When you try to review metal from a non-metal fan's viewpoint you usually end up getting a lot of flak. The thing about Wolves in the Throne Room though, is that it's not what I would call metal. It has metal trademarks the screaming vocals and the double-beater on the drums for example but overall WITTR create a sound that envelopes and overwhelms the listener, a kind of powerful ambient music that draws on folk music and experimental electronic music as well. I have played this album quite a lot over the past week, and despite listening to it at quite a high volume I've found that a couple of times it has lulled me close to sleep. I don't mean that as a criticism, but I consider this to be mood music and the band's preference for analogue equipment adds a warmth and a fullness to their sound that I find hugely soothing.

Written and recorded over a period of six months by brothers Aaron and Nathan Weaver, Celestial Lineage is Wolves in the Throne Room's fourth studio album and the final installment in a trilogy of releases that also includes 2007's Two Hunters and 2009's Black Cascade. Like those two earlier albums this was produced by Randall Dunn, who is also known for recording the Sunn O))) and Boris collaboration Altar. Celestial Lineage is released once again on Southern Lord, and it features regular collaborator Jessika Kenney on two tracks. In fact Kenney's vocals are what set this album apart from a lot of its contemporaries. Fans of Sunn O))) will recognise her voice from the Monoliths and Dimensions album where she is credited with leading the choir.

People are bound to compare this album to that most recent Sunn O))) release, due to Kenney's presence and the connection with Southern Lord, and whilst I'm sure WITTR would acknowledge those influences, there is so much creativity at play that such a simple comparison is unfair. Like O'Malley and co, both acts come from a similar place in that they use loud sounds as a force, as an entity in itself. Wolves sound is anchored around the roots of black metal and noise, yet their propulsive drumming means they never really get lumped in with ambient noise bands. Interestingly they have been using analog synths since a fairly early stage in their career, and they openly acknowledge the influence of Popul Vuh, the German electronic band known for their Werner Herzog soundtracks. In particular, the two short bridging tracks on here, 'Permanent Changes in Consciousness' and 'Rainbow Illness', underline that influence.

Just five songs and those two short pieces make up this 49 minute album, and opening track Thuja Magus Imperium is a stunning introduction. Jessika Kenney's is the first voice you hear, intoning apocalyptic lyrics (“A dead sun burns in the hollow Earth/ Nameless rivers of dust over a backing of atmospheric guitars, droning synths and tinkling bells, before the guitars really go into overdrive and Nathan Weaver's intense vocal delivery takes over. I can imagine people getting into Wolves in the Throne Room's overall sound yet having difficulty with Weaver's uncompromising screaming, but much like the recent Fucked Up album, once you get past the jarring vocal delivery, it totally clicks.

'Subterranean Initiation' is slightly more metallic but again those synths rise and dominate the sound. It's fair to say that there is more synth on this album than I expected, but there is nothing clinical or cold about it. Woodland Cathedral is a wonderful piece, a meeting of early folk melodies, synth drone and guitar noise that works beautifully, yet Jessika's voice pushes the melody away from traditional folk into something more eerie. I read that she often improvises by singing along with the feedback from amps, and I guess that would result in something like this. It's the standout track for me, and a world away from what the average person thinks of as 'metal'.

In contrast the next track 'Astral Blood' starts out true to their metal roots, with powerful drumming propelling seemingly intertwined guitars, and those in-your-face screamo vocals return. However after a few minutes the sound and fury subside and give way to an ancient folk melody, and when the band kick back in, the effect is again over-powering. Their awareness of light and shade and the dynamic range within their music is worthy of Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Closing track 'Prayer of Transformation' begins with warm droning guitars and never really raises the tempo, but once again it just overpowers you.

Much has been said about the alternative lifestyles of the two brothers and their remote farmhouse in the Pacific North West where they live and make their music. It seems earthy and organic but there is a mysticism and mystery at play in their music as well. The lyrics dwell on apocalypse, decay, destruction, but you have to dig deep through their wall of sound to get at that. At the one live encounter I've had with them, I had a clear view of the stage and I couldn't see them. The stage was covered in smoke and blue light, and the noise was everything. This album, and Wolves in the Throne Room's music in general, is a very powerful thing.