Wolves in the Throne Room Two Hunters

While depressive black metal continues to grow in popularity, and inexplicably gain hipster approval, it has become harder and harder to find standout offerings in a sea of bedroom-recorded, image-obsessed crap. Wolves in the Throne Room steer well clear of genre clichés, however, and utilise the trappings of the style effectively and with surprising originality. The record is utterly seamless, and while there is no shortage of standout moments, divisions between tracks are pretty much meaningless. The earthy analogue recording emphasises the group’s naturalistic, pagan tone and provides a rich ambient foundation on which the bricks of blistering blasts and venomous vocals are laid. Acoustic interludes reminiscent of early Ulver, as well as strangely upbeat NWOBHM-inspired lead guitar playing, keep things from getting too monotonous without breaking up the flow whatsoever. This is an essential release for genre fans and not a bad place to start for the unfamiliar. The recent success of similar Southern Lord artists and Hydra Head signings Xasthur have proven raw black metal to be more accessible than anticipated. (Southern Lord)