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And Dimensions Beyond…
CVLT Nation interviews
Wolves In The Throne Room.

Photo by Alison Scarpulla

WITTR have always been a favorite here at CVLT Nation, so it was only a matter of time before we were able to snatch an interview with them! Once I was offered the chance to write the interview, I jumped on the opportunity. WITTR was personally the first group of underground metal musicians that were able to transport me directly into the vastness of nature, allowing me to truly get lost in an ethereal trance. This album, I feel, is the epitome of their great works and I was more than excited to delve right in to conjure up this collection of inquiries and couldn’t wait to hear what drummer Aaron Weaver had to say.

CN: Let’s start off with discussing the album itself. At first open, the music of Celestial Lineage personally brings to mind atavistic ceremonies in the forms of shamanism and worship, then cannibalism and primitive hunting, exiting in a slow submersion of death and ascension. Is this album an ode to ancestry, or perhaps an homage to the birth of life?

AW: Those are definitely all images that do appear on the record. We are very image based with our song writing.  All of the songs began first as pictures and concepts, and then we write the music around it. There is definitely a flow on the record from a very worldly place to something that is much more celestial, something that is more oriented towards the stars, the sun and the moon, and dimensions beyond.

Digging into the second half of the question, I think it has more to do with ancestry because it’s right there in the title that a main theme on this record is an idea of connecting to traditions and understanding that we’re a part of an unfolding tradition and that people from hundreds of years from now will look at us as ancestors. So a big part of this record is just facing that realization and trying to channel that really profound feeling into music; the idea that we’re all just a part of an unending lineage. Yeah, that’s a really central idea, and it’s very much on my mind because, you know, Meghan (of CVLT Nation) mentioned that she just had a baby, and last year me and my long-time partner got married in an epic ceremony on our farm in Olympia. That was something that I felt really really strongly during that ceremony, was the presence of my ancestors. I think it was both spiritual presence and just the hard biological reality that that’s the main reason why we’re here, is to propagate the species. And I think I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings about that. That’s one of the reasons why we play black metal, is because on one hand I’m wondering if it’s worth-while to continue the human race. And so our sense of conflict and ambiguity around issues of ancestry and continuing the lineage of the human species, all of that is wrapped up in this record.

CN: The beginning track title hints at a somewhat alchemical reference. What does “Thuja Magus Imperium” personally represent or manifest?

AW: We wanted the first song to be an invocation. It’s a classic magical invocation of the four directions in a sort of coded poetic format. And so that first song sets the stage for the rest of the record; it opens up the veil, in a way, to allow the listener to enter into the world that we were in when we were making the record. We got really really deep with it, making this record, mainly because we built a studio at our compound in Olympia, so we were able to spend a lot of time writing and recording and crafting the sounds. And we did it during the depths of winter, so it was a really almost monastic process because it was basically just me and Nathan and the producer, Randall, working on the record for almost six months from the time we started writing to when we finally finished it. We were really able to lose ourselves inside this world, so we wanted the first to song to invite the listener into that same space that we were in when we were working on the music.

CN: You have stated before that the other two albums of the trilogy, Two Hunters and Black Cascade, maintain a Tarot influence and theme, specifically regarding the Emperor archetype. How has this extended over into Celestial Lineage?

AW: Yeah, we’re done with the Emperor; it’s funny actually. The Tarot does feature prominently in our world view and our spiritual life. It’s one of the few traditional occult systems that really appeals to us and that we use.  I’m not really into Western Occultism. It’s just too full of rules and too full of these sort-of dogmas and complex systems, incantations that just don’t really resonate with me. It feels about as real to me as the Bible or something like that. But definitely the Tarot is something that has really fit into our lives.  For this record the figure that was overseeing the whole process was the High Priestess. Definitely the kind of strict, patriarchal energy of the Emperor disappeared a bit and this record is much more moonlit, much more mysterious, much less rigid. We wanted to be far more focused on an esoteric and misty vision of things.

CN: What aspects of theosophy and astrology have influenced the creation of this album, if at all?

