Watain - The Wild Hunt (Century Media)

The only way is up...
Release Date: 
17 Aug 2013 - 11:30pm

I like Watain. I might not take them as seriously as some folk but I do like them, and their fifth album gives me another reason to like them even more. Opening with the instrumental Night Vision, this one is Watain's Stonehenge (oh, the little children...); it's atmospheric with watery strings and sets the anticpation levels to 'high'. Two minutes in and the Watain/black metal stamp is seared onto the track's hindquarters. Yet it's still remarkably restrained as it leads into De Profundis, where we're on much more familiar ground. The epic Wagnerian structure, the guttural vocals and blurred runs on the guitar; this is what we came for and it's lovely, lovely black metal goodness. I loved the section composed almost entirely of hammer-ons and it's practically industrial at points. The 'ape-on-speed' drumming also makes this track a delight.

The rising orchestration is again apparent on Black Flames March and there's no denying the dramatic edge to Watain's compositions. The phaser driven intro and howling guitars of All That May Bleed are a joy and as the track builds and builds (again, Wagnerian in style) I am reminded of that wise lady Yazz; the only way is up. The song structures never plateau and so it's always onwards and upwards. The Child Must Die has a slow start but intellectualisation of tunes aside, if you just let it roll over you, you'll know in your (black, satanic) heart whether this one's for you or not.

Next up is the track that's been causing a shit-storm, They Rode On; clean vocals? What?! Outrageous...even the band has been trying to justify themselves over this one. It's a delightfully maudlin track; all twangy guitars and emotion. On the whole it's alright but the standout for me is guitars, which are just beautiful and layered in a genius fashion. This could be Watain's Comfortably NumbSleepless Evil stamps and asserts itself in contrast to the previous track and is sure to get the hard-core Watain fans back on board after They Rode On. There's a sense of theatre to the music and you've got to give it to these Swedish fellows - they know how to compose and deliver. The haunting The Wild Hunt made me call out 'Nurse! I've wet the bed again' with its slow build and (in places) almost 70s rock guitar, full of pomp and majesty. The flamenco flourish in the outro is pretty special too...I hear the die-hard Watain fans wailing 'What the fuck?'

Outlaw has a Slayer-esque feel to it but manages to become its own master quite early in the track with some great incantation style vocals while Ignem Veni Mittere (which I believe is Latin for 'I came to send fire') starts mellow before building to a good solid tune. It's regal and should be used as background music for invoking demonic royalty. The lead and rhythm guitars compliment each other magnificently and I really got into this song - so much so that I nicked out and desecrated a few churches before regaining control of myself. A strong instrumental, no doubt.

Final song Holocaust Dawn takes us back to a more familiar style of black metal and we can all get dark and gloomy as we smear our faces with ashes from the cremation grounds. Satan, he's the one.

This album (and indeed this review) might upset some black metal purists but I find it (the album not the review) to be as delightful as finding a kitten in a basket on a fine summers day.

A lovely job, you lovely Watain fellows.