Reviews Watain The Wild Hunt

Watain

The Wild Hunt

Watain have been around for a long, long time but it’s only really recently that the band have broken out of the confines of the underground and became a black metal band that graces magazine front covers and headlines tours across the world. The Swedes have been a heady presence on the scene back home and with 2010s Lawless Darkness, their brand of true and occult black metal finally made headway into other territories. They’re a fascinating band in that they make no apologies for their beliefs, which at times can be construed as far too extreme, but for a band where black metal is very much everything – it’s a way of life, not a lifestyle – then they have all the reasons in the world to put those viewpoints across. 

The Wild Hunt is the culmination of three years hard work and the album is certainly a difficult one to get into. Watain have always felt tough to crack and their fifth full length is no different but once the layers start revealing themselves, the rewards are plenty. It’s not a record that offers immediate gratification but one the slowly strips back the veils and works through more mysterious tones. From the disturbing instrumental introduction of “Night Visions” that leads into the ramped up dissonance of “De Profundis” to the completely left-field ballad-esque tones of the actually excellent “They Rode On,” Watain have pulled everything out of themselves in order to create a work that speaks volumes about their personal manifesto – that Satan is a force to be embraced.

Make no mistake, this a record of extremity and it’s apparent from the swing from the furious “All That May Bleed” to the groove of “The Child Must Die” to the aforementioned and unexpected beauty of “They Rode On.” This latter track is something no one ever thought that Watain could pull off, and why would you think they had it in them? But the song is gentle ode to darkness that showcases that Watain are extremely capable of music other than out and out black metal and while frontman Erik Danielsson may not have the best singing voice in the world, it still carries a confidence and weight that lifts the song way past anything trite. It melds well with the powerful title track which flows through choral chants and twisted beats and hymnal sections that play off the discordant guitar structures in unsettling moments of harmony.

The Wild Hunt is a defining record for Watain and while Lawless Darkness was the album that really pushed them to the fore, this will propel them ever further due to its textures and differences to anything else they’ve done before. Black metal is a constant evolution yet Watain are one of the bands that are staying as true to the cult as they can and still managing to push the genre into the outer reaches. Hail Satan. 

8.0 / 10 — Cheryl

Watain has been on the cusp of something huge for the last couple years. With a handful of great records and a live show that could manage to get a mention from even the most jaded of writers. The band stowed away with an intent to write something that would be true to them but also capitalize on their successes. So with The Wild Hunt we see the fruit of their labors. 

The LP opens with a quiet introduction full of clean guitars (for about the first 2 minutes) before breaking into something more akin to What would be expected. ALthough even this isn't entirely true as the riffs tend to have an almost melodic and rock and roll styled flair to them. This is one of the newer developments in the Watain arsenal. This belies the traditionalist fervor of the next song "De Profundis" which is the well written black metal song one would expect from the band. All goes to plan until the mid album point where "The Child Must Die" and "They Ride On" sit back to back. Both of these songs add new textures into the bands' sound. Giving ample space for calm and quiet along with "melodic" vocals (or as close as Erik Danielsson could get to traditional melodicism). These are a good and bad thing, while one can certainly look past these choices by the band to try something different and show growth, sometimes growth isn't good or at the very least necessary. While the songs flow within themselves they are placed in a strange order for the sake of the record overall. Killing momentum and creating an eerie mood that doesn't carry over entirely for the second half of the record.

When it is all said and done this is most certainly a Watain album which means you will get top tier black metal. This time around it isn't about them being able to write or play black metal it's more about whether that is what the band wants to give you as the listener. This makes for a more varied sound and album overall but belies some of their talents in the end. At the end of the day the biggest culprit in cutting down this record has to do with sequencing the songs more than the writing of the songs. With a change in the tracklisting we could have had a repeat of Lawless Darkness.

7.6 / 10 — Jon E.
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7.8 / 10

7.8 / 10

Reviewed by 2 writers.

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