Metal Review – Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestite

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Metal Review – Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestite
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Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestite
Ambience
Artemisia Records
July 8th, 2014
Release length: 46:04
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When it comes to Black Metal, Wolves in the Throne Room is one of those names that should only be used if ready for a debate as intense as if you were discussing religion or politics. This entity has been bashed by many as being completely unoriginal since day one, while others herald them as pioneers who single handedly kick started the “dead US Black Metal scene.” Since their 2006 debut album Diadem of 12 Stars, they have remained rather controversial with each new release, and as of late changing their sound as well. First there was the moderately successful BBC Session 2011 Anno Domini, an unplugged release that seemed to announce the impending change in direction that would become the band’s fifth full-length effort, Celestite, all while not blatantly announcing the genre that would be taken. But does this new version of the duo create an album as remarkable as the supposed healing powers of the gem it’s named after, or is this less unique than many would have you believe?

Celestite is a huge departure from the band’s typical Black Metal material. Much like Burzum when Varg Vikerns went to jail, Wolves in the Throne Room have gone a similar route by creating an Ambience album, though not in .midi format. Instead the duo opted to present the effort as an eighties synth score. While the material all has the same general crystalic presence and theme running through it, the impact greatly differs from track to track due to the amount of tension or specifical environments that are trying to be achieved.

“Turning Ever Towards the Sun” starts off as the opening score to an extended Science Fiction film like Logan’s Run, creating a sleek, glimmering world of hope and light that gradually is pulled into the planets orbit, drifting deeper into the blackest of astral landscapes with the only touches of light being far off stars. The serenity of the song is relaxing, even during some of the more unnerving passages that hit after the five minute mark, though by nine minutes in the song does become unsettling. The sound of faster drums mocking a rapid heartbeat and ominous effects layered over them make it all seem like a nightmare you can’t wake from until it finally fades to allow “Initiation at Neudeg Alm” to present another soothing experience that remains far more consistent thanks to fewer tone changes before also fading out.

That fading out is where Wolves in the Throne Room drop the ball. “Bridge of Leaves” on are all linked together in quite the stunning manner. While the astral presence established in the first two tracks still exists, that track in particular slowly shifts towards a natural Earthen atmosphere that could pass as the music you would hear at a spa or meditation class if it weren’t for the darker distortions starting about two minutes in. Before you know it you’re entering the noticeably Folk driven “Celestite Mirror,” a song that blends some subtle epic pitches to make it all feel like you are gazing through to a fantastical altenate world that is quite alien to ours but oh so beautiful. There is a fade just past nine minutes that ushers in a whole new song in many ways, becoming far more burdened with heavily distorted guitars that wrap up with the Folk touch again through a mock-flute effect before fading to some static to bridge the gap going into “Sleeping Golden Storm.” Again, we are cast into the night time skies, but quicker notes do appear from time to time before going back to the synth and keyboard notes meant to leave you in awe, but really are starting to get old at this point.

There are plenty of bands out there that have issued material along the lines of what this album is composed of, so going into Celestite expecting a new and fresh album, even from a band here in the United States, is rather pointless. That said, Wolves in the Throne Room do a decent job at creating a pretty, sparkly album with the occasional dark spots. Celestite is crisp and sleek thanks to a superb audio quality and synths, living up to the crystal which this album is named after. The main issue is that, other than the aforementioned Folk and nature elements later on, there does seem to be a good deal of repetition as far as the astral elements go. “Turning Ever Towards the Sun” seems to go on forever, and “Celestite Mirror” sounds like two songs made into one for the sake of length. If you look at this track by track, Celestite can become a bit redundant after a number of spins. However, with an offering like this, you need to not stare at the tack lengths and embrace it as a larger experience that spans over forty-five minutes to get as much enjoyment out of it as you can. Sadly, even then you may walk away for a bit, feeling like repeat spins are becoming endurance tests to see how many times you can sit through the same tones, beeps and notes. One thing is for sure though: If you desperately need something to try to help get your yin and yang in balance, Wolves in the Throne Room have an album that might help a little, but would do more good if it had a little more variety and fewer fades out for an engrosing experience.

01. Turning Ever Towards the Sun – 11:24
02. Initiation at Neudeg Alm – 5:58
03. Bridge of Leaves – 5:08
04. Celestite Mirror – 14:32
05. Sleeping Golden Storm – 9:01
Initial Pressing Score: 7/10

Wolves in the Throne Room
Wolves in the Throne Room

Digital review copy of this release provided by Artemisia Records via Earsplit PR.