[20th August 2013]
[Century Media Records]
01. Night Vision
02. De Profundis
03. Black Flames March
04. All That May Bleed
05. The Child Must Die
06. They Rode On
07. Sleepless Evil
08. The Wild Hunt
10. Ignem Veni Mittere
11. Holocaust Dawn
Swedish black metal band Watain are fairly divisive in the metal scene these days. There was a time when they were totally underground, making albums with controversial subject matter, and generally being, as the saying goes, ‘trve kvlt’.
That time is long past, since they have been thrust into the metal spotlight and have been accused of selling out or being posers. All claims of which are ridiculous, of course. They’re making the same music they always have, and sporting the same image the always presented. The problem now is that the black metal elitists are whining because other more casual black metal fans know about the band. Watain won a Swedish Grammy for their last album, girls are wearing their shirts (Satan forbid girls like black metal too), and because Watain’s (and more specifically Erik Danielsson’s) adversarial ideologies are a little too extreme for most metalheads to accept easily – especially since there are many who co-opt the same ideas to the same level.
This is not an editorial though, but an album review for Watain’s fifth full length album The Wild Hunt. Watain have released some quality black metal in the past, starting right with their extremely lo-fi but amazing demo Go Fuck Your Jewish ‘God’ and continuing with modern black metal landmarks such as Casus Luciferi and Lawless Darkness. Now on Century Media Records for the first time, The Wild Hunt marks a new chapter professionally in Watain’s career.
But right off the bat, this marks a new chapter for them musically as well, showing progression from their parent black metal sound. It is much more melodic, but no less dark than previous efforts. There are moments that sound like true old school 80s black metal a la Celtic Frost, and others that almost feel more like modern melodic black metal – and then there is the magnificent “They Rode On” which is a moonlit ride through almost folk/bluesy territory, before evolving into something quite slow, deliberate, and surprisingly deep. It is emotional, enchanting, and quite dark. Danielsson’s clean voice is surprisingly quite sweet, and his deep tones really echo the inherent sorrow in this track. The addition of Anna Norberg on guest vocals is also a pleasant touch.
Other great musical moments include “Black Flames March” which has some seriously powerful moments, and “Sleepless Evil” which seems to be the most ‘progressive’ track on the album. The title track is another slow one that evokes Bathory at times. It isn’t amazing, but it is solid. There are weaker moments, such as “The Child Must Die”, and “De Profundis” which suffer from being unmemorable, weak, and seem like pale imitations of an angrier version of Dark Tranquility, and “All That May Bleed” is a middling track that showcases Watain at their most simple. One can see why it was chosen as the single.
The band are competent at their instruments, though black metal is never the best place to truly judge technical ability, as it relies more on composition and atmosphere than playing ability. Still, Danielsson’s guitar lines sound good, and his guitar solos are really nice. The drumming is solid as is the bass guitar. The most interesting part is the variance found in Danielsson’s vocals. His harsh vocals are as expected, but his cleans, which show up a few times, are something different. He has a rough voice that conveys raw emotion and darkness fairly well.
Production wise, the album is very polished. It works on some tracks, such as the aforementioned “They Rode On”, but other times the music almost cried out for the rawer feel that earlier albums had. Each instrument comes through clearly especially the bass, which is good, but it can’t escape feeling sterile at times, again calling to mind the Swedish Gothenburg melodic death metal scene.
Watain’s The Wild Hunt is a solid album that shows the band refusing to stagnate and make the same album over and over, regardless of what fans might want. It draws influences from a few more places than just Dissection style melodic black metal, and when it does that is when it is strongest. By no means is it an amazing album, but there are some good tracks, even one or two fantastic ones on here. The music sounds a little sterile at times, especially on the more standard black metal tracks, but works really well on the more thoughtful songs. Forget the ideology, forget the cries of “sellout”; all in all this is worth listening for fans of the band who aren’t opposed to some new sounds, and maybe some entry level black metallers could find purchase with this release.
Top songs: “Black Flames March“, “They Rode On“, “Sleepless Evil“