Friday, September 30, 2011

Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestial Lineage (2011)


Whenever the subject of US black metal comes up, the conversation almost always includes mention of Washington's Wolves in the Throne Room. Despite their notoriety, and the fact it's supposed to be the final album of a trilogy, Celestial Lineage is my first exposure to the band. So, I come to this without expectations.

The album is immediately recognizable as Pacific Northwestern living-in-the-forest black metal. It's as much about atmosphere as it is black metal aggression. The sylvan music is at once beautifully serene and alarmingly feral--just like nature.

There are memorable melodies to be found amongst the myriad other trappings of ambience and aggression, as well as wind chimes, subtle organ, and ecclesiastical female singing. The longer songs (three of them are around 10 minutes) each take you on a mini-journey that's part of the longer one. Two very short cuts provide transitions that sound like communing with nature, the latter of which also has a John Carpenter style melody (think of the theme to The Thing).

It's the mid-length tracks that are perhaps the least interesting. The seven minute "Subterranean Initiation" is almost entirely straight black metal, but that doesn't seem to be the band's strong suit. On the opposite end, the five minute "Woodland Cathedral" is almost entirely pretty/ambient stuff--also not the band's strong suit. They do best when weaving those threads together. These tracks are not such a disadvantage, considering the album is clearly meant to be taken as a whole.

The Verdict: I quite like this very accomplished album, although I can't say that it's on the same level as similar offerings from the likes of Oregon's Agalloch or Romania's Negură Bunget. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. Do yourself a favor and check out Two Hunters, it's their best album by far. I've only listened to this new one once, I'm pretty sure I dig it more than Black Cascade...