23 July 2014

Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestite

I have a feeling this review will not take long, but the album is not a short release.  It is also a surprise that I am doing this review at all. This is the fifth album from American black metal Wolves In The Throne Room and it has been billed as a companion piece to their last release 'Celestial Lineage'.  At the time of that release, the band said that they were finished and not releasing anything else.  However, here we are four years on and another album is released.  A brief history lesson - the band was formed in 2003 and consists of Aaron and Nathan Weaver, plus whoever they want to help them at the time.  In metal circles, there is sometimes spoken about in hushed tones; almost as if they were super natural beings or deities who would kill if they wanted to do so.  They have a strange aura about them and they love to use natural imagery and organic sounds in their work.  I have to say from the start that the cover is one of the prettiest I have seen this year, but now we have to look at the music and see if it delivers.

Now from the outset I would like to point out that there is no metal riffage on this album, it is all very atmospheric and brooding soundscape, some guitars are on evident on this album; just not as many as some of you will like.  If you are expecting the band of old, you will be disappointed; but not as much as you would think.  As the band has always said, they will play Black Metal on their own terms.  The opening track is called "Turning Ever Towards The Sun" and much like Ulver, it dispenses of the tradition aspect that has until now been the mark of the band, the keyboards and drone material is all seeing from the outset and the eleven minutes plus of the song disappears in an instant.  I felt like I blinked and it was over, it was that hypnotic and the feeling of an almost organic nature are undeniable.  The lack of traditional black metal guitar is actually not a disadvantage for this track.  But fear not dear corpse paint fiends! Behold the guitar does appear on "Initiation at Neudeg Alm", like a distant rumble of thunder it falls on the new plains being carved from your mind.  It sounds like Sunn 0))) trying to make an earthquake in the Grand Canyon, it is a strange and epic track.

"Bridges Of Leaves" is the shortest track on offer here, coming in at just over five minutes.  It continues the foundations that have been laid by the first two tracks, with those haunting melodies and sonic vibrations.  The band continues to abandon their own tradition sound head towards a different route, something more natural to their own thoughts and dreams.  "Celestite Mirror" is just shy of fifteen minutes and represents a third of the album; so it is an important track in terms of the whole record.  The band seem to have left everything behind at this point, there is stuff on here which I am sure will make the most diehard black metal fans either combust into flames or break out in joy.  For me, it is just that shade too loose and whilst the previous works on the album were awe inspiring, this track is just a good piece of music; it is not bad, but it does not feel right.  It also has a natural break point around the nine minute point which could have split it into two and made two really interesting works; but this is a personal thing here and does not take away from the brilliant work on offer.  Also, in the second half of the track the rumble of guitars fill the speakers and make for thunder against the peaceful landscape.  Ending the album is "Sleeping Golden Storm", another long piece of work just over nine minutes in length.  It ends the album on another piece of relaxing and thought provoking music that will make you think about the bigger picture for a while and let yourself drift from your surroundings.

This is the sort of music that fills my dreams at night, it is so relaxing and I can feel all tension being removed from my body.  Honestly the more I listen to the album, the more I find that impresses me about the concept as a whole.  What I did not point out at the beginning of the blog is that I have not really been the biggest of fans of WITTR, they have always came across as a bit aloof and up their own arses; it is not that their music is not of a high quality, it is just that the band themselves just did not do themselves any favours in their interviews, shows or delivery.  This album does a lot to change that, as they have started to change.  Just like Ulver before hand, they are morphing into something else that will leave their previous shell behind.  This is not going to be for everyone, but it is worth the effort.  I will also concede that whilst I like it, I would not put it on out of choice unless I wanted to feel my muscles unknot. However anyway you look at it, it is going to be interesting seeing what they do next.  

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Initiation at Neudeg Alm

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can also purchase the album from the WITTR Bandcamp page here 

You can visit the Wolves In The Throne Room website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

Alternatively, you can listen to the album via Deezer here

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