Watain: The Wild Hunt (Century Media Records Ltd)
CD / DL / LP
Black Metal’s foremost warriors Watain have always striven to “take things to the next step – whatever the costs are”. They’ve just released their 5th album & it’s one that, as Louder Than War’s Andy Santiago explains, shows that they’re still adhering that creed to the nth.
Black Metal is a genre that seems subject to self-imposed guidelines and a rigorous orthodoxy. This single-mindedness can sometimes be suffocating and restraining, and as a result of this, Black Metal hasn’t really been seen as a hotbed of progression. The blasting, the vocal stylings and the perpetual tremolo-picked riffs, not to mention the corpsepaint, are all things that immediately spring to mind when the subject of Black Metal is raised.
There are some bands that have the single-mindedness and ambition to break free and see beyond these stagnant confines and create what can only be described as truly progressive and visionary art.
One such band that have proved this time and time again are Sweden’s Watain.
Now in their 15th year of twisted existence, Watain have released their most ambitious and grandiose work yet, in the form of their 5th studio album, ‘The Wild Hunt’.
‘The Wild Hunt’ is about as far removed from the traditional and generic stylings of Black Metal as it is possible to get while still remaining Black Metal at it’s dark heart. Barriers are destroyed and this is the sound of an inspired band who refuse to be limited and work to nobodies agenda other than their own.
So what of this album then? Why is it so special. I’ll try and sum it up in one easy to digest word. Melody.
Melodic is barely a word used often to describe the harshness of Black Metal but Watain use it in an inspired way.
Don’t get me wrong, this album isn’t what could be classed as ‘Easy Listening’ by any stretch of the imagination but this could as easily be a gateway into the darkness of Black Metal for the uninitiated as it is at home on the obscure vinyl shelf of an underground Black Metal ‘Cultist’.
Kicking off with the opening instrumental track, ‘Night Vision’, the tension builds slowly. You wait for the attack, but deceptively, it never comes and you are left with a sense of dreadful anticipation.
‘De Profundis’ follows and with it, the violence is unleashed. The control and precision is staggering and never does the aural chaos spiral out of hand.
‘Black Flames March’ is more mid-tempo with a great breakdown in the middle that further heightens the tension levels.
The first single taken from ‘The Wild Hunt’, ‘All That May Bleed’, is next with a scratchy guitar intro giving way to the massive drum sound Watain somehow get on all their recordings. Lyrically, this is Watain at their most violent and hateful, “The salt of Satan in the wounds of Christ” anyone? Or even “Yes hear me, defeated one. I too have tasted the piss of God. But I spat it back straight into the cunting wounds of man, of beast, of woman, of God, OF ALL THAT LIVES AND MAY BLEED”.
The previously mentioned melody comes to the fore on ‘The Child Must Die’ and then the real unexpected curveball in the shape of ‘They Rode On’ follows. This is a truly audacious moment in the album that is clearly heavily influenced by Metallica and is very much in the vein of ‘Nothing Else Matters’. Clean vocals bring to mind a ‘Fields of the Nephilim’ sort of vibe. I think this is one of the very pinnacles of the whole album as it is such a radical move for an established Black Metal band to record a track that is so far removed from the orthodox. But then again, as I said at the beginning of this, Watain are not ones to follow.
‘Sleepless Evil’ is almost an all-out Thrasher that blasts along at a righteous pace before braking down into an eerie keyboard bridge with that massive drum sound again and then goes back to the hyper-speed that preceded.
Title track ‘The Wild Hunt’ leads into the brutality of ‘Outlaw’, a glance into the inner world of Watain and how they live.
“Sons of Hades, wolves yet men. Deathlike, silent; forever damned. Your world, a cage. We tear its bars. Live fast, die hard. Fucking worlds and shooting stars.”
A second instrumental ‘Ignem Veni Mittere’ is next and to me, is a direct continuation of the title track instrumental from the previous Watain album, ‘Lawless Darkness’.
The epic ‘Holocaust Dawn’ brings this album to an exhilarating close with it’s brooding mid-section that slow burns towards a true holocaust of violence.
I doubt very much a better Black Metal album will be released for a very long time and the standard is well and truly set for all other bands.
Watain actively seek out exposure and are not reclusive in any way. Their religious views are no secret and they are regarded by many as true exponents of genuinely Satanic music and come across as been equally as sincere and passionate about their religious stance as their music.
I’ve seen them live on two occasions and can honestly say their gigs are complete sensory overload and that much talked about ‘Watain stench’ is very real.
I feel that this album will project Watain into areas previously unchartered by any Black Metal band and ‘The Wild Hunt’ will see them further infecting the mainstream with their unholy venom.
Lay down your souls for Watain, …TO THE DEATH!
All words by Andy Santiago. More writing by Andy on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.