Watain is a Swedish black metal band that was formed in 1998. The band is well known for their live shows which include pyrotechnics, candles, and rituals, and provide much more than a live music performance – it is an all-encompassing experience. Watain are no strangers to controversy, and over the years have proven that they are hell-bent on doing black metal their way – they are unrelenting in their attitude towards fitting into any kind of societal acceptance of what they do.
Their latest offering is also unrelenting. Due to release via Nuclear Blast on 29th April 2022, they have released 2 singles with a video from “The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain” ahead of the release.
These two singles are a glimpse into what is to come from the album. Watain has an ability to stay true to their black metal roots while adding snippets of melody and groove into their music. The meaning behind the lyrics is intelligent and thought-provoking.
“The Howling” is the first single to be released, it is frantic from the beginning, then briefly changes with stops and melody in amongst the heavier moments. It has the quintessential black metal elements and a groove created by the vocal phrasing, the annunciation making certain lyrics stand out intentionally. The vocal delivery gives you a sense of impending doom. The video for this song is as dark as it gets – watching Erik Danielsson perform, on video and live, is an experience on its own. He performs as a man possessed and you cannot look away. He is fascinating.
“Serimosa” is the second single released on 4th March, the start of this track is epic, it’s dark and foreboding. The vocals are depressive and grim, the music is a weight on your senses. it shrouds you in sickening discomfort that is strangely addictive. This is Watain at their best, the only thing that could better the experience of listening to this track would be seeing them perform it live. If you haven’t seen Watain live, you should plan to as soon as possible, their live performances are unforgettable.
The album in its entirety is exactly what you expect from Watain, it invades all your senses at once. The one thing that has always stood out with Watain is the way they maintain the roots of black metal but it never becomes mundane – there are moments throughout the music that cloaks you in darkness, providing a full-body experience, and fleetingly, out of left field tempo changes and melodies take you in another direction.
The best example of this is “Leper’s Grace”, which is full of every element described above. It’s hectic, each instrument has a moment to shine which includes clever bass leads, frenzied drum fills, furious guitar, and menacing vocals. This is a standout track. Again the vocal phrasing matches the music in the most enticing way.
Special mention needs to be made of “Not sun nor man nor god”, it’s an instrumental interlude that is haunting and melancholy, with piano and emotive guitar. It provides such an epic contrast to the rest of the album.
“Before the cataclysm” is another great track, it has a riff in the middle that feels somewhat traditional metal, with a really classy solo, the song is still bookcased by the more familiar black metal sound, topped off by Danielsson’s distinct vocals, it’s another aspect of Watain that makes them such an interesting band.
“The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain” is an outstanding album, I cannot wait to hear this on vinyl! Highly recommended for all black metal fans!
Release Year: 2022
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewed by ForsakenMisery