Monday, 20 August 2012

Wolves In The Throne Room - Celestial Lineage

1. Thuja Magus Imperium
2. Permanent Changes In Consciousness
3. Subterranean Initiation
4. Rainbow Illness
6. Woodland Cathedral
7. Astral Blood
8. Prayer Of Transformation

They have probably done it again. Following the release of Black Cascade, which is dismissed by many as their weakest album (Not me though), Wolves In The Throne Room are back with another sophomore release, Celestial Lineage. Whilst not very much different from their previous efforts, it includes more emphasis on certain elements that weren't present on Black Cascade. It is also their catchiest and easiest to get into to date. Personally, I think Celestial Lineage is their best alongside Two Hunters, with Black Cascade following and Diadem Of 12 Stars in the fourth place (Just because that 20-minute track feels drawn out).

The wolves are back again with their atmospheric style of blackened tremolo riffing. The guitars sound stellar and create some of the duo's best riffs ever, especially on "Thuja Magus Imperium" and "Astral Blood". The drumming is also fast and adept, while the vocals are excellently executed by Nathan Weaver. However, what makes Celestial Lineage different is the incorporation of female vocals (which were used on Two Hunters, but left out of Black Cascade) and droning ambient soundscapes i.e. "Woodland Cathedral". These particular elements make the songwriting on Celestial Lineage much more interesting.

Atmosphere-wise I don't think it can get better than this. The Weaver brothers "weave" textures so rich and deep with emotions, aided by the ambient passages and the female vocals, which also evoke a mystical, esoteric vibe. While listening to Celestial Lineage, it's quite not uncommon to feel your spine tingling upon some amazing guitar riffs. If you don't get what I mean, listen to the riff in "Thuja Magus Imperium" at 9:51 and the one in "Astral Blood" at 8:14. And there's much more to it than those two riffs.

The album is very well-produced (WITTR's cleanest to date), and as you might have obviously noticed, the tracks on Celestial Lineage are more numerous but shorter than the ones on their previous albums. "Thuja Magus Imperium" and "Astral Blood" are pure gold, while "Subterranean Initiation" and "Prayer Of Transformation" are also great black metal songs. "Woodland Cathedral" stands out as a droning interlude with female vocals that create an enticing atmosphere. The two remaining tracks, "Permanent Changes In Consciousness" and "Rainbow Illness" are simply two ambient instrumental interludes to slow down the flow with the album (Which is great by the way).

So, do I recommend this? Of course I do. This is probably one of my top five metal albums of 2011, and it's definitely one of the best black metal albums of the year. Celestial Lineage is just another magnificent offering from the Weaver brothers; it is their catchiest and in my personal opinion their best until now. So what are you waiting for? Go listen to Celestial Lineage and get engulfed by that fantastic atmosphere.

Rating: 9.0/10

Thuja Magus Imperium

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Drudkh - Eternal Turn Of The Wheel

1. Eternal Circle
2. Breath Of Black Cold Soil
3. When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls
4. Farewell To Autumn's Sorrowful Birds
5. Night Woven Of Snow, Winds And Gray-Haired Stars

Gone are the days of the bedazzling Autumn Aurora, of the warm, mellow passages that used to carve dreamy textures. Gone are the glorious days of "False Dawn", which meandered consistently for 15-minutes and had the grand oaks hum gleefully to its welcoming melodies. Gone are the days of the folksy meddling on Blood In Their Wells, and so is the dear love of mother Ukraine. Those black metal masterpieces were all once masterfully crafted by Drudkh, but as it seems, time has taken its toll on the band, for the quality of their works only waned and dwindled with time.

Okay, enough lamentations. It is true that the aforementioned opuses are very difficult to recreate, but Eternal Turn Of The Wheel is a bland black metal album. Drudkh promised us that they were going to return to their roots, but alas, their return wasn't very well-calculated. Now, I agree that it isn't THAT bad, but it is quite boring, not only compared to their previous works, but also in general. And it is only 37- minutes long.

Musically, Drudkh rely on a very basic, orthodox method: three tremolo-picked riffs stretched repetitively across 10-minute songs, with some acoustic parts in between. The riffs are pretty much uninteresting and grow monotonous over time, but since this is black metal, I think we can forgive the monotony. The thing that we can't forgive though is the hideously horrendous guitar tone that pretty much destroys anything good on the record.  Most of the riffs come off as a indecipherable fuzzy wall of lame noise. Fortunately, the synths come in and save most of the riffs. On the other hand, the drumming is neat and well-done, but the vocals are mediocre and sometimes annoying.

The musical weakness of Eternal Turn Of The Wall is somehow made up for by its atmosphere. Of course, it isn't nearly as half as good as the engulfing soundscapes of Autumn Aurora, yet nevertheless, it's decent compared to a lot of other black metal. Personally, I disliked the songwriting on Eternal Turn Of The Wheel, but the atmosphere made the cut for me; I felt that the music was expressed with soul, which is pretty important in black metal.

So to conclude, I'm going to say that I didn't like Eternal Turn Of The Wheel, but I didn't hate it too. It's an average album from a great band, and that seems to be the reason of disappointment. Yet it is not totally devoid of immense Drudkh moments. In my opinion, if this album was written by another band, it would have been appreciated much, much more. Horribly-produced guitars and comparison to their older records notwithstanding, Drudkh's Eternal Turn Of The Wheel is an album worth several listens, until it starts becoming boring and gets on your nerves.

Rating: 6.3/10.

Breath Of Cold Black Soil