CD Review: WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM Celestial Lineage
I would be willing to bet that the early Norwegian black metal bands didn’t anticipate their style of music to actually last for a decade, let alone two. Such pivotal acts like Darkthrone, Burzum, and Emperor have inspired bands the world over, and their early 90s material are frequently cited as genuinely classic metal albums.
Now that these bands are making crust punk, continuing to be psychotic racist maniacs, or just plain broken up (respectively), the torch for genuinely amazing black metal in the new millennium has been passed to Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room. This band has continued to be one of my favorite new acts in recent memory, and Two Hunters also happens to be one of the best examples of the genre, period. That being said, the band has certainly built quite a reputation for themselves among both fans and critics. 2009’s Black Cascade, the band’s previous album, showed the group focusing much more on a raw and simplistic black metal sound, and abandoning the more shoegaze and folk inspired sections of their earlier years. With Celestial Lineage, Wolves in the Throne Room has managed to somehow combine elements of their early years, and throw in a few new surprises as well.
One of my personal favorite elements of the Two Hunters was the inclusion of vocalist Jessika Kenney, who helped add a new found beauty and helped provide quite a bit of contrast to guitarist/vocalist Nathan Weaver’s piercing, pained shriek. Right off the bat, Celestial Lineage introduces her yet again, certainly reminding the listener of the band’s best album. That being said, her vocals are just as beautiful as before and help build up to the band’s typical Burzum-esque assault. But it sadly the allusions to Two Hunters don’t stop there. Wolves in the Throne Room takes the posturing a bit too far, as “Woodland Cathedral” uses the exact same chord progression from 2007’s “Dia Artio”. While some could interpret this as an extreme homage to the album, it just comes across as lazy. However, the song does redeem itself by bringing back more female vocals and results in one of the best ambient Wolves in the Throne Room moments to date.
While these are some noticeable flaws to Celestial Lineage, most of the album still shows the band breaking plenty of new ground for themselves. While the album undeniably sounds like a something you’d expect from Wolves in the Throne Room, there’s still plenty of curveballs. “Subterranean Initation” introduces keyboards ala Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse, providing a more symphonic feel and some of Nathan Weaver’s most intricate guitar work yet. The album’s final track, “Prayer of Transformation”, shows the band delving into drone/doom territory, sounding quite similar to their Southern Lord labelmates, Sunn O))). Celestial Lineage at its core though is still undeniably based in the band’s now trademark black metal aesthetic. Brothers Nathan and Aaron Weaver still assault the hell out of their instruments, only this time the band seems much more polished and musically accomplished. It’s certainly not as primitive as any of their previous three LPs. Despite these nitpickings from an extremely loyal fan of the band, Celestial Lineage is an excellent album and certainly one of the better releases of 2011. Wolves in the Throne Room have always known how to kick the shit out of their contemporaries, and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for now.
Rating – 8/10