USBM is often treated with a justified derision and though bands emerge from the cesspool of utter refuse, embodying spirit and quality above and beyond much of their European counterparts, it almost always lacks the essence of what impassioned the music at the culmination of its creative formation. Take LEVIATHAN as a case in point. Their music is brilliant - I’ll accept no argument to the contrary - and indeed black, but it lacks the natural feel of classic BURZUM, rendering it modern and almost rootless. Though this adds to their individuality and, moreover, their appeal, it showcases the difference between music made from a country without the inherent cultural struggle and awareness of the various European scenes.
However, now WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM have emerged, crafting a more distinctly European sound than almost any of their contemporaries on either side of the pond. Theirs is a sound that should reinvigorate a classic sound, a sound lost following the demise of IN THE WOODS and the incarceration of Mr. BURZUM himself. The styles found in those two bands have fused together to create much of the aura and mystique of “Diadem Of 12 Stars,” creating a powerful and evocative mixture of natural soundscapes and complete misanthropy.
The songs are long but flow with streamlined perfection incorporating brilliant elements of tremolo strummed Black Metal with more ambitious and diverse moods. Female vocals occasionally emerge also, creating a harmonious balance offsetting the harsh, deranged screams and intense guitar work and the keyboards give a distinct BURZUM ambience. Given the length of the compositions, mid-paced breaks as well as those of effective doom, lend the album a balanced feel. I can’t stress enough the brilliance of the craftsmanship.
Though I mentioned that the moods are varied, they are all varying types of darkness. Indeed, if GEASA and PRIMORDIAL were to embody an Irish form of this kind of music, then this is a more ambitious and diverse mixture of similar themes (actually, for their mid-paced sections ‘recent’ GEASA is a great reference with similar rhythms and spiteful vocal shrieks). The reason why GEASA and PRIMORDIAL are relevant comparisons, albeit in an Irish sense, is because there is something old, even ancient about this record. IN THE WOODS had it on “HEart Of The Ages,” and now “Diadem Of 12 Stars” is the perfect supplement for those disdainful of today and dreaming of the ancient past.
I’ve labelled this ‘Black Metal’ for convenience, but truthfully it is so much more and as such should be heard by fans of any of the above as well as bands like AGALLOCH and ULVER. This is enchanting music, full of passion, rich imagery and a resounding clarity that echoes through to the romantic side of your soul. A definite contender for album of the year. (Online June 15, 2006)