The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain

I reviewed Watains’s Trident Wolf Eclipse in 2018. Being new to their music back then, but knowing about them for years, I went into their music with fresh ears. I really enjoyed that album as well as their prior releases. They play a pretty high-octane style of black metal but mixed in with their melodies and metal influences such as Celtic Frost and Dissection helped me latch onto their style rather quickly and quite fervently, I might add. Make no mistake Watain are black metal however they do wear their influences on their sleeves at times all the while still writing fresh and exciting music.

The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain contains 10 songs which include a short (thank the dark lord) instrumental and the songs are lengthier this time around. Half the songs are 5+ minutes to over 7 minutes and when music is this ferocious I’m more of a less is more kind of listener, wanting the songs streamlined and shorter. But whateves; “Ecstasies in Night Infinite” begins with isolated riffing before erupting with a blast to end all blast beats. An explosion accompanies this moment. It’s so goddamn raw and brutal. The guitar melodies are excellent and riffing is furious. We get another one of those explosions into the blasts at the minute mark. It’s stupidly awesome. A short while later the song slows down with the singer letting out a nice old school growl and the mid paced double bass is exceptional. The main vocal lines are excellent and E’s vox are venomous on this. You wanted the lead off song of the year? This may very well be that song. It’s frightening in its relentless approach. Nary a breath to catch, as you try and eat some nice freshly baked gnocchi, “The Howling” erupts. More blasts but more melodic and atmospheric sections. The nice double pounding drums at the 2.25 section brings forth that old school flair Watain never lets us forget and it’s placed quite nicely before the brutality returns. The old school moments at the 3.30 section is excellent. You want the ending part of the song if the year? Well this may be it as an ultra-fast isolated bass guitar strumming comes out of nowhere and right into a monster blast which has a nice black metal growl n lower register growl as the song ends with a gong. These first 2 songs are also in the 4 minute range making their ferociousness even that much more memorable.
“Serimosa” is up next and is longer. The song is on the slow side. Still very good; however their is a lot of epic atmosphere going on. This even has an ethereal guitar solo around the 3:40 section then right back into the emotive guitar melodies. This would be a good song in their live setting wedged in the middle of their set list to allow fans to catch their breath. Watain have had their share of controversies over their years whether it’s due to their imagery or lyrics the band pushes boundaries yet again with a song titled “Black Cunt”. Since I have the promo I do not know the nature of the lyrics; but from what I am able to hear E screaming it’s got some sexual themes. The song has done brutal moments but a lot of mid paced parts with some guitar riffing calling to Celtic Frost, thing To Mega Therion era guitar tones. The song stays in more of a really fast old school pace, when it picks up speed, but not quite blast beat territory.  The pinch harmonic towards the end of the song is great. Nice audible bass guitar during the rhythm section too. So, if Watain wants to push those boundaries further then let’s get some “Black Cunt” merchandise out there to get more activists spasm out of control. Can you imagine the artwork on those shirts? Oofa. But guaranteed they’d sell like hot cakes.

“Before the Cataclysm” is the longest song at over 7 minutes. The song begins viciously and is fast and then the song slows down to more atmospheric moments then picks up speed then the 2.30 riffing and expertly mixed in drums build up to an epic tidal wave of rumbling but melodic heaviness. The song is really good but kinda trails on for maybe 2 minutes longer than I would have liked. I appreciate the stellar musicianship; however the song gets a bit bogged down in the atmospheric moments, for me. “We Remain” is up next and if you were hoping for Watain to kick back into high gear you’ll be letdown. The addition of a female vocalist on this song is actually beautiful. She sounds excellent but I wanted Watain to rupture my ear drums. The song is drenched in atmosphere, epic theatrics and brings forth The Wild Hunt moments from 2013. Good overall song, but at times, I zoned out.
“Funeral Winter” is up next and it’s punishing. Yes! Right at the beginning the song gets into the brutality and then the fast moments get faster. Omg. I’m loving this. Some creative and ultra-tight drumming hitting us all in the gulliver multiple times. The song is under 5 minutes and is calculating in how brutal it is. Pure black metal bliss. “Septentrion” ends the album at over 6 minutes and is mid paced and epic. The guitar melodies are emotive and played great; but again a little too long of a song.
The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain is a great Watain album. The lengthier songs bog the album down a bit much while the shorter songs punch you in the gut as you scream for more songs in that vein. The album cover is a mess. I have no idea what the hell is going on until I zoom in closer to see the drawing. From a far it looks like jibber jabber. Outside of these issues the production is great and I always love hearing the audible bass guitar on black metal albums. The songs showcase the band’s talent and with being together for over 25 years it shows the maturation throughout their career. Watain have returned with their most mature release to date. Good stuff.
[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
May 2nd, 2022


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