This interview is one of several which was originally done for a printed publication. Due to production problems it never saw the light of day so is being published here along with several others over the coming week or so.

“If you listen to black metal, but you don’t know what phase the moon is in, or what wild flowers are blooming then you have failed.  It is shocking to me that one could be seriously interested in black metal and not be deeply committed to radical ecology. Is black metal supposed to be about concrete high rises, suburbs, television, and an easy modern existence with access to 4-tracks and corpse paint from the local Hot Topic? No! The music is about wild forests, unfettered rivers, nature: furious and vengeful.” This infamous quote from Wolves in the Throne Room’s 2006 interview with Nocturnal Cult has paved the way for the path the Weaver brothers have followed for the last 11 years. Wolves in the Throne Room have carved out their own niche within black metal, focusing attention away from the usual topics of blood sacrifice and devil worship to instead shine a spotlight on environmental destruction and mysticism. Pioneers of Cascadian black metal, many have tried to imitate the majesty that the duo create but none have ever truly captured the sound as Aaron and Nathan can. Despite coining the term ‘Cascadian black metal’, WITTR feel they have no ownership over it and are happy to see other bands picking up the term, even if they aren’t necessarily from that particular geographical location of America. For Aaron, it’s more about how the music makes you feel and less about where you’re from. “It’s just an approach to music. And it’s a matter of just listening to the voices of where you live, where you are, right in this moment and just listening with some respect and some gratitude and have that inform the music”, he muses, “Why has it come out as black metal? Well, because sometimes the Earth is very upset and that seems just to me.”

The ambience that runs alongside the razor sharp riffs and banshee-like vocals is a primary feature of WITTR’s blueprint, however, the duo shocked listeners in 2014 when they released ‘Celestite’ – an album flayed down to only the synths and ambient passages of their music. For the last three years fans have waited anxiously to see if this change in direction was permanent, and curiosity has now been sated with ‘Thrice Woven’ leading the way for the Wolves’ triumphant return to their black metal roots. “Celestite was never meant to be a permanent direction for WITTR”, reveals Nathan (Weaver, guitar), “Randall (Dunn, synthesisers) and Aaron (Weaver, drums) had just tripped out so hard smoking weed and layering all those 70s analog synths on ‘Celestial Lineage’, it seemed like there were just too many ideas floating around to not dive into that project. The record is a companion to ‘Celestial Lineage’.  It’s an ambient shadow version of the black metal record.” Aaron is keen to add that ‘Celestite’ was just laying the foundations for the creation of Thrice Woven – black metal will always be where Wolves in the Throne Room music is firmly entrenched. “’Celestite’ was just sharpening our steel, so we could really dig into this new home studio and make ‘Thrice Woven.’”

Having taken a three year break between records and the predecessor to ‘Thrice Woven’ being so different, Nathan was apprehensive as to how fans would react to the new material. However, the positive response has been almost overwhelming for the band and has quickly put to rest any fears they might have had about it being poorly received. “I’m stoked.  We just got back from a full US tour in support of the album and we were a little nervous to include so many new songs in the live set”, Nathan admits, “Personally, when I go see a band I really want to hear the old songs. But the reactions to the new stuff were strong with the audiences. I saw more windmilling and brutal headbanging to the new stuff than I did during much of the older material!  The outpouring of positive reactions to ‘Thrice Woven’ has been very touching and gratifying.”

‘Thrice Woven’ is arguably the band’s most accomplished release to date – as well as being a bold awakening of the synth driven side of the instrumentals, it features some high profile guest appearances from both Steve Von Till (Neurosis) and Swedish vocalist and organist Anna Von Hausswolff. For Aaron and Nathan both choices were obvious and there was no one else they could imagine taking on those particular contributions. “Steve was a no brainer for us. The character needed for ‘The Old Ones Are with Us’ was that of the tribal leader. Steve’s voice and energy fit the role perfectly”, states Nathan, “We heard about Anna through Randall Dunn who had recorded her most recent record. As soon as we heard her music we knew she was the one for these vocal parts. Her voice has this crystalline and otherworldly quality that is just so beautiful and ethereal.  We were very honoured that they both accepted our invitation to collaborate.  Steve recorded his parts at his Idaho compound and Anna in her studio in Sweden.” For Aaron, the collaboration has sated his appetite as a fan and ignited a hunger to perform live on stage alongside both musicians. He adds: “With Anna, you know, she’s just a star, man. She’s a shining, fucking bright Northern Star and her voice is so beautiful on this record. And I look forward to the day that we can play music onstage together. I think that day will come. And Steve, I mean, what can I say about having Steve Von Till sing on my record? I saw Neurosis on the ‘Through Silver and Blood’ tour at the Capitol Theatre, which is the punk rock venue in downtown Olympia, where Nathan and I grew up, and went to shows and volunteered and helped bands load in and sweep up and shit. We were kids. And I saw Neurosis on that tour, so it’d have been ’95. I was probably 17. And that changed it for me, man. Neurosis showed me so much and Steve is such a great hero to me and is a wise dude, man, like just right there in the lyrics, that’s coming from his heart and that’s what I believe and that’s what all my friends believe. That’s what I want for the world.”

Since 2009 Wolves in the Throne Room have played together as a duo, only enlisting the help of other musicians as guest appearances or as touring members for live performances. However, with the arrival of ‘Thrice Woven’ comes huge change for the pairing, in the form of permanent third member, guitarist Kody Keyworth. “Wolves in the Throne Room is this family and he attained the exact same status as me and Nathan as visionaries and holding space for Wolves in the Throne Room. So for that reason, we’re very excited to get back in the studio sometime soon”, says Aaron excitedly. Nathan states that Kody has been playing alongside him and Aaron for a while now, so extending an invitation to join the band permanently felt like the natural thing to do. “He’d been touring with us for years and for Thrice Woven we decided it was time to invite him to be a full member. He’d been such a wonderful companion on the road and is a talented song writer.  We were pleased that Kody graciously accepted our invite. WITTR feels very much like a band again as it’s just been Aaron and I since 2009.”

