Nathan Weaver of WITTR
Last Thursday, Olympia’s Capitol Theater hosted the capital’s own NW black metal demagogues Wolves in the Throne Room. Half way through last year, brothers Nathan and Aaron Weaver completed their fourth full length album, their second for Los Angeles metal label Southern Lord. After touring the U.S and Europe for Celestial Lineage, the band is now traveling down the west coast for their winter tour, playing with acts of ambient, crust, psychedelic, and black metal natures such as Mt. Eerie, Ash Borer, Master Musicians of Bukkake (MMOB), and Chelsea Wolfe. That sonic variety was in solid supply Thursday night with fellow Olympian acts Broken Water and Vradiazei opening. MMOB was originally on the bill too, but due to some sort of ice-based “state of emergency” in western Washington, Seattle’s favorite psych-circus decided to stay put for the evening.
After weighing the danger of driving an hour south against the promise of such a lineup, this reviewer courageously ventured out in the midst of the raging blizzard of death in his mighty Toyota Corolla. Regardless of the conditions, I arrived unscathed (feel free to applaud) to find the backstage space of the Capitol Theater pretty darn near capacity. Shortly thereafter, the show sold out. The space itself is quite small as it is simply the backstage space of the Capitol Theater (primarily a film venue). Looking past the stage and the banners set up for WITTR, one can get a glimpse of the spacious, multi-level seating behind.
Over the course of the last eight years, WITTR have had three musicians pass through the band and hosted several different session musicians on records or on tours, including members of fellow metal acts Middian, Asunder, and Dystopia. The Weaver brothers are WITTR and utilize various musicians to create their ecologically purposed black metal. Guitarist Kody Keyworth began performing with the band quite recently, and is a former member of Portland black/death metal band Fall of the Bastards. Their live presence is a consistent combination of ritualistic staging and devotion to natural processes. Above the stage are black and white banners depicting various wild animals in the midst of finger-like branches. On the stage itself are many candles accompanied by braziers surrounding Aaron Weaver’s drum set. Flash photography is explicitly not allowed and moshing is frowned on enough to be just as blacklisted of an activity.
WITTR performed material largely from Celestial Lineage for about an hour. The expansiveness of their coupled guitar work, synth pads, and truly thunderous drums seemed to enlarge the venue’s small standing room. The main theater would have served just as well, not that they should have utilized it. Having relatively more empty space to stand and be washed away in could have been just as strong as belonging to a cramped throng. Note-wise, the experience is melodic and simple. In dynamic and mood senses, the experience is gargantuan. Space is used just as often for calm rolling waves as it is for tsunami-sized crashes. As a unit, the element that ties WITTR’s performance together the most is their dedication to a spiritually concentrated focus. Regardless of a few technical difficulties and how much one would think a guitar cutting out would destroy the spell, the band wholly understands the need for a piece’s completion. Be the situation a surprise mosh pit or a pedal board issue, the band maintained their ritualistic composure and successfully imparted the soaring wonder they have become known for.
Olympia’s Broken Water played second and featured a slew of new, heavily tripped-out garage-psych material. Those familiar with the band’s undulating use of reverb and unstable layers would be intrigued to discover the introduction and combination of new tempos. All three members are equal architects in a living, breathing expando-cell, successfully consuming and excreting sonic spores for (or against) the immediate sanity of their audience. Joining them on one song was a friend of theirs, crawling and convulsing on stage in reaction to the aural rise and fall.
Upon entering the venue, Vradiazei was already performing and completely surrounded. Having set up in front of the main stage on the floor, it was quite difficult to make out the faces of the acoustic act, but their doom laden folk sounded around the space clear as day with the help of a few well placed mics. Once again, the sound was simple but strongly purposed and presented. Their voices mixed completely, held together well by the the airy architecture of their instruments.
All three acts seem to encompass a good deal of what the Olympia music scene generates and thrives on. WITTR and Vradiazei share strong ideological ties; the belief of inevitable societal collapse and a glimpse of the spiritual which the “civilized” world has too long ignored. Whereas WITTR function as heralds or even guardians of the canon, Vradiazei come across as the town criers of empty streets. In contrast to both, Broken Water transmits a delirium that waves back and forth from slowed-down joy to equally slow terror shot out through multi-colored paint. The contrast is great, but it is easy to see how both would be generated from the entropic nature of winter weather and life in the Pacific NW. One side encapsulates a reality that may or may not come to pass and the other explores delirium in the mean time.