With the smell of sage lingering in my hair, I have just returned from two nights in a row of Wolves in the Throne Room. As luck would have it, SGM also had the good fortune to cover them at this year’s Basilica SoundScape in Hudson, NY. That will be a story for another article however, as two nights at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn are enough to fill our mind and spirit to start.
WITTR make their shows a full sensory experience. A transcendence, if you will, from a dark crowded room of strangers to someplace different altogether – it goes deeper than just the music and you can sense that the minute the tendrils of sage hit you.
Shrouded in darkness, with fog and smoke in the air, five large black banners stand tall depicting various forest animals, hand-painted in beautiful detail. WITTR design their own lighting, keeping the stage dark but cast in a warm glow. It feels akin to walking through the woods and coming upon a clearing, where the only light shining down is from the moon but all else falls to shadow.
It has been several years since WITTR have played the east coast, so they were gracious enough to add two additional shows in NYC after the first at Webster Hall sold out in three hours. While on record, their compositions are primarily made by brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver, on the road they fill out the band a little more to accommodate the various, intertwining parts.
On Monday, WITTR were joined by Anicon and Cloud Rat. Anicon is based in New York City and plays a variation of black metal, precise, heavy riffs mixed with melodic bits. They definitely chanel some old-school Scandinavian vibes in their music but with their technical skill set and raw anger, they breath new life into the sound.
Cloud Rat is a fiercely DIY grindcore group from Michigan, and they followed Anicon on Friday. There are a lot of positive aspects of this band that I really respect – all of their albums are on Bandcamp at name-your-price options, and, live, they have a very welcome “No Jerks” policy, upheld by their incredibly powerful lead singer. As Madison Marshall spoke to the crowd between songs, she asked everyone to just be nice as a general rule, don’t be a jerk. As easygoing as that might sound, though, their music feels pretty emotionally raw. It seemed easy to reflect on past sorrows or hurts, or to feel the pulsing societal rage they seem to want to combat. I felt for a moment like I was living back in Boston, seeing Submission Hold in a dingy warehouse and trying to push my way to the front of the crowd. It’s a similar kind of violent-yet-hopeful energy.
On Saturday WITTR had one opening band, Sabbath Assembly. As their name might suggest, this doom quintet has notes of the occult woven in, conjuring images of darker times, of pagan celebrations under a full moon, or cloaked figures looming in shadow, chanting to their deity. Singer Jamie Myers evoked these thoughts with her rich, haunting voice as she stared into the darkness beyond the stage, bewitching the crowd. Their 2015 self-titled release was well received and seemed to signify that the band was returning to more personal roots, bringing in a heavier sound than in previous recordings. They have a new album currently in the works. It has a tentative 2017 release date and I’ll certainly be picking it up, it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve continued to evolve on-record.
It was a surreal experience, taking in as many hours of WITTR as I did, and returning to reality was a little like being doused with cold water, but given that they rarely tour I was really grateful by the end. Hopefully it won’t be another five years before they come this way again.
Check out the images from both shows below! (click on image to open slide show)