Review Summary: A mirror that reveals the soul of Wolves in the Throne Room, and provides a glimpse of what may be coming
It is a bit puzzling why people were taken aback by Wolves in the Throne Room’s decision to release a purely ambient album. They have always had this style lingering in the background of their signature Cascadian black metal sound, so it is fitting then that they chose to explore these distant soundscapes in a more thorough fashion. Celestite
is not only the expansion of the wandering melodies that once laced the background of their more atmospheric numbers, it is the progression of the band’s attitude towards music. Wolves in the Throne Room have been resting steadily in the arms of a genre that they arguably created but most definitely brought into the spotlight, and after Celestial Lineage
it was obvious that the band’s once blazing creative fire had cooled to a soft glow. Celestite
is not an inferno like their past albums, because it walks a completely different path. Rather, the soft glow has been twisted to reflect the beginning of another fire rather than the death of the first.
Fitting, then, that melodies from Celestial Lineage
reappear in very distant, shrouded forms through the pervading bellow of deep synth tones and the sparkling highlights that crest gently over them. It is hardly an earthy feeling at all, which proves quite contrary to everything that Wolves in the Throne Room have stood for up to this point. Instead, Celestite
conjures a very mystical aura to it that transcends the organic feeling of raw, tremolo-picked riffing and shattering drums. Because of this, patience is required to digest what exactly Celestite
is trying to say. The album lumbers, frequently gets lost and forgets what it was doing, but always seems to find itself and complete the point that any given song was trying to make. “Initiation At Neudeg Alm” substitutes shining synth tones for violent, crushing ones that seem to stubbornly stick in place, but before long they slide into the background where they best belong and give way to shrieking keys that properly segue the track into its minimalistic final movement. Similar examples litter the album, sometimes multiple times per track, but the band thankfully has the ability to recall a past melody or build the track enough to give birth to a new one, helping each song find new life or allow it to fade away and pass into silence.
It would be a bit more comforting to give a more pronounced nod to Celestial Lineage’s
pieces, as the connections, while present, are thin at best and often hard to pick up on. Indeed, it can be seen that “Initiation At Neudeg Alm” does bear melodies from “Subterranean Initiation”, but such ties are not always easy to find. This gives Celestite
a more detached feel, but in a way I think works in favor of the album rather than against it. The style exhibited here is more of a peek beyond the black metal within their past albums rather than an ambient concentration of it. The pieces are there, it’s just that they are blurry and obscured - perhaps intentionally so. The album does not build to a crescendo, and that is not the point at all, as it instead chooses to simply wander the fragile void created by the album’s immense atmosphere. Wander it does, because the tracks have little central focus and few returning melodies, instead opting for a constant shift from one mood to the next. This gives pieces like the wonderful “Celestite Mirror” a sense of massive movement even though the song actually plods around from one synth line to the next, venturing steadily into darker and darker territory.
works best, then, when things aren’t so linear. Many ambient albums fall into the trap of repetition, not realizing that even subtle variation can turn a dull song into a vibrant one. The opener “Turning Ever Towards the Sun” and the closer “Sleeping Golden Storm” do not harbor the creative fervor of the three tracks between them, however they also provide a gentle lift and a soothing descent from the mountain that builds in the album’s core. It would seem a bit odd for “Sleeping Golden Storm” to be anything but a benign, quiet piece that has the cunning to come to life for just a brief instant before fading into a quiet outro, as it serves as the track to lead us peacefully away from the violence that ends “Celestite Mirror” and back into the waning soundscapes of an album coming to a close. Similarly, “Turning Ever Towards the Sun” would not be an effective intro had it not decided to show us small glimpses into what Celestite
contained and instead simply threw us headlong into what was to follow.
It can only be said that Celestite
was the right album at the right time for Wolves in the Throne Room, despite the many bones that can be picked with it. Rather than needlessly examining this album as if it were the end-all-be-all of Wolves in the Throne Room records, it is more intriguing to see Celestite
as a bridge between old Wolves in the Throne Room and whatever there is to come from Aaron and Nathan Weaver in the future. Contrary to what the band has said, Celestite
feels like it is more than just a simple companion piece to Celestial Lineage
, and there is more than a Cascadian black metal band behind the subtle guitars and massive synths of Celestite
: there is an idea that is beginning to take root. Many would agree that Celestial Lineage
was an album released by a band losing sight of whatever lit that very first creative fire back on Diadem of 12 Stars
, so it is quite exciting to discover that the coals are not dying, but working to re-ignite a new blaze, one that may burn brighter and more intense than the one it replaced.