Celestial Wolves are a five-piece instrumental band from Belgium. Call of the Void, their latest album, could be regarded as something of a concept; hard to imagine without lyrics, but bear with me. The band elaborate that the title alludes to the brain's determination to do things we know are dangerous, despite our instincts otherwise. Without lyrics, it's difficult at first to connect the dots between this concept (in their words, 'anomalies in the world') and the songs themselves. Delving into the song titles does reveal some clues. I think it's important to look at how each song fits the concept, both from its title and its music. Researching this became a fun little game; trying to ascertain the band's thought process.
Bátur Hvarf: According to Google Translate, which I'm almost positive is wrong, this translates to 'Boat Reaction'. This isn't a good start, as I'm bewildered as to what this can mean. Further trawling of the internet reveals this probably relates to the disappearance of a boat. I'm not sure if this is a specific boat, or a general phenomenon. The Bermuda Triangle perhaps? I'm still stuck, but I'm intrigued about this one.
-128.6°F: The lowest recorded temperature on Earth. Whether this strictly fits in with the 'anomaly' part of the concept is debatable (somewhere must be the coldest after all), but it's clear that the band is keen to find things in life that are at least unusual, if not inexplicable. Perhaps this aligns more with the danger side of things; exploring places that can kill us. We strive to face the unknown and traverse regions inhospitable to life. The coldest place on Earth certainly fits that criteria.
Stuart & The Marree Man: This relates to a mysterious geoglyph that is located in South Australia, near the township of Marree. Also known as Stuart's Giant, it is the depiction of a human figure, with what appears to be a throwing stick. Beyond that, not much is known about the creation or meaning behind the work. Definitely a mystery. There are, of course, many more man-made works like this, so it would be interesting to know why this one was chosen.
Porcupine Bank: Nothing to do with Steven Wilson's hordes of cash, this is an area in the Irish Sea, bordering the Atlantic Ocean, that is home to a cold-water reef system. It was named after its discovery by the HMS Porcupine in 1862. It is alleged that this is the sight of the mythical lost island of Hy-Brasil; an island from Irish folklore, unreachable by humans, and invisible for most of the time.
Bangui: The capital and largest city of the Central African Republic. It's hard to understand the significance of this city with regards our concept (there are some slight statistical anomalies, but it's questionable whether they're interesting or not). This is the only subject I'm really scratching my head with (unless I'm missing something).
Karoshi: The concept of death through overworking (heart attack, stroke, etc). A Japanese phenomenon, this can possibly be attributed to the work ethic of the Japanese people, as far as I understand. The "Salaryman" style of working is often said to bring about suicide, or stress-related death due to the long working hours and mandatory socialising that goes with it.
Musically, Celestial Wolves tread a path somewhere between the ethereal rock of God is an Astronaut, and Long Distance Calling, both bands I have huge respect for. Guitars, often awash in delay and/or reverb, snake around off-kilter rhythms, slowly layering sounds to a crescendo. It's in some ways very typical of the genre. However, each song is constructed so well, and played with passion (there's nothing mechanical about this). I'm certainly transported to a different plane when listening through headphones, and the images each song conjures are dramatic, and sometimes calming. Music like this could easily be a soundtrack - something Mogwai have done this year to incredible result. As such, it is naturally cinematic. It inspires emotions just as any song with explicit lyrical meaning.
I must admit that the choice of subjects was mostly interesting (it taught me a few things I otherwise hadn't known). However, whether it fits the overall concept of 'anomalies in the world' is debatable; I don't think it necessarily does. It's a bold move to tackle an overarching theme within the limitations of instrumental music (although, of course, this was exactly what the likes of Beethoven et al were doing way before; 'Symphony No.6 - Pastoral' - being a good example). I tried to envisage each scenario, as the song titles hint at, but I found little to latch onto; I couldn't connect the titles to the music. That could be my lack of imagination (although I certainly did have my own interpretations while listening). Indeed, the band's interpretation of the title doesn't necessarily gel with the concept itself; they seem to be two very different phenomena - the brain's tendency to override instinct against danger versus mysteries of the world. However, this shouldn't detract from the music itself.
I listen to a lot of music, in a variety of genres. Music is my hobby (as a performer and writer), and it's safe to say I derive a great deal of pleasure from it. Every now and then, though, a band or an album comes along that inspires me, beyond appreciating the music itself, to pick up an instrument and create. Earlier this year it was Winterfylleth's 'The Hallowing of Heirdom' that inspired me to work on my finger-picking, and now Celestial Wolves have inspired me to pick up my guitar and write some epic atmospheric post-rock. That sort of inspiration comes fleetingly. That's how much I am recommending this album.
CALL OF THE VOID
Review by Steve Cowan
5th October 2018
1) Bátur Hvarf
2) -128,6 °F
3) Stuart & The Marree Man
4) Porcupine Bank
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...each song is constructed so well, and played with passion... and the images each song conjures are dramatic, and sometimes calming. Music like this could easily be a soundtrack"