If you don’t know who Wolves in the Throne Room are, then you probably don’t like black metal. If so, then this album is unlikely to change your persuasion. It’s not that Wolves are a bad example of black metal, it’s just that they take everything inherent to the genre (chilling atmospherics, screeched vocals, buzzsaw guitars and a taste for the epic) and push it further than it’s ever been. For the unacquainted, this album is reminiscent of an ethereal Burzum with a modern, polished production. For existing fans; it is the much anticipated sequel to Two Hunters, in style if not chronology, though Aaron Weaver (Drums/synths/bass/guitar) has described it as the final part of a trilogy that began with that record.
It’s hard to review Celestial Lineage as a piece of music, mostly because it’s so much more. The album is steeped in ethereal atmospherics and lush soundscapes to the point where you almost have to dig through it in order to pick out the musical compositions that resemble songs in the slightly more traditional sense of the word. This is either an unnecessary and tiresome chore, or precisely what makes the album so damn good, depending on which side of the fence you sit. As a reviewer I always try to keep at least one eye on the fence, and with that in mind the aural density of this album is in some respects its biggest downfall. The casual metal fan who’s just in it for the songs (5 out of the 7 tracks, and that’s counting the almost operatic ‘Woodland Cathedral’) will find their attention waning.
Celestial Lineage begins its journey with the repeated chime of a bell before exploding into the kind of blistering black metal frenzy that Darkthrone would be proud of. From here the music allows itself to fall back into an ominous trickle of sound that evokes the imagery of a medieval monk lamenting the ruins of a temple that lay strewn amongst the trees in the nighttime mists hundreds of feet above the waves that crash against the cliff face. Try getting that out of a Paramore album.
Wolves are best at their most bestial and ‘Subterranean Initiation’ is the song most likely to cause listeners an abdominal hernia and is a definite album highlight, whilst the subdued ‘Woodland Cathedral’ sees the return of the ghostly vocal chords of Jessika Kenney over a rhythm section so slow and brooding, at times you forget it’s there. Celestial Lineage is surely the only black metal album that could contain such a delicate hymn without it sounding the least bit out of place.
The most remarkable thing about this album is that it manages to create an energy. One that’s meditatively dark, intangibly atmospheric and more than a little spiritual. This is why it is perhaps better suited to background music than DJ fodder.
Wolves In The Throne Room’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Wolves-In-The-Throne-Room/48294546133
Southern Lords Records’ Website: http://www.southernlord.com/index2.php