Watain
The Wild Hunt

The reaction to The Wild Hunt, the latest full-length release from Swedish black metal veterans Watain can be summed up in one word: this will be interesting. Without question, the old school/hardcore/lifelong Watain fans will largely cry out in anger that their beloved Anti-Cosmic Luciferianism heroes have sold out, never to return. The other faction, the more levelheaded of the scene, will probably appreciate The Wild Hunt for its more accessibility and creative flair.

Watain has always been a band that has ever so slightly pushed the envelope of black metal with their abrasive music, that part we already know. From their much more vicious and savage beginnings of their The Essence of Black Purity EP up into their “breakout” album (if such an album exists in black metal) Lawless Darkness, Watain wrote music of the darkest orders. Some have labeled them one of a handful of “true” black metal bands, but even as they expanded upon their sound on the aforementioned Lawless Darkness, they were still hailed as a modern day Emperor.

However, just like the mighty Norwegians alienated virtually an entire legion of fans with their unremarkable Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & Demise, Watain will inevitably find themselves under the microscope of the “kvlt” purists who will loathe The Wild Hunt. While it still harnesses the power of their trademark blackened metal roots, it is hands down their most exploratory and experimental record to date. But unlike the disregarded final Emperor album and the late, great Dissection’s Reinkaos release, The Wild Hunt actually has taken Watain in a new direction and, dare it be written, might be their strongest album to date.

True, some of the songs aren’t vicious like the moody, passive “They Rode On”, the very technical, almost Prometheus…-sounding “Black Flames March”, the catchy and groovy “All That May Bleed”, and the emotional and passionate title track. However, it’s songs like these that give The Wild Hunt that much more flavor, that much more power. The vintage ferocity of Watain is still all over the album such as the vile “De Profundis”, the blistering “Sleepless Evil”, and the punishing “Outlaw”. But when those trademark tracks are nestled between the more daring and adventurous passages of the album, everything is impacted tenfold.

Nobody likes it when one of his or her favorite bands changes overnight and releases an pile of fecal matter. The metal world saw it with the unfortunate Swansong from Carcass, the horrendous Illud Divinum Insanus from Morbid Angel and the atrocious transformation of the once-mighty Metallica. Incorrectly, some people have tossed The Wild Hunt into the bargain bin, but the reality is that it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Wild Hunt is a creative, forward-thinking album that slays from the opening salvos of “Night Vision” all the way until the closing seconds of “Holocaust Dawn”. It’s that rare album of when an outside-the-boxing thinking band challenges themselves more than they ever have in the past, birthing an intelligent, breathtaking colossus. As much as it is a brand new era of Watain for how bipolar the album is, The Wild Hunt is still classic Watain through and through. While it might not be their finest hour in terms of sheer number of solitary classics contained within, it is without question their most important album and much better suited as a full listen.

Whether one is a person to admit it or not, it grows boring whenever a band doesn’t change anything about their sound (Fear Factory, Suffocation, Obituary, etc). However, when an incredible band as talented as Watain expand their horizons more and more with each passing release, it’s usually always a breath of fresh air. Albums that challenge the listener are typically the most enjoyable ones to digest. With The Wild Hunt, Watain not only challenged themselves, they’ve also challenged all to open their minds enough to fully explore the mesmerizing, haunting evil that has been harnessed on each of the eleven songs on the album.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Mike Sloan
September 23rd, 2013

Comments

  1. Commented by: longdeadgod

    I guess I haven’t heard it bantered about that these guys are a modern day emperor, I really disagree with that statement and don’t understand what it would be based on, if anything they were just a more black less thrash Dissection, but hey, I’m a douche and I don’t like to give credit to bands that don’t innovate anything or bring anything new to the table.


  2. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    The only people who call this band a “modern day Emperor” are people who don’t know much about black metal.

    anyway, this record is awesome, regardless.


  3. Commented by: vugelnox

    loved Prometheus and did not care for Reinkaos but otherwise I agree with this review. It’s the first Watain album I can easily listen to start to finish. (Also agree about the Fear Factory, Suffocation, Obituary bit. Zzzzz…)


  4. Commented by: SRK

    Rabid Death’s Curse is a great album, but it’s been steadily downhill from there. They really shit the bed with this one.


  5. Commented by: CannibalDave

    Anytime you review a black metal release, pretentious fans come out of the woodwork to comment, as is the case here. Though it’s not going to surpass Lawless Darkness for me, this is still a great album. I wish the guitars had a bit more bite to them, but that’s really just a minor criticism. I feel the only song that doesn’t really fit on this album is “Outlaw”. That song sounds like Watain had been listening to a lot of Slayer and Goatwhore and decided to write a song sounding like a little of both. It’s not a bad song, just an out of place song, at least to my ears.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Prometheus may be alienating. Pompous and indulgent and avant-garde, yes. (I also think it’s brilliant at times.) But given how much commentary and debate it’s inflamed since its release, I’d hardly call it “unremarkable.”


  7. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    I hated Prometheus when it dropped. listening now, there’s a lot to enjoy.


  8. Commented by: ikillednoe

    great review
    watain live is spectacular, hope they come back to texas


  9. Commented by: thisblacksession

    “Unremarkable”? Couldn’t disagree more with that, but the actual Watain review is spot-on.


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