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Wolves in the Throne Room Deliver the Calm, Skip the Storm, on ‘Celestite’

SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: July 08, 2014
Label: Artemisia

Wolves in the Throne Room’s last full-length, 2011’s Celestial Lineage, was a marvel of black metal signifiers mixed with some seriously beautiful touches calmly flowing underneath the clamor: Unrelenting double kick-drums and larynx-threatening vocals were intercut with Cocteau Twins-like guitar chords and the low hum of brass instruments and synth drones.

For their follow up, the Olympia Washington-based band—led by brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver—bring those below-the-surface elements to the forefront. As a result, Celestite calls to mind the moody soundtrack music of composer/director John Carpenter or Tangerine Dream rather than fellow metal dreamscapers like Altar of Plagues or Summoning.

What is potentially surprising about these five tracks is how much they move even as they appear to be sitting still. “Initiation at Neudeg Alm” opens with intertwining syncopated modular synth lines that are slowly swept aside by grumbling guitar chords. Another synth playing a three-chord melody arrives to lead the charge before giving way to more guitar drones and what sound like the slow, faraway steps of some kaiju beast.

But with Celestite you never see the monster. Black metal has long accustomed listeners to expect a tension-filled set up to an aggressive release. But here, the relief of a spine-cracking drumbeat or chugging power chord is nowhere to be found. Instead, you get “Sleeping Golden Storm,” which pairs the imagery packed in its title with low Moog notes and what sounds like an echoing violin. “Celestite Mirror” is a 14-and-a-half minute wonder of glistening melodies and New Age atmospherics, just barely masking the darkness at its core. This is The Two Towers without The Battle of Helm’s Deep.

By naming the album Celestite, the band connects it back to 2011’s Celestial Lineage. But this new release feels more closely tied to Black Cascade, their 2009 effort, which found them experimenting with slower tempos and cleaner guitar sounds. That album and Celestite are proof that the Weavers will follow their muse wherever it may lead, audience and critical interest be damned. For those who can keep up, some exultant and righteous highs await.