Watain – The Wild Hunt, released August 20th, 2013.
Reviewed by Justin Hamm.
Watain, a black metal group from Uppsala, Sweden are a band of true conviction. For them music is secondary, the outcome of something much bigger. Watain are openly satanic and they keep it no secret. For them, satanism as a belief and as a lifestyle is the fiber that holds together their very existence. Known for their extravagant live shows which feature the use of real animal blood for ritualistic purposes, dousing themselves and sometimes unlucky show goers in a rotten coagulated mess, it’s very easy to look upon the band for their image and philosophies alone. To do so you would be missing so much because once you peel back the layers of The Wild Hunt you find a beast of an album that can be as beautiful as it is ugly.
It stands as the band’s most ambitious album to date with opener “Night Vision” being the calm before the storm. A lone guitar plays a melancholic tune, the sound of wind chimes gently blow in the breeze, accordion and strings sway back and forth lulling you into a trance. What follows is an hour long stroll down the left hand path that will have you head banging your way to hell and back.
Tracks “De Profundis” and “Sleepless Evil” are prime examples of pure black metal debauchery in all their tremolo picked glory. Riffs that go for the throat, drums that crush everything in their path like a ten ton hammer, and vocalist Erik Danielsson’s demonic sermons that beseech you to take his hand to the other side. Tribal drum-driven headbanger, “Outlaw,” has a distinct Middle Eastern flavor that blends crushing mid-paced riffage with a blitzkrieg assault of lightning fast guitar work and galloping drums. It is by far one of the album’s catchiest moments and will have you air drumming like a madman.
Just when you think you have wrapped your head around it, the album screeches to a halt to display one of the grandest moments Watain have ever achieved with the mournful ballad “They Rode On.” The rabid vocals and chainsaw guitar riffs are scrapped for something completely different – flange drenched acoustic guitar and stunning clean singing. This eight minute plus opus proves that beauty can exist even within the farthest reaches of the darkness. Instrumental, “Ignem Veni Mittere,” and title track, “The Wild Hunt,” the latter of which is peppered with flamenco guitar work and sing along chants, are also wonderful examples of music that shimmers and glows in the void, serving as fist pumping anthems made for the armies of the devil himself.
All in all what Watain have given us, the fruits of their labor, is something very special and an album that grows with each listen, opening new winding stairways into the proverbial darkness. It’s very rare in this day and age to see a band play from the heart, and in Watain’s case, that heart is dead, cold and full of your worst nightmares. After seeing the band live I can attest that even if you don’t believe what they have to say because what they do makes it all the more frighteningly real and exciting. If you are a fan of any form of metal, or just someone looking to take a strange journey into the abyss, then The Wild Hunt is more than worthy of your time.