It is unlikely that the progenitors of the Second Wave of Black Metal intended, or for that matter even considered the possibility, that the music they pioneered could yield something this beautiful. And yet behold what 20 years of musical evolution have wrought: “Celestial Lineage,” the latest release from WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, is primal yet soothing testimony of the band members’ eco-spirituality.
The sense of movement and progression one notices while listening to this album is striking. The entire release seems to have been constructed as a worship service, and the listener immediately senses that (s)he is advancing through a complex liturgy of spiritual communion with Nature. “Thuju Magus Imperium” opens the album in an understated manner, with muted church bells, piano, and ambient keys providing a delicate framework upon which guest vocalist Jessika Kenney can drape her beautiful, reverent performance. When the song picks up, the tremolo picking and steady drum crashes characteristic of Black Metal set the musical context, but the guitar lead distinguishes the sound from standard BM fare, giving the song an exalting mood that contrasts with the self-focused or nihilistic tenor typically associated with Black Metal. A bit later, “Woodland Cathedral” offers the strongest spiritual undertone of the album. With its choral female vocals, New Age keys, and understated percussive elements, this song is more hymn than it is Black Metal assault.
Yet one should not pigeonhole this as simply Pagan Folk Black Metal, for there is so much more going on here. WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM pay homage to their influences throughout. EMPEROR and ULVER, with their more regal, majestic sound, can be detected in songs like “Subterranean Imitation” and “Astral Blood.” Similarly, the former track, with its mangled, raw guitar tones, betrays the influence of the Punk scene in which brothers Nathan (guitar) and Aaron (drums) Weaver grew up.
Finally, the care and attention to detail here are evident throughout. The compositions are nuanced and complex; the arrangements are involved, yet subtle; and the production is handled deftly – raw enough not to ruin the mood, yet deep enough to allow the intricacies of the music to fully reveal themselves.
The music scene of the Cascadian Mountain area of the U.S. Pacific Northwest, in which the brothers Weaver spent their formative years, may not be as well-known as others, yet it is one that has for years been shaped by the presence of a fully-developed counter-culture. This album could only have originated in such a place. It is subtly eclectic in its compositional elements, and imbued with a spirituality that sits outside the norm. It is untamed, yet comforting – a metaphysical salve that the listener can apply to the stresses of day-to-day existence. Not to be missed!
(Online February 2, 2012)