The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Wolves In The Throne Room
Celestite Daniel Ross , July 15th, 2014 15:44

Few sounds are as mournful as Wolves In The Throne Room in their fullest, apogee-scraping flight. It's not necessary in the slightest to know what they're talking about - that sound is purely sad. 2012's Celestial Lineage was the end of a stylistic era for the band, the last time we would hear drums flailing dementedly underneath the Weaver brothers' guitars. While this follow-up marks a clear turning point (despite being touted as a "companion" album), there are certain elements that survive in this new, cleaner and more streamlined prospect – and that monumental sadness is one of them.

As was astutely pointed out in a recent interview with FACT Magazine, when you remove the thunderous percussion from the Weavers' guitars, they sound like an encompassing balm rather than a plectrum-annihilating assault. So to remove the drums almost completely from Celestite is not necessarily a move away from the band's core sound, rather it is more an opportunity to pump new blood around its veins and see if it wakes up. It's clear as soon as the strident brass and flutes arrive to wreak a gentle havoc on the early calm of 'Turning Ever Towards The Sun', that it most certainly has. In this guise, ridden of whatever pomp they may have had as a three-piece black metal act, we see a crouching, tender and defensive version of WITTR, and it is most becoming. 

Absence of guitars does make the heart grow fonder though, and 'Initiation At Neudeg Alm' lets us hear one for the first time on the record after a delightful Vangelis-aping opening. When it rises from the swamp, it's glorious - a shredded, buzzing and cantankerous relic of what WITTR's guitars can sound like, and one that gracefully dies at the end of the song. What's clear from examples like this, is that the Weavers' craft has become that bit subtler than alternating screams, blastbeats and flute interludes, as entertaining as that has been for previous albums. Added to their already-bulging bag of musical weapons is a sensibly-wielded mix of synthesiser sadness and a serenity that recalls the more otherworldly moments of Queen's Flash Gordon soundtrack. More intriguingly, there are also some surprising Fairport Convention-isms, even some Steeleye Span-isms in the superbly recorded flute harmonies on 'Celestite Mirror', and the mingled organs of 'Bridge Of Leaves' conjure a further bogginess underfoot, always threatening to envelop.

It'd be wrong to say Celestite simply an expansion or a reduction of the band's signature sound. Besides, they've actually managed to retain an awful lot of it (especially that inconsolable mournfulness) albeit in a different guise. What's changed here is that the Weavers are now more than just writers of music; they are now enablers of specific atmospheres, able to handhold a listener through incredibly dense forest in very low light. Though you might not be able to see the way out and you might be too sad to even countenance ever leaving the forest, when you finally do, it's with the exhilarating desire to go back in again, straight away.

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.