Tracklist01. Thuja Magus Imperium
02. Permanent Changes in Consciousness
03. Subterranean Initiation
04. Rainbow Illness
05. Woodland Cathedral
06. Astral Blood
07. Prayer Of Transformation
Your RatingCreate an account or log in to rate this album
Atmospheric black metal isn't something new to music, but Wolves in the Throne Room may be one of the first bands to bring it overseas, barely hanging on to the corner of the America in rainy and dismal Olympia, Washington. You might be asking yourself, “What in the hell is atmospheric black metal?” or, “Isn't black metal already full of atmosphere?” Sure, it is, but bands like Burzum and Velvet Cacoon take influences from the genre, add a layer of buzzy dreaminess to it, and voila, you have a sub-genre rife with creative movements and shoe-black-gazey-metal endeavors.
To those who are still uninitiated, imagine it as hearing a Dissection song deep within your sleep, but suddenly the vicious tremolo-picked guitars are soaked in reverb and layers of seeping dissonance deluge the song with gorgeous melodies only Explosions in the Sky should be playing. Wolves in the Throne Room's previous records drummed up a large fan base thanks to their overflowing, gorgeous melodies. Two Hunters is one of the darker records they've written, but also possesses their most beautiful moments of nearly post-rock ambience within its songs. And on their previous record, Black Cascade, the band focused more on aggression in the first couple of tracks, and then they broke down into some of the most somber and unexpected passages in the latter two.
However, on Celestial Lineage you shouldn't expect to hear such blatant beauty. In fact, due to the last two tracks on Black Cascade being so unordinarily angelic in their melodies, disappointment was the first thing to come to mind as I was finishing a first spin of the new record. This time the band asks you to dig a bit deeper. Celestial Lineage truly is a beautiful album, but in its own fucked-up and twisted way. Immediately apparent is how unbelievably foggy and buzzy the album's atmosphere is. This is something that Black Cascade lacked and what made Two Hunters feel more unique. Although Two Hunters is indeed extremely dark feeling, Celestial Lineage might be even darker and colder than anything the band has released.
A voice familiar to fans of earlier material, Jessika Kenney's gorgeous vocals are once again heard over the synths and tremolo as the opening opus “Thuja Magus Imperium” begins. The structure of this piece is unlike any song written by the band before, being bookended by droning ambience. In fact, there are only a few minutes out of the 12 that have any sort of aggression at all, but the few minutes that do are penetrating, delivering honest and raw guitar leads that blast in and out of each other. Once transitioning into the crescendo of drone, the ending guitars that are foreshadowed in the song's intro come full force in the most mystically haunting of tones, creating one of the most eerie yet breathtaking moments this band has ever created.
If one were disappointed with the lack of actual black metal in the opening track, quickly following the short interlude featuring chanting from Aaron Turner of Isis, “Subterranean Initiation” slams through your speakers with anger, grit, and buzzy dissonance. Turner's hums break through later in the track during a buildup of double bass and hammering guitars that, instead of exploding into something bigger, fall apart into an eerie nightmare of sounds and drone.
“Woodland Cathedral” and the mesmerizing closer “Prayer of Transformation” showcase that Wolves in the Throne Room were definitely set out to write something different from their previous work this time around. Both songs stray away from the typical writing style of fast drums and guitar. It seems the band's biggest focus on Celestial Lineage was to create as much imagery as possible for the listener, and that feeling is most apparent with the final masterpiece. The growing buzz and trembling guitars, aching bass line and steady drum beat, paint an environment for the listener that feels like walking through a wooded area somehow embedded in the clouds just below outer space: somewhere that's completely unlike anywhere you've ever been, yet feels astonishingly familiar. In the final moments of this powerful piece, with the gazing guitars rushing louder and louder through the speakers until finally cutting out into the sound of the night air, the melodies that occurred for the first seven minutes still stick with you until well after even the sound of night concludes.
Not one of the songs on Celestial Lineage stands out to be the best of the best, but there's no denying that the ending of the album, and the album as a whole, feel much more affective and memorable than just about anything they've done before. Now the only thing left to do is hear how much better this album can sound on vinyl with the characteristic hiss accompanying the already fog-soaked atmosphere.