Album Reviews


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Celestial Lineage

by Wolves in the Throne Room

Black metal has a strange relationship with time. Unlike a lot of extreme metal this genre features few tempo changes and almost no traditional variated rhythms. The drums are played as fast as the drummer can without variation in tempo. It is as if the drummer is trying to break the barriers that time imposes with a very human rage and yearning and the music reaches a point where you get so used to this blazing, continual tempo that time actually feels as if it ceases or slows considerably. It makes sense since the overall thesis of black metal is a desire for transcendence of contemporary life and the concept of societal progress. It often equates progress with an untenable conformity and coercion necessary to getting large groups of people to "improve". The Netflix show Black Mirror reminds me of Black Metal.

Wolves in the Throne Room, as you can guess from their name, are also not opposed to a collapse in linear human development and a shift to a more natural state of things. Importantly though, they are not nihilists, like many of their Scandinavian Brethren, and interlace their passages of time destroying rage with beautiful interludes that comprise found sounds, choral vocals, and vibrating synths. It gives a balance to the music that makes all of the parts more potent and gives a sense of space to the music. 

If you are a fan of bass playing and the possibilities of that instrument it is largely absent from this album. Remember that rhythm isn't what this music wants to create.

The lyrics here deal in abstract Gaian poetry. You can't place exactly what is being referred to but there are clear images of rattling pines, rivers flowing full of life, owls perched within oaks, and yeah ruins and Wolves. Sample lyrics

A temple of wet earth/ And rough stones erected in haste/Don this garment of wolf skin/Drink deep from the sacred mead/Bathe in this fire kindled with living wood/Torn from sacred trees

The singer delivers them in a mid-range combination of a growl and a shriek- to controlled to be a shriek and less guttural than a growl but combining the feeling of both approaches.

My favorite tracks on the album are Prayer of Transformation an incredibly dynamic piece of music that lumbers along moodily with chord changes that are ever shifting between suffering and triumph and Astral Blood which starts sounding almost like traditional metal before kicking into overdrive in a furious lament, you're then dropped at a quiet and crackling hearth before launching forward again and back into the woods.