Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

written by: September 26, 2011
Release Date: September 13, 2011


For a region known for producing indie-pop darlings and first-rate coffee, it’s tough to imagine the Pacific Northwest as home to Wolves in the Throne Room, a black-metal outfit with a penchant for the dramatic. Brothers Nathan and Aaron Weaver do the heavy lifting for the band while numerous session players pitch in.

Together, the Brothers Weaver have created the kind of music that would make Neurosis proud: elaborately conceived metal music that often operates on a somber, more ambient level between moments of frenetic rock ‘n’ roll.

On their latest album, Celestial Lineage, the band take this aesthetic and push it to the nines, crafting a collection of tunes that should leave fans of both the band and the genre adequately sated.

The mystique surrounding Wolves in the Throne Room has garnered as much intrigue as the music itself. The popular conception puts the Weavers’ somewhere deep the mighty woodlands of Oregon, communing with the trees and churning out pagan mood music for all to enjoy.

The actual process of recording the album probably isn’t all that grandiose, but you couldn’t say the same thing about the music. Full of sweeping instrumentation and intricate structuring, Celestial Lineage is an epically envisioned piece of black-metal theatricality.

Save for a pair of brief interludes, each track clocks in at more than five minutes, with some even surpassing the 10-minute mark. For those who aren’t fans of the genre, Celestial Lineage might be a tedious experience. This is an album about long, sustained ideas meant to evoke feelings of dread.

With song titles like “Permanent Changes in Consciousness” and “Prayer of Transformation,” it’s safe to assume the content at hand is weighty and not easily digestible.

But such epically scoped songs as “Subterranean Initiation” are indicative of how focused Wolves in the Throne Room are on each piece of the puzzle. Let’s face it: black metal (and metal in general) can be fairly monotonous. There’s a good deal of incessant instrumentation and a heightened focus on theatricality rather than pure musicianship.

Celestial Lineage represents something  more nuanced. In creating an overall package, whose sums are equal to its whole, the Weaver brothers have accomplished what so many black-metal acts strive to achieve but rarely do: making an album that’s as listenable as it is expansive.

Sure, there are the trademark moments that induce copious amounts of head scratching, such as on “Woodland Cathedral,” a song mostly composed of ethereal chanting and spaced-out synth sounds. It makes sense in terms of staying true to the genre, but the end result feels no less superfluous.

But things pick up quickly on the next track, “Astral Blood,” which is raucously fitted with speedy guitar work and a decidedly upbeat tempo. Compared with the rest of the album, “Astral Blood” seems out of place. But credit the band and their ability to shift between sounds so seamlessly.

Versatility is a valuable asset to any artist, and on Celestial Lineage, Wolves in the Throne Room have it in spades. These dudes are metal to the core, but their true skill lies in their ability to sprinkle in subtle—but no less effective—surprises.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage Tracklist:

  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”