For the uninitiated, Wolves in the Throne Room play a very unique form of black metal. At first listen they fool you into believing they could very well be a scandanavian BM band. Tremelo picking? Check. High pitched shrieked vocals? Check. Blast beats? Check. Pictures of the band in the woods? Check. Where the difference lies is their philosophy and their country of origin, and when you have a genre such as black metal, these two elements are very integral to the sound of the band. If a black metal band comes from Norway, there’s a strong chance they will sound very different from a band from Finland. This sound differentiation typically stays in place for lyrical content as well, because as most of us know, black metal is very much a lifestyle music.
Hailing from Washington state and brandishing an “earth first” ideology, the music on any of their albums reflect both their North American heritage and their love for nature. Their music is both harsh, melodic, and at times very serene. Their first three albums are some of the best black metal to come out of the US, putting them next to, if not above, the staple greats of America, such as Nachtmystium, Krieg, Xasthur and Twilight. Being a band that I have personally been into for years, I was eagerly anticipating this release, and it doesn’t disappoint, despite some major changes.
If you have heard “Diadem of the 12 Stars”, “Two Hunters”, or “Black Cascade” then you have a pretty good idea of what the core sound is going to be here. When things are metal, they are very, very cold, nihilistic, fast, and full of hate. When things are not metal, they are calm, serene, reverent and beautiful. With the previous albums, the dividing line between peaceful nature and black metal ritual is very apparent yet in no way sounds forced. Which is why WITTR are masters of their craft.
What sets “Celestial Lineage” apart from the back catalogue is how fluidly and without any friction this sound change occurs. The music will dance back and forth between black metal, ambient, doom and folk with little, or no strain whatsoever. Violent to calm, heavy to soft, WITTR have completely deconstructed the typical black metal archetype and sound, picked up the pieces they liked, and brushed the rest away. Many times one will not even know there has been a track change, and this is achieved somehow without the whole album sounding like one giant song.
This album is a testament to what you can do with a little ingenuity and knowing what to tinker with and what to just leave the fuck alone. It’s this polarity and transitions between both worlds that is the true magic working here. Take the opening track “Thuja Magus Imperium ” for example. It begins with soft keys and chimes, evolving to include female clean vocals, evolving further to incorporate the main “hook” guitar riff, continuosly evolving into the brand of BM we’ve come to love from these gentleman and further evolving into blends of other styles.
If you are worried that WITTR have changed their sound, please rest assured this is a natural successor to “Black Cascade” and “Two Hunters” and if you liked either of those albums, you will not be disappointed. If this is your first time listening to them, this is a fantastic place to start, as I can think of nothing negative to say about this album. Let’s hope they keep producing genre defining BM that makes me proud of the music from my country.
-Chaz 9/25/2011 10:33am