Welcome back to Genre Genesis. For newcomers, here’s a brief overview of how this works. Three of the other editors – Nick, Scott, and Eden – have partners who are, shall we say, not nearly as invested in heavier music as we tend to be, and so their knowledge of the sort of stuff we tend to cover at Heavy Blog is almost entirely secondary. To that end, Sarah, Lauren, and Ronnie – the significant others of Nick, Scott, and Eden respectively – have volunteered to be part of this running series, where I give them a song and they catalog their thoughts about said song and attempt to label it with a genre based on their working knowledge of heavy music. Besides being a fun diversion from our usual content, this also serves somewhat the purpose of taking the piss out of metal and being a benign way of poking some fun at a community that is way too stuffy about how and why people enjoy various parts of the culture.
This time, we’re taking as much of a 180 as is possible from Converge while still staying in the world of extreme music. That’s right, folks, we’re talking about atmospheric black metal institution Wolves in the Throne Room. I just reviewed their new album (spoiler: it’s great, duh) and I figured that what with a new album about to release, they’d be a perfectly topical band to cover here. This is the second single from the new track, “Angrboda,” and it combines their typical approach with some riffs inspired by the funereal qualities of Finnish doom metal and a nice dungeon synth interlude. Listen, gather your own thoughts, and then check out what Sarah, Lauren, and Ronnie have to say about this track!
Now I’ll tell you, I love opera. I love the vocal power and stamina, the heartbreaking arias, the complex choral pieces. But some of those songs are long. Some of those operas are long. Sitting through an opera, depending on the production and the piece, can be an endurance test. At 10:03, “Angrboda” is too damn long. Opera was around before metal. Opera is the genre white folks have claimed for ultra-long music tracks. Stay in your lane, Wolves/Bees.
Bees, you may ask? The sounds from the beginning to 0:15 sound like this is being played by bees, so I’ve decided that WITTR are actually just BEES seeking aural revenge for the havoc we’re wreaking on their people by way of global warming. If you know me, you know that I’m here for that agenda.
In turns, “Angrboda” is a moody and ethereal track from a high fantasy RPG, a creepy rasping song that reminds me, the casual observer, of more classic metal with harsh vocals, and an intricate and carefully considered instrumental piece. Though Nick usually automatically skips past metal tracks for me when we’re in the car, I may ask him not to skip this one and songs like it – it grew on me with its relatively light touch and attention to detail.
Genre: Between the climate change backstory and the sheer stamina of this song, its genres are as follows: Death-of-Bees Metal and Opera Core.
Did anyone else think the interlude was segueing into the “Monster Mash”? No? Just me?
This track gave me definite Halloween vibes, like it should be on one of those CDs over-the-top houses play to scare trick-or-treaters. (Fun fact: Scott actually put on Black One by Sunn O))) last Halloween and successfully terrified a group of princesses.) Nathan Weaver’s raspy vocals sounded like a zombie rising from the grave, and the repetitive, heavy guitars before and after the synth interlude portrayed a foreboding atmosphere.
While “Angrboda” was sufficiently eerie, it left me waiting for something that never happened. The track had a Scooby-Doo-chase-scene-esque feel, but in this episode, the gang never caught and unmasked the villain. Additionally, this unsatisfied feeling only drew more attention to the length of the track. Ten minutes is a long time for any listener; if “normal” songs are clementine slices, this behemoth was like trying to shove a whole, unpeeled grapefruit in my mouth. As most genres only produce tracks that last five minutes or less, I kept wanting to break up “Angrboda” into three separate songs.
It could have been the dripping water sounds (it was definitely the dripping water sounds), but I couldn’t get past the kitschy feel of this track. If Wolves in the Throne Room had just added some chain sounds and Frankenstein groans, “Angrboda” could very well have fit in with the rest of the songs composed by Bobby Pickett and the Crypt Kickers. At least they released this single just in time for the Halloween season?
Genre: SpookyTM Metal
So after inventing the lovely “blackned hardcore” genre for the first piece of the series, I learned two things:
- The definition of “black metal” is a bit more complex than heavy music with high pitched growls.
- I can’t just add “blackened” to any genre I feel like. There are rules. I don’t know them yet, but they exist.
When Eden first tried (and failed) to get me into heavy music, knowing I’m just as much of a geek as he is, he tried to break down the basic genres for me. What I got from that introduction to heavy music, aside from a slight headache, was this: low pitched growls is death metal, high pitched growls is black metal. This was the golden rule I went by trying to identify whatever we were listening to, and it seemed to work most of the time – whenever Eden put something with screechy vocals on, I would go “This is Black Metal!”, and he would congratulate me for my keen ear and instinctive understanding of heavy music and all it’s nuances. Whenever he put on something with deep, round growls, I would go, “This is Death Metal!”, and he would applaud. Either I got very lucky, or Eden was way too soft on me. It’s probably the latter.
After expressing my frustration with my failure last time, I got another lecture about black metal. Again by the end of it I head a slight headache, but with what I hope is a better understanding of what black metal actually means – and I think this track is black metal. There’s the vocals, of course, but there are also other indications. I think the guitar are doing something called tremolo picking, which is when the guitarists picks the different strings back and forth rapidly to create a sort of staccato instead of the continuous sound of a chord. There’s also the aesthetic of the track that seems to be quite sinister- The track starts with what seems to be and sound of quite a few flies. There’s also the lyrics, which of course I had to look up, because I can’t actually understand it by listening to the track. It’s seems to have the same sinister vibe – lines like “invocation of lighting/Searing through the flesh “ and “Under rays of the black sun” make me think of some satanic ritual.
What I don’t get is the weird ethereal bit towards the middle of the track. It kind of sounds like something out of a Scandinavian post-metal album, but then it goes back to the dark, slow, heavy music again. I don’t know if that’s acceptable in dark metal or not, but I think I’m going to fight my tendency to overcomplicate things and just go with black metal for this track.
Genre: Black Metal