Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
Southern Lord
Ambient Black Metal
7 songs (48'51")
Release year: 2011
Southern Lord
Reviewed by Alex

Before embarking on this write-up I have subjected myself to re-listening to the whole Wolves in the Throne Room back catalog to experience one more time the feelings those massive slabs of post-rock/shoegaze black metal evoked in my psyche. Then I reread the reviews of those albums (some of them my own) to see what words these albums have inspired to describe them. I literally spent two weeks doing it, from the haunting dense melodic nature of Diadem of 12 Stars to primal stripped down nature of Black Cascade. I simply needed to confirm that my personal fascination with Wolves in the Throne Room has not been a fluke, a fleeting moment not to be repeated. Two weeks of immersion into the Washington duo interpretation of nature and its constant death/rebirth cycle, and I am confident of my earlier feelings. The band that has been a shooting star surprise for me back in 2006 still has an ability to fascinate me now. Yet I am rather disappointed submitting my current impressions of Celestial Lineage. Why? Because try as I might, this opus from the pen/mind of the now renown USBM environmentalists simply did not connect. There is no doubt I will be revisiting this album for a number of times to come before this year is over, but earlier Wolves in the Throne Room did not take this long to bond themselves to me.

With Celestial Lineage the band took a step forward from the bare bones approach of Black Cascade. The ephemeral introspective shoegazing Wolves in the Throne Room is back, with a mournful Eastern Orthodox church-like choir in Woodland Cathedral, with pulsating train-through-the-meadow instrumental Rainbow Illness, with prehistoric people narrating by the fire in another instrumental Permanent Changes in Consciousness. The acoustic quieter moments are not reserved for interludes only, and make appearance to create a respite from the wall of sound in Subterranean Initiation. Yet this layered wall, which is the crack cocaine of Wolves in the Throne Room ambient black metal, did not throw its untangleable permanent hooks in me. Everything appears to be in place, the thought-out one or two repetitive riffs which glide along, the dry throated passionate rasps, but the trance never comes. It is if at times the band almost intentionally kills this feeling off, not allowing it to come to fruition, extinguishing it short of culmination in Subterranean Initiation and Astral Blood, without any regard that it was that trance which elevated Wolves in the Throne Room onto the pedestal I have created for them in my mind. And falling short of the pinnacle then, exposes those one or two well constructed repetitive riffs bringing no feeling of bliss, and no unforgettable moments. As soon as the compositions were over I did not want to immediately hear them again, and it never before happened with this band.

The most interesting moments on the album for me were the celestial opener Thuja Magus Imperium, with Jessica Kinney making a return appearance. The whole composition is what probably setting hypothermia feels like. The tingling needles softly penetrate the body, the siren voice seeps in, the subject tries to tear him/herself out of the impending stupor with banshee yelps and dental drill solo, only succumb to what is now a point of no return. Even more profound is the closer Prayer of Transformation, the magnificent colossal piece of blackened doom, the stuff Colosseum and Shape of Despair could pen, yet with Wolves in the Throne Room delivering it the doom seemed even more impending. With that, a thought crept into my mind whether the band has reached the end of its road with the atmospheric shoegaze, the post-rocky black metal, as what before constituted the core of the band seemed to be the least enchanting part on Celestial Lineage. Is the blackened doom a new direction for the band? Only the future will tell.

Wolves in the Throne Room once said that they want their audience to fall on their knees and sway during the concert. I have never had a privilege to attend, but if all of their previous albums would have had this effect on me, Celestial Lineage fell short. I realize I may be way too harsh with my score, but my affection for this band and their previous body of work could not contain the disappointment I feel now. As Wolves in the Throne Room is undoubtedly a bigger name than what it was just five years ago, I hope many others would still get to experience the album to form their own opinion.

Killing Songs :
Thuja Magus Imperium, Prayer of Transformation
Alex quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Wolves in the Throne Room that we have reviewed:
Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestite reviewed by Neill and quoted 10 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - BBC Sessions 2011 Anno Domini reviewed by Neill and quoted no quote
Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade reviewed by James and quoted 86 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters reviewed by Alex and quoted 90 / 100
Wolves in the Throne Room - Diadem of 12 Stars reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
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