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An Exquisite Heathen Ritual - 95%

CrimsonFloyd, November 11th, 2011

Wolves in the Throne Room have never been an easy band to get into. Extremely long tracks, strange song structures and a decent number of experimental twists make for albums that take quite a few listens to appreciate. "Celestial Lineage," the band’s fourth full length (and the final of The Cascadian Trilogy) is their most obtuse release to date. However, it is also their most rewarding and original recording.

Like entering the forest without a flashlight, this is an album that takes some getting used to. The production isn’t exactly muddy, but it’s certainly hazy. The riffs don’t shine forth in the mix and neither do the vocals. Everything is intertwined beneath a heavy atmosphere. Yet, once you have adjusted, you find a majestic world below the fog.

The album splits into two distinct sides. The first half starts with solemn, ceremonial, chamber music in the style of Dead Can Dance. Jessika Kenney, who is professionally trained in Persian vocals, adds an ancient force to the intro. From that stylized opening, the music builds toward a series of raspy screeches and dreamy riffs full of restrained yearning. For twenty minutes the album ebbs and flows between luscious waves of distorted fuzz and eerie ambient and neo-tribal passages.

At the center of the album stands the stunning “Woodland Cathedral,” in which everything comes together. Kenney’s sublime vocals, organ, chimes and layers of distorted and clean guitars gather around a shimmering, meditative melody that recalls “Dea Artio” from Two Hunters—the opening melody of The Cascadian Trilogy.

The second half of the album is more straight forward metal. “Astral Blood,” the most straight-forward black metal piece on the album, bursts forth with burning pace and sweeping, magisterial melodies that from time to time degenerate into eerie decrepit tones. “Prayer of Transformation” consists of heavy slabs of distortion that slowly crawl toward the album’s zenith—Neurosis style—before finally climaxing in a purifying wall of white noise.

For an album that doesn’t even break 50 minutes, "Celestial Lineage" is an extremely ambitious project. To traverse such a wide array of sounds with such fluidity and concision is truly praiseworthy. The Weaver brothers are able to accomplish this because of their growth as songwriters. While their previous albums had a tenancy to wander, here each piece is a tight web of riffs and melodies that weave back into each other and in turn, the album as a whole weaves multiple themes and motifs together into a singular vision. While this may be the final chapter in a trilogy, "Celestial Lineage" is really a new beginning, an opening to a whole new range of musical possibilities.

(Originally written for