Review Summary: wasted potential ruined by self-indulgence.
There probably isn't a soul out there who doesn't know what they're in for from a new album from Wolves in the Throne Room - fan or not. Whether this band being predictable is dulling the impact of the music or not is up for debate, but whether true or not they've garnered some serious attention from just about every kind of music fanatic. Every album before this has had quite the impact on music fans of any breed - but this is what makes this album all the worse that it treads absolutely no new ground. Aesthetically, every album before this one by this band has been the same thing rendered slightly differently. Black Cascade
tried a more straight forward and pure approach, Two Hunters
took an earthy and almost raw turn and the debut had a very pristine, airy feeling to the nature-themed black metal that these guys do. Celestial Lineage
harbours a little bit of everything of what Wolves in the Throne Room have done in the past, but where that seems to be a good thing on the surface for some, the album treads very little new ground and as a consequence seems rehashed, giving an almost bitter-sweet taste of nostalgia to the listener. This is the first album without an aspect or sound to make it stand out from its peers - and to say this album suffers from it would be an understatement.
does its best to be just like all their previous albums whilst capturing none of the compelling feelings that the originals did. Apart from a small amount of moments sparsely scattered throughout the album, what we're greeted with is just a re-tread of what this band and many other bands in the same scene have done before. It starts off incredibly well though. "Thuja Magus Imperium" is a track to be reckoned with in that it encompasses what the other tracks do not - a true sense of atmosphere that differentiates itself from their previous records. The prominence of synth in the mix is a welcome addition, it gives the album a different feel - almost a royal feel as opposed to the primitive feel of the last album. Also gracing this track are the vocals of Jessika Kenney, who introduces the album with her powerful voice on top of some synths and growing swells before the band make all hell break loose. The song flows brilliantly from idea to idea, even having some really unique sounding melodies and solos (some making use of a wah pedal which I find to be really endearing). It's a shame the rest of the album just dips back into normality for the band, which just sounds like a watered down version of stuff they've done three times before. Apart from the occasional moment that seems good, it's just strung together with generally uninteresting melodies and structures. The next full track, "Subterranean Initiation" is hindered by this too. The synth is well used but considering it's just a worse version of what went on in track one, it just dulls the entire song. The whole album suffers from this - right down to the last interlude (Rainbow Illness?).
When looked at on the surface, it seems like the perfect Wolves in the Throne Room album. Jessika Kenney makes her return to the band's sound palette, offering her voice to heighten the sense of atmosphere but this more than often just detracts from the atmosphere that she's trying to create. Her voice never carried a song before now, rather it was in the background, humming away with the rest of the ambiance. But here her only roles are carrying the songs, and it doesn't hold up as well as the band had hoped for. Her voice is great, she sings well too, but the band uses her voice as somewhat of a novelty. It doesn't even hold a candle to the impact it had on the previous records because it just isn't used sparingly enough. Granted, it's only used on two tracks, but the way it's used makes it seem far too prominent. Instead of accentuating the atmosphere, which it's proven she's good at, she dominates it - and it isn't for the better because her voice was used best when it blended with everything else. "Woodland Cathedral" is ruined by it, the instrumentation barely audible enough to have the drone-like feeling of the track many fans were eager to compare it to, "Dea Artio". It would have reached a similar effect if it wasn't for the dominance of the vocals over the instrumentation which totally loses all impact because of it.
So after so much is done wrong, we're greeted with another good track (finally), "Astral Blood" which feels like the only other track worthy of remembrance. It flows rather well and the riffs are a definite step-up from the last 4 tracks, but this song is just an extension of what Two Hunters did and significantly better. This track does have some tricks up it's sleeve, like a harp interlude with some nice synths in the background, but don't pretend a harp is anywhere near enough to save this song from eventually just seeming like the same case as the last full track. It just doesn't stick because it's been done to death. With only one track left to go, fans of "Dea Artio" can rejoice for a while since the band finally do the original song justice (if you can ignore the painfully simplistic chord structure). But then you realize that "Dea Artio" was six minutes and this manages to push it to nearly double that. Before you ask, no, it doesn't justify the song length. Where it's nice for five minutes or so, after your anticipation for the album to have one last brilliant moment before it comes to a close, it just keeps plodding along doing the same thing over and over. But perhaps the most infuriating part of this track is the very end, which builds and builds a wall of sound and then it just cuts out to nothing and we're left with silence. Considering the endings to each of their other albums were perfect in their own right, it seems silly for the band to have such a bad pay-off - especially since they consider this to be the conclusion to their trilogy.
If Celestial Lineage
proves one thing, it's that a band can only carry one aesthetic for a while before it grows tired and wanes. We're left with one great track, two okay tracks, two infuriatingly bad tracks and two pretty worthless interludes, but at least one of the interludes sounds good ("Permanent Changes in Conciousness"). It's probably true that if this album had come before the previous three, it would have been much more impressive - that's because the album's atmosphere wouldn't have been worn down to nothing by then. Four albums is far too long to change just about nothing other than production values, and it's really starting to show. I can only hope that the band decide to take a radical turn from this point, but it's fairly evident that many fans will still eat this up like it's a rare commodity (which it clearly isn't) - which is fine. But it doesn't change the fact that this is the weakest album Wolves in the Throne Room have put out, and an unfortunate end to a trilogy that could have been ended so brilliantly. Instead, we're left with nothing more than an average album. A lot of the potential of this album was wasted by the band's self-indulgence, which is hopefully something that will change with time.
I won't hold my breath, though. :]