Interview: Wolves in the Throne Room drummer Aaron Weaver discusses “Black Cascade” and the band’s philosophy of black metal

Wolves in the Throne Room drummer Aaron Weaver is passionate about the transcendent power of black metal.

But grasping the Washington State band’s artistic vision requires an understanding of both how and why black metal came to exist.

In the beginning, the young Norwegian bands who created what came to be called “black metal” were not entertainers but revolutionaries. Angered by what they saw as the subjugation of Norway’s pagan and Viking heritage by Christianity, bands such as Emperor, Mayhem and Burzum created vicious, agonized music that both reveled in the forests and mountains of the natural world while serving as a rebellion against modern Norwegian life.

The rebellion spun out of control, of course – changing from artistic to literal violence. There’s no need to recount that sordid tale here, other than to say by the time the movement came crashing down, the term “black metal” had become synonymous with teenage anarchy.

Considering its ignominious end, it’s tempting to dismiss the entire Norwegian black metal movement as youthful stupidity – but to do so is to ignore the revolutionary power of the music.

The sound created by those bands was more than just music: It was a scrabbling, desperate attempt to escape from the strangling confines of daily life and connect to an older, more primal spirit. When prophets went into the wilderness to starve and scourge themselves in the hopes of seeing a vision, weren’t they looking for just the same type of transformation? 

Weaver – during a recent, rare interview to discuss Wolves in the Throne Room’s breathtaking new album “Black Cascade” – said he embraces the ‘black metal’ label and ethos, and said the band has a goal similar to that of the Norwegian bands in the 1990s.

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“My feeling is black metal was an eruption, a manifestation of an eruption from an unearthly place,” Weaver said. “Fundamentally, it’s an attempt to destroy the modern world … It has no humanity to it. It’s pure energy.”

While the members of Emperor and Burzum were just teenagers when they were making their best music, “they were able to create a spirit that has an undeniable energy,” Weaver said. ” … I think we do have something in common with that vital well spring of energy.”

While black metal is not hippie music, there is a connection between the hippie back-to-the-earth ethic and black metal’s scream against modernity.

“I think it’s part of the same thread – the attempt to move beyond the materialistic, rational, scientific world view,” Weaver said. “There’s a sense of desperation, a sense of loss.”

Wolves in the Throne Room was formed by brothers Nathan and Aaron Weaver in 2003. From a farm house outside Olympia, Washington, the band created a sound that blends the blazing raw anger and bleakness of black metal with segments of beauty and melancholy.

The hope, Weaver said, is that the listener will use the music to leave the everyday behind.

“The goal is to express the emotions you feel, the intense energies you feel when you enter a mythic space,” Weaver said. “I think all forms of music, but especially black metal, are akin to shamanism – using dance and movement to leave the physical plane and journey to a different space.

“Through our music, we’re attempting to do the same thing – to access a different world and bring something back … to gain some sort of power or knowledge and bring it back to the community,” Weaver said.

The band has plans to tour extensively following the release of “Black Cascade.” Weaver said performing the songs live, or rather, attempting to play the songs while dealing with the pains and annoyances of the road, is trying.

“The dream would be to achieve a very rapturous state by playing the music night after night, but I don’t think that’s possible,” he said. “That’s one of the conflicts we face when we tour – you’re not able to concentrate 100 percent on the music … but the intention remains the same, to touch something transcendent that doesn’t have a name to it.”

The band is influenced heavily by their natural surroundings on the farm. Environmentalism, or at least a deep appreciation of nature, is a large part of the band’s ethos. When asked if he believes it is possible to change the way people think about nature through music, Weaver said the band that band doesn’t try to force feed a philosophy to its audience.

“We don’t intentionally want to change anyone’s mind, or have a specific agenda,” Weaver said. “Me and the other guys in the band came up in the punk scene and we would see bands deliver a political diatribe from the stage. That doesn’t feel true to me, or very effective, but I feel music is (a way) to open oneself up to a more extreme view of the world.”

blackcascadeThe music feels very personal in nature – as if it were meant to be heard alone, through headphones. But the band has said previously Wolves is a live band, and the songs were written with the intent of  being played for an audience.

Even so, the crowds at Wolves shows are somewhat different than those at concerts by other metal bands, Weaver said.

“I think listening to a record is a very personal thing … That has to be a personal act and it facilitates a personal journey of sorts. You’re swept away by the music,” Weaver said. At a live concert, “you’re feeling yourself part of a communal event: You’re being touched by the energy of the performers and the people around you.

“At the same time, Wolves shows are less communal than other shows would be,” he said. “… People tend to have an attitude of solitude. It seems people are looking more into themselves and having a more personal relationship with the music. I think Wolves has a more personal aspect to it than other bands do.”

You can find a review of “Black Cascade” here.

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1 Comment

  1. […] philosophy about black metal from a Noise Pollution interview with drummer Aaron Weaver here). Perhaps the best place for listeners new to the band to experience the Wolve’s ambitious […]


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