For nearly fifteen years, Aaron Weaver has been an integral part of the black-metal band Wolves in the Throne Room.
Actually, that's understating it. Alongside his brother Nathan, Aaron is Wolves in the Throne Room. They are one and the same. Two men, one entity, one spirit.
None of that is changing. But Aaron, the band's drummer, is scaling back his travel schedule, choosing to stay home in Olympia, Washington, instead of heading out on tour.
"My place is really at home in the studio, and just being in the woods every day and doing what I do," he says with passion palpable in his voice. "I'd considered [playing some shows] but the live lineup is just sounding so fucking beautiful, I just don't want to mess with it."
That lineup includes Nathan and newest full-time member Kody Keyworth on guitars and vocals, plus touring members Peregrine Somerville (guitar), Brittany McConnell (keyboards/percussion) and Trevor Deschryver in Weaver's spot behind the drum kit. Each is a vital part of the band's unique ecosystem, Weaver explains.
"The way I see it is at this point, Wolves in the Throne Room is a clan," he says. "It's a family and it's growing."
Family has always been fundamental for the Weavers, who started the band in 2003 with a goal of using the traditional elements of Norwegian black metal — heavily distorted guitars, rapid-fire drums (a.k.a. "blast-beats"), epic crescendos and demonic shrieks — to reflect the verdant landscape of the Pacific Northwest. With their 2006 debut album Diadem of 12 Stars, the Weavers established Wolves in the Throne Room as a giant of American black metal.
But the band's style has always been too adventurous for black metal's narrow allowance of sounds. Throughout the years, the Weavers have blended in their own influences: shimmering post-rock, dusky neo-folk, ambient music, earthy mysticism and a sort of ecological ethos that courses through everything Wolves in the Throne Room does. Someone somewhere along the way gave this sound its own subgenre: Cascadian black metal, named for the Northwest's ancient backbone, the Cascade mountain range.
Until recently, it had been years since Wolves in the Throne Room even released a true black metal album; 2014's Celestite was an exploration of the band's other side, packed wall to wall with spaced out, psychedelic synth pieces that move at a glacial pace. That work is a "necessary part of being in the band," says Weaver, one that had been simmering on a backburner for years.
"We've always had that dream. I remember recording Diadem of 12 Stars and saying, 'We should do an ambient synth record,'" Weaver says. "It took having our own studio to be able to do it, because that's where the magic happens."
The Weavers' studio, Owl Lodge, sits on forested land near Olympia, not far from Evergreen State College and the Pacific Ocean. It's where Aaron is working on new music and running the band's own record label, Artemisia, rather than touring. ("We're a DIY band at heart, and putting records out to the people is sacred work," he says.) And it's where Wolves in the Throne Room recorded much of its new album Thrice Woven, a galloping return to the band's black-metal roots released in September.
Thrice Woven is threaded with stories and figures from Norse mythology, plus lyrics about dying winters and fertile grounds, blackened suns and soaring eagles, four-headed dragons and dead worlds stirring. Sonically, the songs are thunderous but also unabashedly melodic, with a firm grip on dynamics. In "The Old Ones Are With Us," for example, stretches of skyscraping thrash sit comfortably alongside doom dirges. "Born From the Serpent's Eye" blooms from a jangling acoustic riff into a blackened blast-beat assault. And at eleven and a half minutes long, "Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon" is an epic saga worthy of the term Cascadian.
For Weaver, the album is much more than just a collection of notes and stories and rhythms.
"When I close my eyes, I see blackness and shimmering gold and fire and smoke," he says. "That's what it brings to my ears."
He continues, putting Thrice Woven in context with Wolves in the Throne Room's past works and its physical existence:
"Every record looks different to me. The colors of it are different," Weaver says. "If I think back to [2007's] Two Hunters, it feels like roots. It feels like being underground. It feels like being under stone. And Celestite, the name says it all. It feels like being in the stars. Or being under starlight.
"Thrice Woven has its own thing going on," he continues. "It's literally this woods I'm standing in right now. A thousand acres of cedar trees that goes down to the salt water. There's just spirits here. It's just the most beautiful place. To me, that's the music. It's just gratitude. That's what I hear."
It's no wonder he'd rather stay at home.