AW: Astrology is another one of those very common western occult disciplines that I don’t necessarily pay too much attention to and I don’t necessarily apply astrological theory to my life, but it’s always something that appears in the background and it’s one of those things that we were aware of when we were making this record. Definitely the spirit of astrology is present on Celestial Lineage. Whether or not it’s something that is bullshit or something that has some deep truth in it, I don’t think we’re answering that question on the record, but definitely we were thinking about astrology a bit when we were writing some new songs.
Maybe not theosophy but Rudolf Steiner’s take on theosophy is another thing that we’re also very interested in, specifically in regards to farming and biodynamic farming, which is Steiner’s theory of the occult nature of growing food, is something that I really resonate with.

CN: What were your greatest influences in creating this album?

AW: Musically, we wanted to move away from conventional metal influences, so we were thinking a lot about true epic albums from the kind-of glory days of record making in the seventies, where people worked really hard to create records that are more than just a collection of songs, it’s something that is put together in a very cohesive way to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. I was thinking a lot about Led Zeppelin IV and Dark Side of the Moon, these sort of high-school stoner epics that I think really do stand the test of time. A lot of German Krautrock was really big in the rotation before we started the writing process–Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, and Amon Düül, these sort of bands. We were also thinking a lot about Metallica’s first three records, which are records that I really like the way that they flow and which kind of influenced the flow of the writing on Celestial Lineage quite a bit. There’s a lot. There’s a lot of musical ideas that we digested before we got into the song-writing process. But once we started writing the songs, we stopped listening to music entirely. That’s something I always do, is to not listen to anything else, any outside influences while we’re writing and recording.

CN: With titles such as ‘Woodland Cathedral’ and ‘Prayer of Transformation’, would you consider your work to be “religious”, as a form of spiritual exploration and expression? If so, in what ways?

AW: Yeah, that’s another central theme of this record–the complexity of transforming something that is really raw and immediate, something that you might want to call spiritual, into something that is more refined and completed, something that you might call religious. And that’s really the fundamental theme of the trilogy of records, Two Hunters, Black Cascade, and Celestial Lineage, that arches through all three records; moving from a place of raw, spiritual experience of Two Hunters to something that is more religious on Celestial Lineage, because I do feel that there is a religion emerging, there’s a set of traditions emerging, just in my life and among my friends, peers, and greater community. I feel as though something is coalescing, that’s not just people making something up on the spot. There’s a sense that a culture, a really small culture, is solidifying, and we wanted to explore that idea on this record, both the beautiful side of that and the really negative side of that. Because of course when the personal, spiritual experience gets turned into a religion, the rawness and the immediacy disappears. And maybe you have the opportunity for a priesthood and laws and dogma and those aspects of religion that I think all of us despise.

CN: Do you think your lyrics act as somewhat of a Grimoire?

AW: Yeah, I suppose so. I mean definitely Nathan and I are both believers in magic, in that it’s nothing more than trying to achieve an outcome with focused intention, and certainly the words and the things that we think about when we’re recording, we hope that those come through in the music and have an outcome of some sort.

CN: Alison Scarpulla has set the main framework for putting the WITTR essence into imagery, and her work maintains a very ethereal quality. What initially struck this harmonious relationship?

AW: This is the first time we’ve worked with Alison. We’ve always done photographs for all of our artwork in the past and we’ve worked with a couple different photographers. On this record, we wanted to try someone completely new, so we wouldn’t get stuck in the same way of working, and finding Alison was just one of those situations of pure synchronicity. Nathan came across her portfolio and contacted her out of the blue, and it turned out that she was a big fan of WITTR and actually had a list of bands that she wanted to work with and we were I think number two on her list after Neurosis. So she was really excited about it and flew out here and we collaborated for about a week taking all the photographs, and then she retreated to our studio here to process the film which she does in sort of really unconventional, analog ways by dipping the negatives in acid and wine and blowing smoke on them; its a bit of an occult process that she has. I think it turned out really well, she definitely was very much on the same page as us as far as the vibe that we were trying to represent with the music.

