Double Play: Wolves In The Throne Room & Today Is The Day

Count em! Two reviews for the price of none!   

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Wolves In The Throne Room

Celestial Lineage

Southern Lord Records

Of all the new breed of Black Metal, Wolves In The Throne Room always seem just slightly ahead of other bands. They also seem to always be growing and morphing into something else. Mix that with their brutal metallic sound and their penchant for orchestration and you have something more than a band. Wolves newest epic is Celestial Lineage, the completion of their trilogy that began with 2007’s Two Hunters. That album was a bit more straight ahead while the follow up, Black Cascade, was a bleak album drawing symphonic treasures from desolate imagery. Wolves have always been inspired by images in their mind’s eye. Celestial Lineage takes those images and infuses them with something akin to what Mozart might create in modern times after being driven insane by a visit from the Devil.

Don’t get me wrong; Wolves still bring the brutality to Celestial Lineage. Instead of just bashing you in the skull with it, Wolves temper their more destructive musical offerings with work that touches a more ethereal plain. The twelve minute opening song “Thuja Magnus Imperium” doesn’t blast it’s way through, but instead slowly seeps into existence. Pianos, strings, a haunting voice that comes across like a siren’s melody, Wolves combine those elements before unleashing their Black Metal. When the guitars come in alone, they envelope the other aspects of the tune, lulling you into a false sense of tranquility before the full band comes in. What’s so outstanding here is that the metal doesn’t over power the mood of the intro, it just brings darkness to it. Most Black Metal is about power and speed, Wolves music is more about building tone and creating mood.

Take the second track, a two-minute noise mix of choir singing and what sounds like a blade being sharpened. It’s an effective interstitial creating a nice dynamic into “Subterranean Initiation”, the most straight-ahead song on the record. Celestial Lineage is the most elemental record Wolves have made thus far as well as the most experimental. Most bands are happy to have one ten-minute song to cap to their record, Wolves gives us two. “Astral Blood” is the noise-fueled track that plays between music that’s comforting and then incredibly ugly. Even within the brutal stuff a guitar line comes in that’s despondent, the whole track plays with your emotions that way. “Prayer Of Transformation” has a soundtrack mood to it. The use of crescendoing keyboards and scratchy noise elements bring to mind something that moves between 2001 A Space Odyssey and Hellraiser. By the time Celestial Seasons is over you feel like you’ve been through something. If you allow yourself to be taken away by the music then the journey becomes very personal, something all bands strive for.

Celestial Lineage is one long piece of music. Wolves In The Throne Room are about moments, little bits of things that come together to bring about a huge canvas of sound. If you listen to it out of order or try to skip through sections, you lose the greater textures and musical moments. That’s a mistake with a record like this, a disservice to what Wolves are trying to accomplish. There are hundreds of bands that make simple music, some of it quite brilliant. Wolves In The Throne room have grown beyond that, they’ve been through that and seen it and are done with it. Arriving on this new plain of artistry has allowed Celestial Lineage to be the best work Wolves In The Throne Room has accomplished to date.


Wolves In The Throne Room review on Page 2!


Today Is The Day

Pain Is A Warning

Black Market Activities/Good Fight Music

There are few people in the world of extreme music who stay as dedicated to their art as Steve Austin. The man behind iconic noise, grind, and experimental band Today Is The Day constantly tries to put his best foot forward in order to kick you in the face with it. The latest collection of tunes from Austin is titled Pain Is A Warning, and it may be the best thing the band has done in several years. At the risk of bringing down more hatred on my head, the music here is much closer to their work in the early Am-Rep days. Austin has replaced a bit of the search and destroy of the later albums with more dynamics and more of a nod to all the influences that muster together to create Today Is The Day.

First of all the new band is killer. Taken from the brilliant and grossly underrated New York extreme band Wetnurse, drummer Curran Reynolds and bassist Ryan Jones manage to lock a tight groove in the pocket of the insanity around them. Austin uses that pocket as a beacon to return from the psychopathic frenzy he creates with the guitar. As Austin goes all out, buzz-sawing through riffs, slapping out at distortion and noise, he’ll withdraw back into the bass/drums groove suddenly and triple the power of the tune. It’s not that what Reynolds and Ryan (HA Ryan Reynolds) are doing is repetitive, far from it. Instead it’s smart playing, a hybrid of following what Austin is doing insanity wise with solid, straight ahead rocking.

Opening with “Expectations Exceed Reality” was a smart play for Today Is The Day. It comes off like one of their old school bomb explosion jams. The song lets all the fans know that Austin hasn’t changed and his new players can keep up with him perfectly. Setting that scene allows Today Is The Day to do more without any backlash. You know the blasts are coming, so you get into what else is happening on the record.

The title track is one of my favorites, simply because it’s slower and grimier than a lot of what Today Is The Day do. The groove sludges forward like a dope sick patient stumbling through a dirty alley. Over that Austin’s voice layers in as a sickly growl, as if the Devil himself was narrating this junkie’s death. The guitars loop around the groove, sometimes joining it, but often jumping off it. When the main riff comes in, it literally knocks you off your feet, especially with Austin’s voice raising in pitch an intensity without warning.

“Remember To Forget” is another slower jam, but more endlessly creepy than grimy. Imagine the suicide note of a serial killer and you begin to understand, at least tunefully, how “Remember To Forget” comes across. There’s a desperation in this song that’s just as powerful as any of Today Is The Day’s more bombastic work. Part of the excellence behind Pain Is A Warning has to be given to producer Kurt Ballou. He keeps everything in the mix, not one instrument is lost, not one cymbal crash sacrificed. There’s none of the everything-melds-into-one-sound thing happening here and that does Today Is The Day great justice. Pain Is A Warning pushes Austin and his band into different directions, a rebirth of a band that has never ceased to impress and push boundaries. This album is like somebody kicking the shit out of you, stopping to admire the groove, then continuing to beating.