Wolves in the Throne Room
Celestial Lineage

Thanks largely in part to Liturgy, there’s been somewhat of a backlash to USBM — mostly the post-rock, shoegaze -influenced kind. I mean even former darling Krallice has fallen victim to some of the criticism of the genre with their largely unheralded and unlauded 3rd album. So, are the genre’s oft worshiped apex band now open to the hipster hating backlash?

Well, as if to take on the shoegaze black metal backlash head on, Wolves in the Throne Room‘s fourth album sees the band drift away from the more drone-y,  4 song, shoegaze pastures and deliver a deeper, more dynamic album. And while WITTR still place one foot firmly in the wet leaves and misty peaks of the Pacific Northwest, Celestial Lineage injects a more dynamic and melodic, yet still ambient take on black metal. Though, I’m sure people will still throw the word ‘hipster’ at this band due to their mercurial lifestyle. While I’m loathed to use the word transcendental, when taken at its most literal definition (1. surpassing, or superior.2.being beyond ordinary or common experience, thought, or belief; supernatural.3. abstract or metaphysical, 4. loft or extravagant), Celestial Lineage is most certainly Transcendental Black Metal.

With the cleanest–yet still organic–production of any WITTR album, a sprinkling of  angelic female vocals (also used on Two Hunters) and with more songs than any album to date, it’s apparent that WITTR are trying to change things up a little bit — but not at the sake of the bands core, damp, wispy tones. The album also seems to have the saddest undercurrent of any of the band’s albums, being often soberly majestic at times.  And while the band’s bearded, flannel shirt and barefoot aesthetic often comes into question, one cannot doubt the creative forces at work when the WITTR collective comes together and creates music. And it’s that word, ‘create’, that comes to mind for me. I get less of a sense of a sterile songwriting process, but an organic, intrinsic occurrence by where these songs are birthed or created in the dank woods of Washington State. And it’s this mood that collects like dew on every note of Celestial Lineage, though now flocked with a little glittering angel dust.

The 10-minute “Thuja Majus Imperium”  gets things going with one of the band’s finest moments; crystalline tinkling backs a delicate female sylph-like voice, before delivering a steady tremolo picked march and a subsequent haunting, melodic shimmer. It’s readily apparent that WITTR are no longer content to hammer one riff into the ground for ten minutes — even as good as some of those moments are and were. After the woodsy, fire crackling of “Permanent Changes in Consciousness”, “Subterranean Initiation” delivers yet another opus of perfectly rendered and surprisingly direct black metal filtered through the clouds of heaven rather than the peaks of Washington State. Another interlude in the form of “Rainbow Illness” breaks things up but then the gorgeous  “Woodland Cathedral” highlights WIITR‘s new sheen, with only a 5 minute bridge that features hypnotic female croons and segues seamlessly into the album’s arguable centerpiece “Astral Blood”. This track has has one of the most sublime and mesmerizing mid song interludes the band has created, and its final four minutes is simply breathtaking.

You’d think that “Astral Blood” would be a fitting end to the album with its somber hues, but the 11 minute “Prayer of Transformation” ends the album with a sprawling elegance and a doomy,  majestic prose that shows the depths of WITTR‘s new found creativity with an artful restraint for over half the song before finally collapsing with a complete, resonant fuzz.

Where Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Black Cascade was indeed a cascade of shimmering blackness and adorned with fitting artwork, Celestial Lineage is also as aptly named and adorned as its somber majesty and ethereal subsistence present autumnal hues of gold, glowing with the aura of an elegant angelic presence.



[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 14th, 2011


  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I’m not a hater, and this sounds great – especially if it’s more focused and structured than their previous stuff. I’ll check it out. However: flannel and barefoot what?

  2. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Don’t care about trends or pet names. “Hipster black metal” BAH! Fuck that. Quality metal, stuff I don’t like but can respect or crap are my genres and that’s about it. In this case, it’s definitely quality metal.

    Excellent review, man. Reminds me of why you were one of my favorite MM scribes besides Agalloch’s JWW and S. Craig Zahler.

  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I went to film school with S. Craig Zahler (at NYU). A couple of years older than me, friend of a friend. I don’t think he wrote for MM just yet. He once offered me a PA gig on a Troma film but I already had a job. Would’ve been a hoot had I taken the gig.

  4. Commented by: E. Thomas

    wow- cynny- thanks for the kind words!

  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    great band. cannot wait to hear this. weird that it has more than 4 tracks, though.

  6. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I may not agree with you sometimes, Erik, but I enjoy the way you write very much. Keep up the good work, man.

    @gabaghoul: Hahahaha you would’ve been PERFECT for Troma films.

  7. Commented by: Dimaension X

    Hopefully this is better than their live set at Roadburn.

  8. Commented by: Angel Cat

    Like others have said I couldn’t care less about labels. I like quite a bit of US black metal and enjoy the less Satanic influenced music usually more actually. I’ve never heard any thing else by this band but I like this album a whole lot. I’m all for diversity and forward thinking in any genre including black metal. I’m especially in love with the vocals. Diversity is the spice of life. I love old school black metal but I’m all for creativity and open mindedness.

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