Interview with Wolves in the Throne Room 2006

By Bradley Smith



Diadem of 12 Stars is an incredible album in my opinion.  It is such a vast  improvement over your demo CD despite being very similar(two songs are the same).  What do you attribute this leap to?  How do you feel about your music now that you have had some separation from its birth and its release upon the world?


Thanks for the compliment.  We recorded that demo in a matter of hours in a home studio late at night after I had just finished an exhausting day of hard physical labour.  Given the circumstances, I think it sounds OK.  Definitely, Diadem is a vast improvement and we are pleased with the results.  I suppose the improved sound is due to the time and concerted effort that we were able to apply in the studio.  We chose to record in San Francisco in order to be away from the everyday rhythms of home-life so that we would be able to concentrate completely on the music.  I hadn’t listened to the CD until very recently, now that we have some distance from the creative process I feel comfortable giving it my seal of approval.  I think that the album is representative of what we sound like live, though perhaps some of the rawness and brutality of live performance has been tempered by the meticulous mindset one dons when in the studio.


I am assuming since you are really into the aesthetics of nature you guys tried for as pure and natural a sound when it came to the recording of Diadem in the studio.  Correct me if I am wrong or enlighten me if I am right. 


Definitely, we have nothing but disgust and hatred for the overproduced, homogenized, pro-tools drivel that mars so much contemporary metal.  Don’t get me started on drum triggers.  We recorded on analog equipment and mixed on the board: no computer.  Still, I don’t see how this makes for a natural sound.  Nothing about what we do is natural.  From top to bottom, Black Metal relies on modern luxuries and space-age technology to exist and disseminate itself


One of the many contradictions of Black Metal is that it is a music that decries civilization, but relies on so many modern contrivances to exist.  I don’t think it is a natural sound at all.  It is really the sound of paradox, ambiguity, confusion, being caught between two worlds that cannot be reconciled.  I have had people throw this in my face before – “how can you play music that is supposedly anti-civilization on electric guitars?”  Frankly I find this line of reason boring and pointless.  I remember a common line against rioters trashing the Nike store in downtown Seattle.  There was a famous picture of some black-clad kid smashing the Nike sign, but zoom in and… ah-haa!! He’s wearing Nike sneakers!  I say, who fucking cares?  Catharsis is our objective, not a lilly-white and guilt free existence.  We are all hypocrites and failures.


Also I read that you said that Diadem is Balance and that to me a perfect analysis of the sound on it.  It is balanced between blasting speed and a droning melancholy.  It is balanced between the Icy winter and the deep earthy forest.  Can you explain the concept of balance as you feel it applies to Diadem and WITTR in general?


True Norwegian black metal is completely unbalanced – that is why it is so compelling and powerful.  It is the sound of utter torment, believing to one’s core that winter is eternal.  BM is about destruction, destroying humanity; destroying ones own self in an orgy of self loathing and hopelessness.  I believe one must focus on this image of eternal winter in order to understand Black Metal, for it is a crucial metaphor that reveals our sadness and woe as a race.  In our hubris, we have rejected the earth and the wisdom of countless generations for the baubles of modernity.  In return, we have been left stranded and bereft in this spiritually freezing hell. 


To us, the driving impulse of BM is more about deep ecology than anything else and can best be understood through the application of eco-psychology.  Why are we sad and miserable?  Because our modern culture has failed – we are all failures.  The world around us has failed to sustain our humanity, our spirituality.  The deep woe inside black metal is about fear – that we can never return to the mythic, pastoral world that we crave on a deep subconscious level.  Black Metal is also about self loathing, for modernity has transformed us, our minds, bodies and spirit, into an alien life form; one not suited to life on earth without the mediating forces of technology, culture and organized religion.  We are weak and pitiful in our strength over the earth – in conquering, we have destroyed ourselves.  Black Metal expresses disgust with humanity and revels in the misery that one finds when the falseness of our lives is revealed.


Our music, then, is not “true” Black Metal for we have moved beyond this fantasy of a nihilistic apocalypse; beyond our own misery and failure.  Our music is balanced in that we temper the blind rage of Black Metal with the transcendent truths of the universe that reveal themselves with age and experience.  Our relationship with the natural world is a healing force in our lives.


You have been labelled somewhat as “hippies” and some might say that playing black metal and those sorts of liberal earth loving ethics might be diametrically in opposition.  How do you feel about that?  I mean it is obvious you don’t think they are self-exclusionary.


Hippies?  You mean like navel-gazing aficionados of the grateful dead?  I hardly think so.  I think that most people are so disconnected from a natural existence that anyone who doesn’t see the joy in playing “first person shooters” or dining regularly at pizza hut is a hippie.  Frankly, I don’t have much interest in the opinions of urban lay-abouts.  Also, it must be noted that radical environmentalism is very much a part of the tradition of the radical right.  Even rabidly anti-Semitic NSBM has a strong ecological sensibility, following the Nazi’s explicit and well documented interest in preserving a pastoral, pre-modern Aryan utopia.  At the same time, centrists decry organizations such as the ELF, who come from the anarchist tradition, as “fascists” and anti-humanists.  Clearly there is a strong link between radical ecology and Black Metal, coming from the perspective of both the extreme right and extreme left.  I don’t understand how one could find an earth-centered ethic and Black Metal incompatible – to me, they are one-in-the-same.  


If you listen to BM, 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 BM supposed to be about concrete high rises, suburbs, television, 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.


Frankly, I think a good portion of Black Metallers haven’t thought too hard about why they are into the music.  I remember reading an interview with Garm of Ulver, I think in Michael Moynihan’s “Lords of Chaos”.  Garm just couldn’t say enough horrible things about the youthful malcontents who buy the majority of Black Metal records; I tend to agree with him.  Black Metal is a fairly easy thing to get into.  There is a style, a sound, a set of beliefs – it’s all there to be purchased or downloaded with nary a thought of one’s own needed to get the whole package.  There is deep truth underneath the façade of grim posturing, but one needs to search for it. 


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