The lyrical content of ‘Thrice Woven’ takes a step away from the Pacific Northwest region of America and instead focuses its attention on the Weaver brothers’ Irish heritage. Steeped in Irish methodology, the album is less a commentary on the world around them and more a reflective look inwards to who they are and what brought them to the Cascadian part of America in the first place. For Aaron, his inspiration for creating ‘Thrice Woven’ was his grandmother. “So much of this record is dedicated to my grandmother on my father’s side, who is my Irish grandparent and I just loved her so much, and I just feel her wisdom and I see how she helped me become an artist and become a musician and then someone who loves stories and makes stories with music. And I’m just so inspired by her as a person that was escaping persecution and violence and political oppression and starvation in Ireland and making the sacrifices to come here, so I can live. I just have gratitude towards her and to all my ancestors.” Nathan takes a much more scholarly approach to how he incorporated the themes into the lyrics, calling upon his interest in ancient mythology to aid him in writing his lyrics. “The ancient myths have always been a source of inspiration for WITTR.  We all grew up reading the old stories of Ireland, Wales and Scotland and these places birthed the magick that I hold so dear. ‘Thrice Woven’ has incorporated these old stories far more than our older albums. Our past material was very much informed by the modern world, or more accurately our reaction to it.  There was always this common thread of a longing for what once was. On ‘Thrice Woven’ we delved deep into ancient mind states and attempted to channel the old ways into our music without any modern judgement or context.”

Having taken a more careful and considered approach to writing and recording has certainly paid off for Nathan and Aaron – not rushing into anything has helped ‘Thrice Woven’ to become some of Wolves in the Throne Room’s most refined material to date. “We thought of the writing process as forging a delicate blade. It took a lot of planning and crafting. We didn’t even book the studio time until the songs felt completely done and we had time to sit with them. This is not how we have done things in the past!” reveals Nathan, “This album feels more refined to my ears, and in that way it is very different than many of our past records. Some of our past records were pretty wild and woolly.  ‘Diadem of 12 Stars’ is a wooden club fashioned from a tree limb with blood and earth clinging to it. ‘Thrice Woven’ is a bronze blade adorned with precious stones entombed in the burial mound of a great king.” For Aaron, this album was simply the one he has had the most fun creating, while also adding further sentimental value to that of which he already bestows upon his grandmother. “I’ve never had more fun playing the drums and I dedicate the drums on this record to a friend who passed away, while I was recording the drums, actually, in Seattle. And so I hear a lot of her spirit and her inspiration in this record, so that’s very close to my heart.”

The future of the band hasn’t always been so certain, however; a few years ago WITTR announced a hiatus from touring and releasing albums, which threw into question whether we’d ever hear any new material from the Weaver brothers again. Thankfully, they made a comeback and feel they are stronger from having taken time out to rest. “Taking some time off was the best thing for the band.  And us as musicians. When Aaron and I dove into ‘Thrice Woven’ there was a fire in the creative process that felt new and exciting. I feel that stepping away from touring and recording was a big factor there”, Nathan tells us. For Aaron, taking some time away from the band has helped him to focus on the aspects of playing with WITTR that he’s appreciative of, in order to not take them for granted. “I just feel like we’ve been blessed the whole time. I feel like there’s always been this beautiful path open to us, especially in Europe, and especially in the UK”, he remembers, “Yeah, thinking back to that first time playing in England, it just felt like being at home and felt such a connection with the English fans and with the English metal scene. And I think about all the wonderful friends we have there. I’m excited to get back sometime soon.”

Stepping out of the spotlight also meant stepping away from the band’s long time label Southern Lord, in order to create their own: Artemisia Records. For Aaron it’s important that he and Nathan do as much as possible themselves, so creating their own label on which to release their records just felt like the right thing to do. “I just say it’s the DIY spirit. Just to make the art as pure as possible”, he says, “To have the fewest amount of barriers between us, the artists, and the people. Because we’re one thing, you know? And that’s why we do it.” No concrete plans are in place yet to release records for other bands, however, the Weaver brothers are planning to keep it tight knit if they choose to do so and will only be releasing records of friends’ projects that they feel genuinely passionate about. “We will probably do a few records from our very close circle, like the people that play on stage with us maybe, but no, we don’t want to put out a tonne of records”, Aaron confesses, “We want to stay very focused on the cult.”

The future of Wolves in the Throne room is as bright as it is mysterious – fans can expect to see some special trees during upcoming live performances and will experience a much shorter wait for their next fix of Cascadian black metal. “Wolves in the Throne Room always brings this atmosphere to the venue in the spirit, and we’ve always flown these five banners on stage. These canvas banners we’ve had for, I don’t know, seven years or so”, says Aaron, “And now we’re starting to use these new banners, and we’re also bringing these wooden totems onstage, that we’ve created and we’re doing that in the United States right now. And we’re going to try to find a way to do that in Europe too. So we got to find some special trees!” The keener focus for Nathan is ensuring the band gets back into the studio as soon as possible – ‘Thrice Woven’ has lit a fire under the band and they’re eager to keep it ablaze. “I’m very much looking forward to getting started on the next record this winter”, he tells us, “We have so many riffs that have been simmering. They need to be unleashed!”