Live Review, 1/23/12: Wolves in the Throne Room Deliver a Monotonous Barrage at Slim's

Categories: Last Night

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Wolves in the Throne Room at Slim's last night.

Wolves in the Throne Room
Worm Ouroboros
Ashborer
Jan. 23, 2012
Slim's

Better than: Anarcho-Punk bands performing at the Republican National Convention.

It's easy to see how Wolves in the Throne Room are demonized by many cult black metal fans as the group most responsible for the neutering and repackaging of their beloved genre for middle-class Americans. Unfortunately, the band's live performance at Slim's last night offered little in the way of redemption.

The sheer incongruity between the band's diligently cultivated stage setup and the professional venue stank of contrived posturing and sensationalism. The stage was draped with elaborate black banners depicting white animal etchings underscored by cryptic words in that unmistakable, ceaselessly recycled black metal script. Before the band's set began, with fog machines running thick, an eerie ambiance had begun to envelop the room. But the Slim's intercom cheerily announcing coat checking and dinner options obliterated any potential moodiness. It reinforced the unavoidable conclusion that one was witnessing a gimmicky spectacle. Even the animal bones and candles adorning WITTR's merchandise table were like a gloomy playground for young professionals to moonlight as occultists and throw money around.

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The massive accumulation of black cotton adorned with illegible band names in white ink reached from atop the stage to the very back of the room. It was as if Jackson Pollock had been hired to design 100 black metal band logos in one hour using only his left foot and a bucket of Wite-Out. It's plausible that black metal bands cull letters from their scribbled logos after designing them.

The crowd was rather diverse in its attitudes, however. The character of many concert-goers became evident during Worm Ouroboros' performance. They were a wise choice to play before Wolves in the Throne Room, as they asserted an equally dark aesthetic with much different execution. Mournful, bleak passages trudged along at a morose pace beneath ethereal contributions of two female vocalists, and many audience members swooned over the captivating set.

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Worm Ouroboros

Other attendees mocked Worm Ouroboros, such as the two burly men riotously laughing as they slow-danced during a particularly soft segment. Their dates meekly pleaded for tolerance, but soon realized the useless of their request. Another gentleman aggressively elbowed his through the crowd only to flip off the band and cackle to himself. Apparently, there was a large contingent of the audience that wasn't interested in metal with dynamics. It was a shame these listeners remained so close-minded toward the performance, since Worm Ouroboros was heavier than the plague, with class to boot, as they carefully sipped from wine glasses between songs.

If a monotonous sonic barrage was what certain impatient attendees were hoping for, Wolves in the Throne Room delivered. Obscuring melody with noise can be a potent aesthetic decision, but the band's effectiveness ceased there, as the entirely one-dimensional performance became a tedious chore to witness.

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Wolves in the Throne Room

Their proper albums reveal some technical innovation and surprising genre-hopping. But live, Wolves in the Throne Room adhered to a strict formula. Each song began with a wash of feedback and guitar dawdling, quickly descended into blast beats, slowed down momentarily, and repeated. The vocalist's consistent screeches were grotesquely impressive, but in a Ripley's Believe It or Not-sort of way: Demanding attention for a brief moment, but inevitably cast aside and forgotten once something with actual substance presents itself.

Fans might contend that Wolves in the Throne Room are best understood through careful deconstruction, as if isolating the influences and historical context for the band's musical subtleties would shed light upon its sophistication. But based upon the elaborate façade presented at Slim's last night, the heart of their aesthetic seems steeped in deceit.

Critic's Notebook

Opener: Ashborer, also known as Five Men Four Faces, might have noticed that they weren't playing together if they had peered out from beneath their hair. Perhaps their most significant accomplishment was to wildly traverse their guitars' fret boards while the tonal fluctuation remained inexplicably static.

