Music Review: Celestial Lineage

Wolves in the Throne Room
Celestial Lineage
Southern Lord; 2011

Nature comes in more colors than just green. And environmentalism takes more forms than hippie drum circles and electric cars. Case in point: Wolves in the Throne Room, who recently released their third album, Celestial Lineage. Wolves In the Throne Room is the most well known of the Cascadian metal scene from the Pacific Northwest. A scene that has revitalized black metal and recalls a critical stance towards society that lies at the roots of metal.

Celestial Lineage continues the band’s dark environmentalism: a critical attitude towards civilization, a primitivist spiritualism, and imagery that can only be described as mythic. This is a wintry album if there ever was one calling images from Norse myth of the sun being chased by a wolf, and eventually being eaten–myth that speaks to the shorter days that come with winter. The album traces the sun’s demise into the bowels of the earth, and its eventual rebirth, in the image of a being “purified and clad in a golden fleece.”

Celestial Lineage is not merely about the rebirth cycle of the sun, but is a call for a radical change in society. The Wolves in the Throne Room are also the barbarians at the gate. The band has been influenced by a strand of thought called primitivism, especially the work of Derrick Jensen. A philosophy that calls for the end of industrial civilization to be replaced by tribal-agrarian and hunter-gatherer societies. The rebirth of beings clad in golden fleeces is also an image for humanity post-civilization.

The album alternates between lyriced and instrumental pieces, slowly drawing the listener into a sonic epic with the drone of guitars and ritualistic guitars. Even in songs that contain lyrics they take a back seat to the haunting effects of the instrumentation. The album begins with the mammoth and goth “Thuga Magus Imperium,” and progresses through six other tracks with a wide variety of influences from post-punk to shoegaze while remaining distinctly and classically black metal.

Wolves in the Throne Room may be the quintessential American metal of this century—NPR, of all outlets, played the debut of the fifth track from Celestial Lineage last year. Despite, or maybe because of, their unique brand of black metal and occultic ecological views, they have an appeal that crosses boundaries that few metal bands ever could. Wolves in the Throne Room show that nature comes in more than the shade of green leafy things, but also the colors of decay and rot: black.

–Royce Drake

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