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Wolves In The Throne Room - "Celestial Lineage" (CD)

Wolves In The Throne Room - "Celestial Lineage" CD cover image

"Celestial Lineage" track listing:

1. Thuja Magus Imperium
2. Permanent Changes in Consciousness
3. Subterranean Initiation
4. Rainbow Illness
5. Woodland Cathedral
6. Astral Blood
7. Prayer of Transformation

Reviewed by on October 31, 2011

"Just like nature’s theater, the group paints aural landscapes that are harsh and savage, but calm and beautiful at the same time."

Oregon black-trance inducers Wolves in the Throne Room has completed the seasonal cycle with their fourth LP recording. For the Wolves clan, LP is a term that rings true in more ways than just releasing an album with several song titles. “Celestial Lineage” shows the group maintaining its tradition of releasing epic, double-digit-length tracks. It is truly a “long play” recording. Each song doesn’t weigh in as heavy as earlier recordings, especially when compared to their four-track, hour-long debut “Diadem of 12 Stars,” but the group stays with their plan: hypnotically-charged, sustained notes.

Wolves in the Throne Room thrives on ambiance. Repeated, rolling guitar notes create a mass of glowing, billowing sounds akin to the panoramic Northern Lights. Even though Wolves in the Throne Room plug in all of their instruments, there is a simple, natural quality to all of their songs. Just like nature’s theater, the group paints aural landscapes that are harsh and savage, but calm and beautiful at the same time. Those drawn to the raw, metallic side of the group may find disappointment in the mellower movements of “Celestial Lineage.”

The first three minutes of album opener “Thuja Magus Imperium” reveal the album’s monastic central theme. Minimal, chiming synth and female vocals gently massage the first quarter of the song. Jessika Kenney, the songstress of “Two Hunters,” also serenades two other tracks of synth-laden majesty. These tracks cast a brighter light on the band’s sense of theatrics. “Woodland Cathedral” is a track fully deserving of title. Kenney’s angelic vocals merge with ecclesiastic organs to illuminate the group’s place of worship. Here is outlined the smell of cedar, the majestic drone of waterfalls and the grandiosity of cloud-topped Sequoia.

While “Celestial Lineage” tends to drone onward in taciturn stillness, the group makes room for up-tempo, guitar-drums-bass passages. These lull points instill such meditative qualities that when the transformation occurs, it comes without an obvious jostling. “Thuja Magus Imperium” builds its action in such a gradual fashion that one may not even notice he/she is now within the eye of the storm. “Subterranean Initiation” and “Astral Blood” consist of pure metal forces—the latter track even contains mid-paced tromping in the tradition of Bathory and Emperor.

“Celestial Lineage” truly finds the beauty in darkness. It is a contrast of moods, but its atmosphere is lumbering and tranquil, even during its harshest moments. The lack of metal and extended droning passages have already caused many fans to write off this album. While these elements hinder it from becoming one of the band’s best efforts, “Celestial Lineage” still conveys the essence of Wolves in the Throne Room, possibly more so than many of their fans are willing to accept.

Highs: Female vocals, synth and overall atmosphere

Lows: Soft passages tend to drone onward and possibly cause a loss of focus for the listener.

Bottom line: Not the best Wolves in the Throne Room effort, but surely deserving of their musical pantheon.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)