Wolves in the Throne Room, Celestial Lineage

Christopher R. Weingarten

By Christopher R. Weingarten

on 09.13.11 in Reviews

On their fourth album, environmentally minded spirit-grinders Wolves in the Throne Room have elected themselves “black-metal band mostly likely to listen to Kate Bush.” Their music has always leaned toward the earthy and pastoral and hazy, a mix of Emperor’s eternal grind, Godspeed!’s cinematic ears, Popul Vuh’s weightless drones and what they describe as a “Cascadian eco-spiritual awareness”— basically the Portlandia version of Ulver. But Celestial Lineage ups the “transcendent” factor, helicoptering in some massive new-age synths straight from Windham Hill, borrowing gooey textures from the 4AD playbook, and featuring a ton of vocals from the spectral Jessika Kenney, whose swirling ghost-wail can also be heard on Sunn O))) and Asva records.

WITTR spend most of their time in blackened trance-mode (“Thuja Magus Imperium”), a frostbitten, blast-beaten rubdown with just an inspirational twinge of Krautrock. But the band keeps that same sense of intensity and triumph with bone-scraping dark drone interludes (“Rainbow Illness”) and the blinding segments of “Astral Blood” that can only be described as “ambient-thrash.” The band reaches feel-good peaks on “Prayer of Transformation,” the Swans/Neurosis-style dirge that closes the album, lurching along at psychedelic snail’s pace over synths that glow like a forest fire. Pretty heavy for an album that features a whole lotta wind chimes.