Release Date: Sep 13, 2011
Record label: Southern Lord Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
In a 2009 Show No Mercy interview with Olympia "astral black metal" band Wolves in the Throne Room, I mentioned that, as a byproduct of their relative success outside of the underground, they'd inevitably be on the receiving end of plenty of scenester backlash. (Black metal can be a strange place: at times, it's more acceptable to remain boring and unknown than be ambitious and heard.) A couple of years later, United States black metal in general is at an interesting point. The scene, or lack thereof, is something I've been going on about for the last few years; now, on the backs of crossover "experimental black metal" acts like Krallice and Liturgy, it's nudging into even more mainstream corners.
Over the course of their impressive first three albums, Portland, Oregon-based sibling duo Wolves in the Throne Room have established, arguably even steadily incremented, their place on the front lines of the American black metal scene. But even they recognized the need to broaden their sonic palette during the six-month fermentation process that spawned their fourth long-player, Celestial Lineage, in 2011. Not by turning their backs on those formative Norse black metal origins, mind you (you'll find plenty of buzzsaws, blastbeats, and screeches here), but by daring to introduce even more alien elements into their midst.
In a way, this fourth album by Olympia nature boys Wolves In The Throne Room might be their first release that actually sounds like what their detractors keep insisting they sound like. Not that it’s diluted or weedy, far from it in fact. By the recognised standards of black metal, however, Celestial Lineage is extremely mannered, widespread in its musical reference points, more inclined to promote effeminacy than machismo and full of awe at the apparently limitless wonders of the natural world.
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM play Soybomb HQ on September 6. See listing. Rating: NNNN Olympia, Washington's Wolves in the Throne Room have made their most accessible album to date, featuring short musical segues interspersed with the elaborate longer songs that have been their stock in trade. That's not to say it's a pop album; it's too intricate and contradictory for that.
Wolves in the Throne Room make black metal for those who don't like black metal (which is, in theory, a hell of a lot of people). They may take some of the genre's more off-putting elements, such as the impenetrable screams and the blast beats, but these are combined with rich production (by black metal standards at least), and an image aimed more at those outside the 'scene', thanks to their beautifully designed covers and their being signed to Sunn O)))'s label Southern Lord. As for the genre's slightly dodgy ideological connotations, these are skated around by the band generally going on about farming in interviews - essentially they're a bunch of slightly scary looking hippies (which explains Permanent Changes in Consciousness, a low meditative chant of 'aum' over the scraping of farm equipment).