Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestite - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestite

by Andy Brown Rating:8 Release Date:2014-07-14

Wolves in the Throne Room are often described as a black metal band so perhaps we can start with a little history. Black Metal has a uniquely complicated and controversial history, beginning as a new genre label and aesthetic taken from Newcastle’s Venom and their second album Black Metal before developing into the notorious Norwegian scene in the early-90s with the likes of Darkthrone, Emperor and Mayhem.

While the music was powerful and distinctive, that scene did throw up more than a few unpalatable elements; giving the world the thoroughly abhorrent Varg Vikernes (Burzum) and his right-wing, race-hate agenda. The scene was swallowed up by church burnings, suicide, Satanic intent and even murder hitting the headlines. While many bands obviously just wanted to play music, the extreme sections made the whole scene a complicated, tabloid-baiting mess.

Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room formed in 2003 and, while they took their musical inspiration (at least initially) from Norwegian black metal, they were among a number of bands to reposition the label and give the sub-genre a new beginning. Brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver weren’t Satanists, racists or arsonists but environmentalists who loved loud, powerful music. They were going to play black metal and play it on their own terms.

Wolves in the Throne Room's music focuses on the power of nature, the cosmos and the ritualistic elements present in heavy, repetitious music. The band has released four albums of ever-evolving, forward-thinking black metal in the decade or so they’ve had together. 2011s Celestial Lineage pushed the sound into previously uncharted territory, with ambient passages, ethereal female vocals and spacey synth-lines all complimenting the more expected blast-beats and screaming, guttural vocals.

Celestite acts as a companion piece to Celestial Lineage and is unique in the band's cannon as it contains no vocals or drums. In fact Celestite isn’t really black metal at all. The album contains the kind of drifting, ambient drones which ran through Celestial Lineage but this time puts them at the forefront, removing nearly every rock or metal element there was. Instead, we are presented with 46 minutes of doom-laden yet strangely beautiful synth-led drones.

The music sees the brothers Weaver look to the stars for inspiration even more so than before with glittering, Krautrock-indebted electronics and wave after wave of ambient noise. Guitars are still in the mix, only the speedy riffs have been replaced by Stephen O’Malley worthy drones. At times, the music sounds like the swell of an orchestra; at others, a lost sci-fi soundtrack. The overall effect is hypnotic and shares more in common with Fuck Buttons side-project Blanck Mass than anything off Mayhems 1994 opus De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.

Like the beauty and horror at the core of David Lynch’s finest films, Celestite is an otherworldly delight. If you’re new to the band (or indeed this type of music) I wouldn’t necessarily start here as it’s fairly unrepresentative of their sound. Having said that, it’s something that works completely on its own terms and can easily be enjoyed as such. It’s interesting to see the album as a continuation of black metal, the original scene's misanthropic attitude replaced by a starry-eyed and strangely optimistic sound and aesthetic.

The band has stated that they have no intention of playing this material live, preferring to stick to their ritualistic channelling of nature through the use of loud, fast guitars (and why not?). However, as a recorded document, Celestite is a mesmerising, genre-defying thing of wonder.

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