CN: Collaborating with the goddess that is Jessika Kenney has certainly turned out to be for the greater good, as she always adds that extra ethereal “oomf.” Aaron Turner (of ISIS) has also added this quality to Celestial Lineage, taking on the form of a priest-like figure. What sparked the interest of bringing them both onto the new album?

AW: We worked with Jessika in the past on Two Hunters and we just knew from the start that her energy and the sound of her voice would be really crucial to making this record successful because Jessika is a person who is deeply connected to Orthodox religious musical traditions, but at the same time she has a background as a crust punk; like a street punk and metalhead. And so she is able to really successfully exist in two worlds and reconcile the seeming contradictions between a very anarchistic, wild, feral spirit that you find in being a street punk, and then the very meditative, inward-focused, very disciplined way of being that you need in order to be able to sing classical Persian music or European religious music. That’s what this record is all about; is trying to find a way to reconcile the desire for tradition but also the desire for freedom and the desire not to be oppressed by the ways of previous generations. That’s very much my daily struggle is to decide how much to draw from tradition and how much to create entirely for myself.

CN: Will they be joining you on tour?

AW: Not at this time. We’ve talked with Jessika in the past about doing some concerts together and I have a feeling it will happen someday; not on this first leg of the tour, but hopefully in the future. I think that it would be a really exciting thing because she’s a great singer, but she’s also a really powerful and dynamic performer; she really does have a special magic to her singing. I think people would really be excited to see her and I’d love to be on stage with her. Yeah, hopefully in the future.

Live in Olympia, WA. By Daniel Ahrendt

CN: Many of the performance sites for your upcoming tour take place in underground, out-skirted warehouses and barns. How do you think this will affect the overall experience of your performance?

AW: I think it’s going to make all the difference in the world. In the past we have toured in a pretty conventional way–our shows are booked by a booking agent, we play conventional clubs and bars and this sort of thing and I’ve always had misgivings about that. It was necessary at the time, but now we’ve reached a point when we have the resources to be able to do the kind of tour we’ve always wanted to do. So I think that this will be by far the most realized tour that we’ve done in terms of being able to create the atmosphere and the aesthetic on stage and in the whole venue that I think is important for the music to be able to achieve its full form.

CN: Are there any specific emotions or patterns of thought you seek to evoke within these locations?

AW: I think the biggest one is freedom, really. We just like to open up a space for the listener to go into themselves and get from the music whatever they want. We don’t have any sort of message, we don’t have any sort of political agenda, we don’t have any specific goal we’re trying to achieve, apart from just opening up a space for people to put aside the every-day for a moment and experience a really different way of looking at things. And I think that not being in a traditional club is really going to help that and help us conjure that atmosphere. Because, I think that in a club the primary focus is the club making money and the bar selling drinks. I think that that really colors the energy of the whole experience. If we play in a DIY space, it’s all about the music and it’s all about people coming together and creating a cohesive energy for an evening. Yeah I’m looking forward to this tour, despite the fact that it’s been an incredible amount of work to book, and it’s going to be logistically really challenging because we’re bringing our entire PA system on tour with us, and having to build it up and break it down every night. So it’s going to be a handful but I think it will definitely pay off in terms of the quality of the shows.

Photo by Chris Beug

CN: Are you guys going to be anywhere in the L.A. area?

AW: We’re not doing any West Coast dates until later in the winter. For this first leg, we’re just going to bomb straight to Minneapolis to do the upper Midwest and the East Coast and the South East and then go straight home.

CN: Get it while the weather’s still kind of nice?

AW: Yeah, that’s the idea. Then we’ll go to Europe and do the West Coast later in the winter, but definitely we’ll be in L.A. We hope to do something kind of special in L.A. while we’re down there.

CN: Being that this is the final album working with Randall Dunn, how do you feel about the separation? Do you see any projects in the future?

