Wolves in the Throne Room - _Celestial Lineage_
(Southern Lord, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (
It is not a secret, I enjoy Wolves In the Throne Room. In fact, it was this band which helped shape most of my understanding on contemporary west coast American black metal. In 2007, Washington state based Wolves In the Throne Room, released _Two Hunters_ which was a landmark in contemporary American black metal. The album not only solidified a loosely knit style of music but ushered in a wave of new fans as well as pretentious naysayers. The brotherly duo releases _Celestial Lineage_ -- a record which will supposedly close a trilogy begun in 2007. The record could be their most cosmic to date, as well as their most fierce. The trilogy of records was briefly mentioned in the band's promotional material. I was unaware of any trilogy until the announcement of _Celestial Lineage_ but when stepping back it seems to make sense. _Two Hunters_ began a series of Southern Lord sponsored albums which all shared a progression of themes and equally colored album art. While 2005's _Diadems of 12 Stars_ certainly fits into Wolves In the Throne Room's universe, the announcement of a trilogy pushes _Diadem of 12 Stars_ to prequel status. Regardless, if _Celestial Lineage_ is the conclusion to a three part act, then it certainly passes all requirements for dramatic construct and fitting conclusion. Along with the announcement of a trilogy also came the mention of krautrock influences including a specific mention to German band Popul Voh. If Wolves in The Throne Room are going to space out on this record, I am completely for it. Unfortunately, the Popol Vuh reference is very light and comes nowhere near the level of 1972's _Hossana Mantra_ -- at least in the way many people were expecting. In part, all of Wolves In The Throne Room albums have taken cues from Popol Vuh's meditative grasp on space and quiet. Throughout Wolves In the Throne Room's history are instances of quiet reflection and cosmic wonder before blistering nightfall. _Celestial Lineage_ is no different as the middle portion devotes itself to the wonderful female chants of Jessica Kenney, who also appeared on _Two Hunters_. For those expecting another _Two Hunters_ you will not be disappointed. The same thing could also be said for fans expecting something completely different. _Celestial Lineage_ holds itself up with three premiere black metal tracks "Thuja Magus Imperium," "Prayer of Transformation" and "Astral Blood," along with interludes ranging anywhere from a minute to five. _Celestial Lineage_ ebbs and flows between female chants, sounds effects and experimental drone. The album's structure stands in contrast to the very bare and minimal _Black Cascade_, just as _Two Hunters_ did to its predecessor. Lyrically, though, the album shines brightest compared to previous records as its themes of spiritual transcendentalism and mythic construction make it the most optimistic record in their catalog. Wolves In The Throne Room have always interested me as a band using black metal as a tool rather than an end. The style of shrill shrieking and blast beats are only a means to break through to something else. More and more, Wolves In the Throne Room are starting to resemble the early work of Norwegian experimentalists Ulver; Whether or not the avant-garde rests in Wolves In the Throne Room's future is completely undecided but not out of the realm of possibility. By itself, _Celestial Lineage_ is one of the better records of 2011. Its continual focus and persistent experimentation of style makes it a fine conclusion to any trilogy started 4 years ago. If this were an grade school speech on Wolves in the Throne Room, I would end here with a summary of arguments. Discussing this band always presents problems as to convey the objective highlights without coming across like an idiotic fanboy. It is not a secret, I enjoy Wolves in the Throne Room but my predisposed opinion regarding the band has little bearing on my evaluation of the album. It would be easier to convey this point if _Celestial Lineage_ was not good or disappointing in any way. Perhaps another day.
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