Celestial Wolves: ‘Wood For Wood’ [Review]
Instrumental rock can be a mixed bag – and this album by Belgian post-rockers Celestial Wolves is a case in point. Track-by-track commentary below:
Persistent Vegetative State
Wood for Wood opens with this impressive tremolo-picking-fuelled display of musical stamina. I really feel sorry for that guy’s picking hand! A patiently cinematic track, the drums switching effortlessly between Drunken Master syncopation and no-nonsense skin beating. A stunning start.
Until The Day Dawns And The Shadows Flee Away
Stretches short bars of 6/8 into a finely woven sonic tapestry punctuated by swirling cymbals and searing lead lines, complete with more trem picking. How does this guitarist’s hand not fall off?! Demonstrations of dynamic mastery, luscious reverb, angelic volume swells, concerned-sounding and shy high notes, and feedback fading out. Epic!
This track – named after a satellite whose signals provided supportive evidence for the Big Bang theory and featuring Stephen Hawking waxing philosophical – is the most visually evocative track so far. It takes almost no effort at all to imagine Celestial Wolves playing outdoors to a crowd staring at the stars, absolutely mesmerised. Also the first paean to cosmology that I’ve ever heard. Very impressive!
You Have A Watch, We’ve Got Time
Beautiful layers of clean, bell-like guitar tones. Disrupted by roughly-handled guitar falling back to palm-muted atmospherics. Muse-esque harmonic structures breaking into a hard-headed freakout, a brick wall of sound achieving hyper-density, and…a quick fade. Nice!
Seagulls & Elephants
By this point, I was beginning to hope for more compositional variety; maybe some punchy unison riffs, some intricate odd-time-signature stuff, or something along those lines. There were some cool stabs later on in this piece, along with complex hi-hat work and murky washes of guitar, but not quite enough variety to satisfy.
There’s nothing wrong with this piece at all, but after more than half an hour of similar material it started to become irritating. By the time the end riff arrived it was almost too late – but fortunately that section pulled me out of sleepy boredom with a sorely needed jolt of adrenaline.
This is a great track, but repeats the same compositional techniques used in previous pieces. This is the unfortunate downfall of bands in this genre – after a while the novelty wears thin and the listener begins craving some variety. The riff at the end of Corporal Wojtek felt like rain in the desert, and although there are some nifty rhythmic turns in here it ended up feeling unsatisfying and repetitive – a rather unfair feeling brought about through sheer cognitive fatigue.
More patient notes, silky bass, and graceful guitar linking up with funereal drums to push into more walls of rich, textured sound. Well-timed dynamic shifts, fantastic basslines, and some more riffing that, in my opinion, didn’t quite go the distance required to release the tension built up over the course of almost an entire album.
Overall: This is an initially great album that sadly suffers from a lack of variety. There’s too much tension and teasing, and not enough release – after finishing the album I felt compelled to listen to something releasing, rather than replay Wood For Wood. Some more unison riffs and climactic peaks might well have sent me back to the start, eager to go through it again – but sadly that was not the case. Still, the first four tracks had me completely spellbound, and I loved every second of them. If this album had been cut down to a four-track EP it would have been perfect.
Listen to Wood For Wood on Bandcamp here: http://celestialwolves.bandcamp.com/
Celestial Wolves’ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/celestialwolves
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