Wolves in the throne room – Celestite

When a well known black metal band announces that their next album is going to be a solely ambient one, everyone collectively rolls their eyes. Most metal fans will bemoan the huge stylistic shift and pay little attention, while those who are well versed in ambient music will expect the obligatory tepid snoozefest. Perhaps due to their reputation for crafting a beautiful atmosphere with their own brand of black metal, when WITTR announced their next effort Celestite  was to be an ambient one, there wasn’t a lot of negativity on either side leading up to the release, with people seemingly believing they could buck the trend of useless vapid releases produced by former metal artists. Unfortunately, it’s all the same situation once again – Celestite Mirror is bland and lifeless, rarely producing atmosphere of any kind. What we ultimately end up with is a boring new-age album with attempts to sound dark and haunting at points while never pulling it off.

The problem is for 90% of the album we have pretty much just the same painfully dull melodies repeating themselves over and over, building towards nothing. The glitchy synths just play dull slow tunes, taking a scale up and down over and overm while the introduction of horns over the top, or the dull distorted guitar drones add nothing to create an atmosphere. Seriously, there only seems to be one note played on the guitar throughout the whole album, introducing a bit of distortion, assumedly because they haven’t sounded “dark” or “haunting in a while”. With four different people playing synth on the album neither of them actually do anything of note, each one contributing either a soulless melody or an aimless drone. The repetitive pulse underlying everything doesn’t pull you into a hypnotic trance, it’s dull obliqueness just annoys in no time at all.

The music evolves sure, but towards nothing. It just meanders around with no sense of atmosphere. Sometimes the synths shimmer alone in an attempt to let the music sound bright and celestial, then they’ll add some distorted guitar to make it sound dark. This is the entire range of their attempts at generating an atmosphere, alternating between the two. Going from soft to somewhat heavy, and back again, it’s somewhat pathetic – especially as the bright parts and heavy parts aren’t even particularly pronounced, they’re lifeless. The way their songs evolve is so oblique and unsubtle that it just comes off as clumsy and ineffectual. Equally ineffectual is the use of horns or flutes to add some variation. When there’s no distinctive melody or texture generated it’s just another vacuous clumsy addendum. There’s not even much point differentiating between each track, because it’s just boring synth melody after dull drone for forty six minutes, with a few other instruments thrown in over the top to fill in the gaps.

Ultimately this album just evokes nothing. You don’t get lost in trancelike hypnotic textures, there’s no foreboding darkness, or a slowly unfolding subtle journey through swirls of beautiful sounds – there’s not the slightest hint of atmosphere. There’s just pointless meandering between two unconvincing extremes. Maybe those who aren’t very well versed in ambient will buy into it, but for the rest of us it’s simply another case of rolling our eyes and moving on. The wolves are dethroned.



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