Sweden’s Watain have been around for over a decade now, bringing us their melody filled modern twist on black metal while attempting to break down the barriers of this once stale genre. I am a relative newcomer to these guys however as it wasn’t until their magnificent performance at Bloodstock 2012 that I really became aware of just how unique they were. The putrid smell of pig’s blood from their live stage show wasn’t enough to put me off, and that show had me hooked and eagerly anticipating their latest release, The Wild Hunt.
Their fifth studio album was set to be their most musically ambitious record to date and being their first release in three years, there has been much apprehension, and no small degree of excitement, about this release.
The record is set up by the beautifully executed instrumental “Night Vision” which sends chills up the spine within seconds, builds the tension perfectly for what is to come and acts as a gateway inviting you into their dark and mysterious world. “De Profundis” kicks straight in with some old fashioned Black Metal fury, complete with apocalyptic drum rolls and our first hearing of the satanic growls of front man Erik Danielsson.
As it’s name would suggest, the pace begins to slow slightly for its follow-up, “Black Flames March” and with a massive breakdown in the middle of the track, there is a definite sense that this is building to something special. “All That May Bleed” is next, the bands’ first single from the album and with its intro of chugging guitar riffs and some of the strongest vocals and catchiest melodies on the record it is easy to see why. The best is still yet to come however…
Forget whatever you know about Watain. Forget whatever expectations you have of a black metal band. Watain are about to deliver one of the biggest musical treats of the year. “They Rode On” opens with soft acoustic guitar chords before releasing a new side of Erik Daneilsson. The vocals on this track are clean, deep toned, emotional in delivery and Daneilsson pulls this off over the nine minute slow paced epic with complete conviction. There is something almost hypnotic about this track and there is such noticeable influences from Metallica here that you almost want to put your lighter in the air and sway along. This is the only chance we get to hear this side of Watain however, as straight after this interlude we are back to the thundering pace and blisteringly heavy music for which the band are best known. The title track does again offer something slightly different with its close showcasing some beautiful, if brief, Spanish guitar work. “Holocaust Dawn” brings what is undeniably the most dynamic and diverse Watain album to date, to a monstrous close. Featuring a slow tempo and a midsection so dark in it’s atmosphere, it is almost uncomfortable to listen to the track’s sudden end hits you like a blunt hammer to the face and leaves you feeling slightly uneasy, wondering if what all of what you have just heard was real.
Watain have once again proved that to be a black metal band does not mean you have to be trapped in the generic tar pit that seems to have captured so many of their contemporaries. Watain are on a mission to rescue a genre, hell to redefine a genre and bring their take on black metal to the masses.
This may be a bold statement to make in August, but here at CackBlabbath there is a very strong feeling that The Wild Hunt is a major contender for album of the year.