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Location Info

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Slim's

333 11th St., San Francisco, CA

Category: Music

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15 comments
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guest
guest

Didn't care for Worm Ouroboros.  I found them to be pretentious and boring.

blood
blood

  wow who let a member of the poser "black metal" elite on the SF weekly staff?  What a troll and a terrible ignorant and one sided article.  First off, Wolves have played at slims their last 3 sf shows so doing a "smaller venue"  doesn't make sense.  As far as punks and scenesters listening to the band because they're "safe" again... you're an idiot.  Band's singing about Satan and child sacrifice are NOT Dangerous hahaha.   Face it dude, Black metal and metal in general is what all kinds of kids are listening to these days.  It's just the way it is.  If you want to go to a metal show and not have short hairs there then hop in your time machine and go see voivod in the 80's.   I'm sure the crowd at a Watain show would be similar to a wolves show and it's not because wolves "introduced black metal to middle class Americans"  I was at the Slims show and I saw tons of leather jacket waring metal heads so I'm not sure what you're whining about. Would you rather have a bunch of "true" black metal clones at every metal show?  and why?  people who only listen to metal are usually more idiotic then your average hipster.   As far as the band's aesthetic and stage setup being "contrived and sensationalized"   Black Metal is all about ambiance and imagery and wolves create an amazing mood.  you sound like you're in a sh!tty metal band that no one likes and your jealous.

Connora740
Connora740

What does changing a chord have to do with wolves? You know absolutely nothing about guitar and have no background in any sort of creditable music, that's certain. They change more chords than any prolific rock bands ever did, yet would you say they're boring? Worm Ouroboros changes much less than they do, regardless. Do you not understand ambiance? Because you certainly prove that you don't. Nor black metal. They put on perfect performances that fully encompass the audience. You have no taste. 

Spookypaw
Spookypaw

 "Another gentleman aggressively elbowed his through the crowd only to flip off the band and cackle to himself."

Does anyone read these columns to check for errors before they go up? Editors? Anyone?

ChantOfTheBarbarianWolves
ChantOfTheBarbarianWolves

@d60b9025f7d1087bdca59dc8dad345fb:disqus  Wolves has absolutely nothing in common with 'new generation lofi and minimalist black metal'. WITTR is the opposite of lo-fi, crisp clear recordings and massive walls of hypnotic passages don't really make me think of lofi. My thing against WITTR is that they aren't that amazing, they just opened up the genre to a new audience, who in my opinion, most should have no part in metal to begin with (ie: you with the ironic mustache and flannel t-shirt).  A small venue probably would have helped them, so you could just be blown away from the sound, and/or drunk and high. I actually think this is a fair assessment of a wolves set, and ash borer as well. Not that I don't enjoy albums from these bands, they really aren't worth the hype and praise they get. Theres a reason most of their fans are punks and hipsters. They're safe.

Matthew C
Matthew C

OK... twist my arm... I'll get one more dig in:  that top picture isn't a pic at all -- it's a live video feed... watch it for 10 minutes to gain a true "understanding" of the experience that is WITTR... don't stop looking -- cause he'll change his chord the very nano-second you turn away!

Matthew C
Matthew C

to wordsrloadedpistols: I, in fact, do have an extensive background in music... and as for your comment, "The review is unfairly harsh, from someone that appears to know little about this direction of black metal," I would suggest that for it to have musical direction, it would have to first qualify as music... but if you are so enthralled with this crap that is obviously lacking in substance, why not play it yourself?  it's easy... ready... grab a guitar and pick a chord -- what? not sure of what chord to start out with, not to worry, because you have an average of four minutes of pseudo-intro noise within which to pick one at your convenience... let's say, a D7 (nothing too terribly difficult -- don't want to hurt your delicate mocha-holding hands)... now, play that for nine seconds (let's count: one two three four five six seven eight nine) in a vigorous, masturbating motion with your right hand to make it sound like you're actually "getting a workout playing 'so darn fast'"... switch to G7 in the same position (don't worry, during the previous 9 seconds you could look up the correct fingering in a book so as not to change position) and play in the same vigorous boring fashion... now switch to standard C for another nine seconds in THE SAME BORING FASHION... now repeat this same exact elementary progression for 10 minutes!  Forget melody, syncopation, or any other musical terms that have more than two syllables, and convince your audience that the lack of any musical ability translates to some sort of "trance" style -- and voila! you too can be just like WTF,er, WITTR and Ashboring... warning, you and Vegan need to resist any sensation that leads to actual intensity (on stage or while having sex)... keep... it... mo...not...o...nous...  think of how your ADHD drugs make you feel -- that's the kind of state you are seeking... no more than three chords, no melody, no position changes (again, speaking of your guitar playing as well as while having sex, assuming that you get beyond that right hand vigorous masturbating routine), and nothing that even remotely resembles rhythm or pitch bending -- in fact, stay away from anything remotely resembling the core elements of MUSIC, and you'll do just fine in your new "direction"... just stop calling it black metal and enticing real musicians to come out to your monotone, bland, boring, stale shows!my one extreme surprise is that the critic would risk his reputation by making such an accurate (if generous) observation... I thought all critics were as bad as the audiences they served...

