THINGS HAVE been quiet in the Wolves in the Throne Room camp the past couple of years. Their 2011 album, Celestial Lineage, completed a trilogy that had begun with their sophomore album, Two Hunters, in 2007 and continued with 2009's Black Cascade. Sometime after, there were rumblings that the band had run its course and that the Cascadian black-metal flag bearers had called it a day.
"I think people sort of took to the idea that Wolves in the Throne Room were over, but no, that was never something that occurred to me and Nathan," says Aaron Weaver, who, along with his brother Nathan, serves as the band's brain trust. "Certainly we felt as though there was a shift in the way we were going to do it. There was a transformation that was occurring, but that's just a natural thing. You can't be in a band for 10 or 12 years and not, at a certain point, feel as though there's time for some new energy to enter into the sphere of the band."
That new energy birthed Celestite, which serves as something of an appendix to the trilogy and marks a drastic departure from the fiery suites of Wolves in the Throne Room's first four full-lengths. Instead of blast beats, tremolo picking, and shrieking vocals, we get a synth-based ambient sound that's more Brian Eno than Emperor. But while black metal is no stranger to dark ambient music—and atmosphere is nothing new to the Wolves in the Throne Room songbook—Celestite's almost new-age palette bears little relation to metal.
"We did this album because recording Celestial Lineage was just such an intense thing for us, personally and musically on all levels," Aaron says. "It was a really deep thing that we really got into, and it affected us in so many ways, so Celestite is a way of maybe closing up that whole process, and a way of, after taking a long break from music, reconnecting with stuff we've done before—but also finding new energy and new inspiration to maybe do things in the future."
Building that bridge to their past work, melodies and motifs from Celestial Lineage and Two Hunters weave in and out of Celestite, although the new album is very much a studio creation. "I think that Nathan and I are both pretty sure that, if we do another record in the future, we'll want to return to the sound that the band is rooted in: the guitar and drums, Nathan's vocals," Aaron says.
"Celestite I think was a very important experiment, or maybe like a breath between projects, and in no way do I want to diminish this album," Aaron continues, "because we put just as much work and effort and blood and sweat into this album as we have everything that we've done before, but it's obvious that it's different."
While Aaron bristles at the image often attached to the Olympia group as farmers living off the grid ("That's one of those sort of Wolves in the Throne Room myths that's kind of taken on a life of its own that hasn't been true in a long time and was never really true in the way that people made it out to be"), he thinks their separation from local scene politics gives the band more liberties.
"We appreciate our relative isolation, because we don't live in Seattle or Portland—we don't have a really big community of musicians and artists around us," he says. "I think it gives us a lot more freedom and space to do things on our own terms and do things completely for ourselves and not let those other thoughts into your mind, like, 'Are fans not going to like this ambient record?' or 'Is this a good move for us as a band?' Those ideas don't really intrude into our process."