There comes a time for most metalheads where melodic atmosphere is all that can satisfy them. Of course, pretty much all of the black metal fans have at least one Wolves in the Throne Room album in their collection in case that time comes. Well, being the black metal fan and the local music supporter that I am, I have all of their albums. I also have my favorite, Black Cascade, on CD. Being one of the most popular non-traditional black metal bands besides Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, and Behemoth, Wolves in the Throne Room solidified their high status with Black Cascade by being melodic, atmospheric, and even somewhat progressive at times.
I highly respect this band’s ability to have near-constant blast beat drumming, but not sound heavy at ALL. But then again, there are depressive black metal acts like Xasthur and Silencer that manage to do the same. But none of them can pull off being not heavy AND melodic like Wolves in the Throne Room. That aside, the drummer is fantastic. His drumming can get a wee bit monotonous, but when you look at that from a less musicianship/skill perspective, the monotony of his drumming only enhances the melodic atmosphere that the music creates. His blast beats are very tight and have a nice, crisp sound. There isn’t anything about the drums that I can’t hear even though they’re in the background behind the guitars.
The guitar distortion is one of my favorite kinds for this kind of music. The distortion is EXTREMELY high and has a fuzzy sound that can also be heard in the works of Xasthur, Blutklinge, Lost Inside, and the Smashing Pumpkins song “The Everlasting Gaze”. I absolutely love the album opener in Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, where you hear the patter of raindrops falling through the trees and onto the forest floor, and then you’re met with the BEAUTIFUL sound of the fuzzy guitar distortion that I was talking about before being played in a traditional black metal tremolo style. These fuzzy guitars are what lay out the blueprint for the atmosphere of the album, and I can’t stress enough how well it is done.
As far as I know, this is the only album by this band that doesn’t have a guest female singer in it; all of the vocals are screams with the occasional humming in the background. The vocals are great for black metal vocals. Although I’m more particular to cleaner sounding screams like Naglfar, these vocals are very good and are tuned in a way that blends in with the music and stick out from the wall-of-sound created by the guitars.
For those of you that are looking for true instrumental skill, I think you’d be better off going for Dark Fortress and Waning. For those of your that are looking for a record that can enclose you in a world of pure darkness and atmosphere that leads you down a path with a description that can’t be put into words, Black Cascade should be on the top of your “listen to” list. Being one of the most beautiful black metal albums in my collection, I would give Black Cascade a score of 15/20.