Watain are a band that I have followed since I first heard one of the best black metal songs of all time, namely “Devil’s Blood” on the album Casus Luciferi in 2003. I have a deep appreciation for their musicianship, performances on stage and their beliefs and I always looked out for new Watain material when it came out. With their last album, The Wild Hunt, Watain garnered a new fan base but without totally alienating their loyal followers, even though there were rumblings in the underground about the song “They Rode On”. There was a feeling of Morbid Angels’ Ilud album and Watain did receive some negative reviews, however the band see it as having artistic freedom to do what they wish.
Being released in 2013, Watain have had four years to keep their following guessing as to which direction they are going next. Will they return to their roots or will they continue on their path of artistic freedom? One look at the cover for the album Trident Wolf Eclipse shows that it’s much rawer and more old school than the last album and that should give you an answer to the previous question.
Starting with “Nuclear Alchemy”, the opening riff shows their admiration for speed metal and was quickly followed by probably the fastest blast beats that drummer Nils Jonsson has ever unleashed. The riffs continue in the speed metal style and the song overall is at a relentless pace, not in the vein of, say, neighbours Dark Funeral but fast nonetheless. The sound of the album is reminiscent of Casus Luciferi with a much rawer and less produced sound than the previous couple of albums. I feel this immediately puts to bed the fear of another more mainstream album. This track is much more in your face classic Watain than anything on the last album and is a very good opener. Erik’s voice is as prominent as ever and much more in the black metal style than Wild Hunt, showing that he has matured as a vocalist – in fact he’s never sounded so good.
“Sacred Damnation” starts off with an early Watain-style riff mixed with some Dissection-style riffs which were much more in evidence on the Sworn to the Dark album. Although this is initially as fast as the opening track, there is still so much power emanating from these speakers and you can’t help but react to the musical force on show here. Guitarist Pelle Forsberg has gone back to his roots and played his riffs of old, which so far are a major strong point of the album. This is equally as good a song as the opening track with Nils once again excelling himself behind the kit.
“Teufelsreich” starts off in a “Where Angels Lie” (Dissection) style riff and is much slower than previous songs, however there will be no “They Rode On” here. This is a slow to mid-paced song which also includes some of the best riffs on the album and gives vocalist Erik an opportunity to express his singing style with venom. I really like this track as it has atmosphere and rather than bombard you with speed all the time, the song builds up to the point where speed is unleashed and you just go crazy and scream along with Erik. Drummer Nils fulfils my need for double bass much more in this song, with some excellent double bass work and is a master behind the kit. The lead at the end of this song is exquisite and a fitting end to the song.
“Furor Diabolicus” is next and it is a sheer bombardment of swirling riffs, battering drums and Erik sounding as venomous as ever. The time changes were perfect and this is one of the many highlights of the album. This track blows everything from The Wild Hunt out of the water and has more black metal feeling in it than Watain’s previous effort. It’s as if Watain have erased every weakness from their previous effort and made an album of the highest quality, even though there is an element of there being nowhere near as much diversity.
“A Throne Below” starts off with a much rawer black metal riff and drumming from Watain. This is something again that could have came from Casus Luciferi and contains the best riff of the album at 2.20, which just made this listener raise his horns in appreciation. This will be another crowd pleaser and emanates class and classic Watain once again.
“Ultra (Pandemoniac)” starts off with a chilling feel before hell is unleashed once again with relentless battery, speed and thrash metal riffs backed with Erik’s death/black metal vocal style. One thing that has to be mentioned is the mix of the album where you will be hit with a guitar solo out of nowhere that just raises above the sound of the other music. This adds feeling and could only put a smile on this face with its old school Slayer-esque speed and chaos.
“Towards the Sanctuary” starts off with a more death metal riff. It then slows right down and vocal effects are used by Erik before more intense speed and riffs and blast beats are the order of the day. Again Watain know how to build an impact into a song by playing slowly and increasing its speed level which will ignite the crowd in the live environment. This is a personal highlight of the album for me as it has everything in it that Watain is renowned for. The ending of this track just oozes class and supreme musicianship.
“The Fire of Power” starts off at a slow pace once again and maintains that pace for longer than the other tracks on the album, but do not be concerned, this is no ballad. I mean the clue is in the title of the song right? This is about as diverse a song that you will get on this album and there is a sigh of relief from this listener that this is a tune in the typical Watain style that could be likened to that of Sworn to the Dark.
So there we have it. This album may not have the same impact as Casus Luciferi or Sworn to the Dark, or even Lawless Darkness but what we do have is a complete return to form for the band Watain. I said in a recent review about Morbid Angel’s new album that we wanted a death metal album from Morbid Angel and we got a death metal album. Well the same can be said in relation to Watain. We wanted a black metal album from Watain and we got a black metal album from Watain.
Watain have gone a long way with this album to reignite their affiliation with their old school fan base and yet garner a few new ones as well. Now it’s all about seeing these songs being played live and it will be interesting to see what songs they leave out as they all have highlights within them. You just have to look and embrace the feeling and meaning of the songs and you will discover the light… the Devil’s light.
Trident Wolf Eclipse is out January 5th