Matthew C
Matthew C

uh, yeah, Vegan_revenge... seeking "better understanding" of why such non-music that leaves me craving Andreas Vollenvieder harps for some sense of intensity might attract your newer generation... minimalist?  one set of chords for 9 seconds, change up twice (each for 9 seconds, but so as not to make it too terribly complicated -- keep them in the same neck position), then repeat is not minimalist, it's non-existent!  do these "low-fi" know more than three chords, and can they play them faster than someone who just learned what a chord was yesterday?  Speed isn't everything, to be sure, but personally, I think the author was being more than generous when describing this minimalist b.s. as monotonous... zero syncopation, zero melody, two-pitch pseudo-vox and chord changes that only mating snails could be happy with... Ash-boredom...

oh, and my favorite quote from some douchebag: "wow, three of my favorite WITTR songs in a row!" -- really? so that wasn't one, long boring 30 minute song comprised of the same 3 chords? 

I was incensed that this audience actually supported such trivial, shallow crap... thank the black metal gods that I discovered Worm that night -- not a complete waste of an evening...

and, so as not to offend Vegan and others of similar taste, let me explain in your terms: Wol.. ves... in... the... Throne... Room... and... Ash... bore... were... bor... ing...

Balan
Balan

Good review, as evidenced from the comments below the cool kids don't like having their precious hipster metal gods pooped on. oh of course, the review is negative simply because you don't GET it. Right. As a metal fan i dislike the band because they're boring, derivative, and are stoked on life...oh and because they opened the door for more indie rock idiots to leech off of a genre of music they scoffed at for decades until organic farming replaced burning churches and murder. nothing to see here. move on..

wordsrloadedpistols
wordsrloadedpistols

The focal points of this review indicate that the reviewer does not have a background in music. The review is unfairly harsh, from someone that appears to know little about this direction of black metal, does not understand the approach to musical review, has poor writing skills, and is using photos that appear to be taken with a low quality camera phone.

For you WITTR fans who couldn't make it, their set was fantastic. Without female vocals and some of the bells and whistles heard in studio recordings, it was a clean, straightforward set. This was my first Wolves show and I was amazed by their impeccable timing and heaviness. Pillar shaking HEAVY! The only disappointment is that I learned that this is one of those bands that are better live than prerecorded leaving their albums unable to quench my new found thirst for live WITTR.

Guest
Guest

This critic is a friggin' tool!

Crip_wiz
Crip_wiz

cool photographs dude did u use your motorola razr?  pics compliment the writing real gud.

Vegan_revenge
Vegan_revenge

I think the writer's perception of the Wolves show would have been much different had there been a better understanding of what the newer generation of low-fi and minimalist black metal bands are aiming for. It's too bad that Wolves and Ash Borer are bashed in this article, for their motivations, effort, and performance are deserving of much more than this cynical view. If there is to be something said about the atmosphere, it is the fact that the show would have benefited from a smaller and less septic venue, as evidenced through past performances of all three bands around the Bay Area.

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