AW: Yeah, definitely. We plan on working with Randall in the future, he’s just going to be in a different studio and probably a very different mind-scape. Randall is going through a lot of intense changes in his personal life with something that really affected this record.  I had a feeling from the beginning that Randall’s presence would really be crucial to the energy and the spirit of Celestial Lineage.  Halfway through recording he went through an intense breakup of his studio and his relationship that I think brought a real air of intense change and forced transformation to the record and I really look forward to working with Randall in the future. These sort of creative relationships can be really difficult sometimes, and on Two Hunters and Black Cascade I think that we clashed quite a bit with Randall, which is just natural when you’re working on something as difficult and intense as making a record. But on this record we worked together so well and things went so smoothly, despite all of the chaos that was going on around us.  I’m really excited to work on another record with him in the future when he has a new studio established. I’m really looking forward to it, actually.

CN: Do you have any last words of wisdom for upcoming live ritual guests?

AW: No, definitely not. Like I said earlier, that’s one thing I really hate about punk music, and I hate it more and more as I get older–as if there’s all these rules attached to it and there’s always some sort of message and the band wants you to think a certain thing, the band wants to think the way that they think, and I guess the same sort of attitude has affected black metal, as well. You know, black metal has to be a certain way, you have to wear corpse paint, you have to stick to this lyrical and aesthetic ideology and I just absolutely hate that attitude. I’m attracted to the idea of completely opening up a space of absolute freedom for people to get from the music what they want to get from it and just have us be the people who help create the space for that to happen.

CN: Thank you so much for lending us your time!

AW: Thanks for the great interview, and thanks to Meghan, as well!

Celestial Lineage is now available for Purchase!

Celestial Lineage photography by Alison Scarpulla.




  1. Grimnir

    September 22, 2011 at 11:21 am

    my appreciation for what they do on their recordings was very high, but after seeing them live, i really can see what all the fuss is about. as for trying to get people to think what you think…i don’t know. i believe that music comes from an inspired (hopefully) place, and is designed to inspire the listener, so its pretty hard to completely remove yourself from attempting to get a distinct feeling across- although i guess the reference here is more discussing ideology than anything. ideology dissemination is boring and pretty pointless. definitely a tiresome aspect of punk and black metal…

  2. Danielle Fedorshik

    September 5, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Yes, absolutely incredible interview. Very well done Amy.

  3. Green_Destroyed

    September 1, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Cool interview. I’d previously heard about this being their last album, but it sounds like it won’t be, so I’m happy about that…and I can’t wait to get my copy of “Celestial Lineage” in the mail, pumped to hear it!

  4. Lurker

    September 1, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Interesting that he quotes: ‘you have to stick to this lyrical and aesthetic ideology and I just absolutely hate that attitude’ about black metal circles when 5 years ago he was sprouting the complete opposite: ‘If you listen to BM, but you don’t know what phase the moon is in, or what wild flowers are blooming then you have failed.’

    Now, I enjoy Celestial Lineage – and I’m very glad they’ve matured to the extent that they’re allowing their music to be whatever the listener wants it to be, I just wish that the music had changed since 12 Diadems and Two Hunters. We are greeted with the same framework of black metal, but this time stacked up side by side with mundane samples and lacklustre ambient sections. To imbue this with a completely new ideology and bumbling sense of ‘intensity’ completely baffles me.

    • Amy

      September 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm

      I don’t think it is so much about a dramatic change in sound on this album as it is an extension and growth upon past works; hence the formation of a Trilogy. When I listened to it, I did hear several similarities to the old works, but I felt as though it was harnessed a lot better in this compilation, and the differences actually did stick out to me when I immersed myself in it. For example, I personally didn’t get a religious or spiritual type of reaction with Diadem of 12 Stars, or even Two Hunters and Black Cascade for that matter, as I did with this album. I got a more primitive and human reaction from them, feeling as though they represented these aspects a lot more, and invoked very animal-like qualities. I suppose it’s all in what you are or are not looking for. Regarding a new ideology that is said to have gone into the creation, I think it’s a lot more about the mindset and intention during the creative process, and not so much a setting up of an entirely new framework altogether. The trilogy, I feel, maintains a cohesive atmosphere but with each piece focusing on different intentions, if that makes any sense at all. I do see where you’re coming from, though.

  5. Chris Noir

    September 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    wow, by far the best interview with WITTR i’ve ever read. really good, thanks!

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