wolves In The Throne Room, the band he founded with his brother Nathan in 2002. It’s a force that’s been with them since their formative years—long before their stunning debut, Diadem Of 12 Stars, established them as black metal’s new atmospheric vanguard in 2006. Since then, they’ve carved their own path through the wilderness to hearts and minds around the globe with such highly regarded works as Two Hunters (2007), Celestial Lineage (2011) and Thrice Woven (2017).
And now, nearly two decades into their journey as shamanic conjurors, Wolves In The Throne Room have emerged from the forest with their most majestic album to date. Primordial Arcana is the band’s first completely self-contained work: In addition to composition and performance, the Weaver brothers and guitarist Kody Keyworth handled all aspects of recording, producing and mixing at their own Owl Lodge Studios in the woods of Washington state.
The album’s title is a reference to the band’s ongoing reach back to the most ancient, archetypal energies. “As children we encountered the work of Joseph Campbell and the study of ancient mythologies inside every human culture,” Aaron says. “These archetypal truths and psychological structures inspire us and give us strength.”
While the proverbial blaze in the northern sky remains the band’s artistic palette of choice, Primordial Arcana expands upon black metal to include musical forms that pre-date the genre’s devastating second wave. “After we discovered Metallica and Slayer in our early teens, the first extreme metal bands we were into were Deicide and Morbid Angel,” Aaron explains. “So death metal was there from the very beginning, and I think it especially comes to the fore on this record.”
Symphonic black metal was also a key inspiration. “We wanted to emphasize the role of the synthesizers to create an epic and grand atmosphere,” Aaron explains. “The Owl Lodge has a towering monolith of rack synths from the ’90s. They contain sounds that cannot be created any other way.”
Leadoff track “Mountain Magick” sets the august tone with alpine guitar melodies cresting skyward in triumph. “Thrice Woven was very earthy,” Aaron says of the band’s last full-length. “But this album is a little colder and sharper—like crisp air high up in the mountains, closer to the spirit world and more removed from the realms of human beings. ‘Mountain Magick’ is an invocation of that energy. It’s an entry point into the world of magic and dreams.”
“Spirit of Lightning” returns briefly to the earthly plane as a tribute to the human connections forged in music. “Metal is a community that’s bonded together through music and spirituality,” Aaron says. “This song is an homage to that community, that brotherhood and the virtues that can be espoused through it—going all the way back to the progenitors of the genre.”
Meanwhile, “Primal Chasm (Gift of Fire)” is an explosion of cosmic grandeur, a symphonic rendering of the hermetic maxim As above, so below as envisioned by Keyworth. In fact, Primordial Arcana is the first WITTR record in which Kody was a part of the writing process from the start, so it benefits from his background in cosmic funeral doom.
“This song is Kody’s baby, but I think the lyrics are a dreamtime retelling of creation,” Aaron says. “The act of the universe creating itself comes from the same impulse—it all springs from the same source, the same union of fire and ice. It’s the interplay between polarized opposites, and it’s from their contradiction and chaos that life happens and music and the planets are created.”
It’s all more evidence that Wolves In The Throne Room are a band with few contemporaries. “I think we do have a singular and unique voice in the extreme metal world,” Aaron says. “We’re coming from an unapologetically real and personal perspective, and we haven't made any concessions to what's expected of us. We’ve always done things exactly the way we want to do it and in a super DIY way.”
That methodology has reached a new peak with Primordial Arcana. “We’ve gotten even deeper into the DIY aspect by building our own recording studio from the ground up, and producing and mixing the record ourselves,” Aaron points out. “And now we’re making our own videos within the local wilderness. So we’ve been able to keep all of the creative control between the three of us while raising the bar creatively. As we become more insular and rely on ourselves more, the art gets better and sharper—a more perfect representation of what the band is all about.”