Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestite

Written by: EW on 15/07/2014 23:52:50

The internationally recognised sign of a band having reached a moderate level of success is the accumulation of naysayers and pessimists wishing to besmirch everything said band does. Until that point, noone really cares and few opinions are aired, but then, as if by magic, every man and his dog has an opinion often it seems based upon little time spent actually listening to their music. Welcome, friends, to my review of Wolves in the Throne’s Room latest epic, "Celestite". Incase you were not aware, the Weaver brothers not only have two modern era classics in their back catalogue - "Two Hunters" and "Black Cascade" - but have become increasingly tagged with the notion of having brought a ‘hipster’ element to the genre of American black metal which they today arguably headline. So when news emerged earlier this year of WITTR’s diversion into pure synth/ambient territories for this, their fifth opus, well, I could hear the e-knives being sharpened. However, as I always suspected would be the case, the result is a majestic, ethereal and fantastic experience that should improve the band’s standing among the more open-minded factions of the black metal fanbase after the ambivalent "Celestial Lineage" upon which this record is partially based.

I believe one of the finest testaments to the artistic breadth of black metal is it’s encompassing of electronic and ambient territories going back to the early 90s - a scope which trounces all other metal sub-genres - so it is rather surprising to note the division over "Celestite". After all, Burzum and October Falls have recently revisited their ambient and acoustic pasts but neither with the scope of vision and daring will heard here. There are no vocals and no percussion in the 46 minutes, only interspersed periods of droning, SunnO)))-like guitars, a regal usage of trombones and heavy usage of synth, keys and flute which crash upon the unsuspecting like waves of cosmic turbulence as vast and deep as that wonderful cover art.

With my knowledge of ambient music outside of black metal limited to the work of Brian Eno it is worth noting how developed and varied tracks like "Initiation at Neudeg Alm" and "Celestite Mirror" are. Varg of Burzum, the most well-known repository of BM ambience made use of eerie repetition in his ambience but these tracks take the opposite direction; crescendos arrive with relative frequency to augment flourishing motors of synth with cosmic rain and kaleidoscopic transcendence like that found a few minutes into "Initiation…", where "Celestial Lineage"’s "Subterranean Initiation" is recalled to spread it’s seed atop the droning bassy guitar noises, or when flute, French horn and trombone combine in "Turning Ever Towards the Sun" to demonstrate a nuanced complexity to the piece. The inclusion of elements from the previous LP in their revised forms is a highlight for me as these provide a degree of structure that can often feel missing without the backbone of percussion to rely on. Dropped subtly in as they are and appearing without warning, these 'covers' have had the benefit of heightening my appreciation of their original form.

Each progressive listen has unearthed new pieces of the puzzle borne from the patchwork of convalescing sounds that help keep the album moving at a solid pace at least until the most straight-laced of the five, closer "Sleeping Golden Storm". Ambient music by it’s very nature is meditative, laid-back and without guarantee of significant diversity or construct this I don’t doubt that others will find a good portion of "Celestite" directionless. My own initial cursory listens begun to suggest that an unchanging template of layered synth but deeper analysis reveal it to be anything but. It won’t work for the more ADD fans nor as a collective, energetic listening experience but with the summer night air drifting through my window as I write this and the last fading notes washing on by it feels just right in these circumstances. "Celestite" is not better, or worse, than earlier Wolves in the Throne Room records but it sits alongside nicely as a challenging, complimentary work of act to their revered metal material.

8

Download: Initiation at Neudeg Alm, Celestite Mirror
For The Fans Of: Burzum, Brian Eno, SunnO))) Ulver
Listen: Facebook

Release date 08.07.2014
Artemisia Records

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