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Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

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The story goes like this: two brothers from the Pacific Northwest form a black metal band and profess eco-friendly (to some, eco-terrorist) and anti-corporate DIY ethics, drop a few increasingly transcendental records, and then play a metal festival sponsored by one of the largest car companies on the planet. As a result, an army of Web warriors sling pejoratives like “hipster” and “poseur” like so much farm-grade topsoil. But let’s ignore the “peace, man” hippie vibe and crust punk background for just a second and focus on the fact that, musically, what this Cascadian crew is doing isn’t exactly revolutionary, let alone controversial. Hell, even notoriously old-school Bay Area vet John Cobbett doesn’t mind ’em.

Granted, the brothers Weaver– now a duo after numerous lineup changes– haven’t converted to Norwegian Orthodox. Far from it, in fact. It’s just that the idea of using music, specifically repetitive music, as a means to achieve a trance-like state of semi-consciousness is nothing new- not in the black metal community or elsewhere. Wolves in the Throne Room continue to translate into music that time of the night when we feel like we could take on the entire cosmos. They tap into that unique short circuit in our wiring that causes crime to spike during a full moon, or everyday citizens to simply drive around in a state of twilight wanderlust, regretful to return home. It’s reflected in the monastic choir drone of “Permanent Changes in Consciousness”, in continued collaborator Jessica Kinney’s familiar intonations during the static-bound “Woodland Cathedral”, and in the spectral synths that creak and shudder beneath even the harsher pieces, like “Subterranean Initiation”.

When Celestial Lineage isn’t shimmering or coaxing, it’s bludgeoning the listener to extremes that the Olympia act hasn’t achieved since Diadem of 12 Stars. Not simply confined to looping the same riff for what seems like eternity, Nathan Weaver’s new-found lead work shocks Kinney’s operatic intro into full metal gear on opener “Thuja Magus Imperium”. Even more shocking is the neat partitioning of songs. The 15-20 minute exercises in riff hypnosis are sliced and divided evenly, leaving the triumphant clouds of tremolo to roam and fill the room like the candle smoke that wreathes the band during their live shows- ahem- “rituals”. It’s serious, sure, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for Aaron Weaver to turn loose on his kit during the sweeping, traditionalist anthem “Astral Blood.” Oops, did I say “tradition”? Well, there’s a damn harp during the song’s swirling ambient break, so you Internet warriors can use that as ammo in your next forum hatefest. The rest of us will focus on the lovingly crafted music, which is finely balanced this time around.

— Greg Majewski

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Southern Lord (2xLP)

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