In the first half of this year I thought my very choosy taste in the heavier genres of music was to be left unrequited, but then the good stuff started to appear, the first to really perk me up was the amazing assault of Ireland’s Altar of Plagues’ second album “Mammal”. Then “Epoch” the second album from English black metallers Fen came along and I thought perhaps my neck muscles would still get a work out after all!
Fast forward to the release of this, the fourth and potentially final album from Olympia, Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room, “Celestial Lineage” and it is an all out neck-snapping, spine tingling gobsmacker ladies and germs!
All of their past albums stuck rigidly to consisting of four tracks each spanning the ten to fifteen minute mark whereas Celestial Lineage breaks with tradition to cram in a dizzying seven! They’ve not strayed into three minute rock song territory though, there are still three tracks here that go over ten minutes!
The first of which is opening track “Thuja Magus Imperium” (has a less black metal song title been released this year?) clocking in at nearly twelve minutes. It begins without any metallic airs, beautiful choral vocals from Jessica Kenney reminding me of parts of previous album Two Hunters, unsurprising as that was also Ms Kenney (their previous album to Celestial Lineage, “Black Cascade” forwent the ambient post-rock passages for a more straight up black metal feel and, for my ears at any rate, suffered because of it, I also missed the female vocals). After around three minutes the guitars and Nathan Weaver’s familiar screams enter the fray and we’re off!
The following track, “Permanent Changes in Consciousness” is the first of two more ambient filler passages on the album, the sounds of a crackling fire and the unmistakable sound of a blade being dragged down a whetstone adds to the sinister atmosphere (also, chanting in this piece comes from Isis frontman Aaron Turner trivia fans!) and then “Subterranean Initiation” comes in like a slap to the face! Heaviest so far, not the heaviest on the album, that’s reserved for penultimate track “Astral Blood”, but blast beats, spiralling guitar work, choral voices and a discordant howling in the background gets the spine tingling and the adrenaline coursing!
The second ambient piece “Rainbow Illness” follows, full of odd sounds leading into “Woodland Cathedral” and the return of Jessica Kenney’s lovely voice combined with twinkling sounds and choral harmonies really make this one live up to its title, you can almost imagine a congregation sat amongst the trees worshipping some arboreal deity! These two make up the shortest tracks on the album and the brief respite from the aural assault is brought to a sudden and crashing end by the arrival of “Astral Blood”.
This and final slow-burner “Prayer of Transformation”, the two remaining tracks on the album, both of which just break the ten minute barrier, put the cap on what is not only, imho, WITTR’s best album but also one of the best albums I’ve heard this year of any genre! At various points while listening to this, especially on vinyl (heavywieght, double blood red vinyl, mmm), I’ve given serious consideration to making this my album of the year!