About a month ago, this Oregon band called Grst released a two-song tribute “album” called Fire Therin, on which they covered the two best songs from Dead As Dreams, the seminal 2000 LP from San Francisco black metal band Weakling. It’s an odd choice but a pretty impressive achievement: Grst deliver fairly straightforward versions of those two tracks, adding a few instrumental flourishes, but mostly polishing up the sound so that you’re able to hear these old songs in a new light. I’ve long been of the belief that Dead As Dreams is the best album ever produced by American black metal, but hearing Grst reanimating those songs, I found myself wondering if it was also something of a pinnacle: not just the best album ever produced by American black metal, but the absolute defining masterpiece to which all followers aspire — and inevitably fall short.
I mention this in the context of a new Wolves In The Throne Room track because WITTR are very much one of the bands that followed in the footsteps of Weakling — perhaps the most notable post-Weakling act, in fact — and on their new album, Celestite, they have abandoned black metal entirely in favor of something that sounds like new age or ambient (its closest “black metal” counterparts are the two synth-based albums released by Burzum while that artist, Varg Vikernes, was in prison: 1997’s Dauði Baldrs and ’99’s Hliðskjálf). Celestite is intended as a counterpart to WITTR’s excellent 2011 LP, Celestial Lineage. That album was a breakthrough for the band and the subgenre, and after its release and subsequent tour, the band (brothers Nathan and Aaron Weaver) suggested that they might dissolve WITTR. Celestite is not a dissolution but it is a distortion so severe as to be unrecognizable from the original. It’s an odd companion to Celestial Lineage, arriving three years later and for all intents and purposes sounding like a “bonus disc.” As an independent work, though, it certainly finds the Weaver brothers shedding all ties to the sound that made them famous. That’s not to say it’s a total bastardization: WITTR were always inspired by and connected with nature; Celestite, then, is perhaps the dead calm that follows the hurricane. Or perhaps it is the sound of a band that no longer wants to contend with Dead As Dreams, that wants to move beyond that comparison by moving away from it. “Celestite Mirror” is Celestite’s penultimate and longest track, and you can hear it now and offer your own theories in the comments.
Celestite is out 7/8 via Artemisia.