Album Review: Watain – “The Wild Hunt”

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“The Wild Hunt”
(Century Media)

The Swedish masters of black metal Watain are at it again! Following their widely acclaimed 2010 album, “Lawless Darkness”, Watain pushes on in the same vein with their most recent opus, “The Wild Hunt”. 

Watain’s latest release is a tasteful portrayal of their signature sound that they have now perfected. The album is introduced with “Night Vision”, a song that begins with melodic clean guitar passages and tastefully sets up the atmosphere for what is to come. The tone shifts from the orchestral beginning and transitions to the dark and aggressive riffs on “De Profundis”.  Their songwriting alternates between fast thrash-based guitar segments and powerful tremolo passages accompanied by drummer Hakan Jonsson’s blast beats. Each song is triumphant and unapologetic, charging “The Wild Hunt” with an uncompromising intensity that only builds throughout the album. It is plainly obvious that Watain is paying homage to their musical roots; their sound is never an uninspired imitation of others, but more so incorporates the feel of classic black metal into their unique approach to the genre.

On their 5th album, Watain still appeases their die-hard fans with their signature menacing sound of haunting black metal, but vocalist Erik Danielsson shakes up the mix by his use of clean vocals on “They Rode On”. It begins with an emotional clean melody that creates an ethereal feel, and the song reaches a crescendo with guitarist Pelle Forsberg’s dreamy and enrapturing solo. Watain’s fearlessness to step outside of expectations has only led them to a dynamic, atypical sound that has been developed throughout their diverse discography. Without a doubt, one thing can at least be expected from “The Wild Hunt”, which is that the album will obliterate you with tortured riffs and a truly macabre atmosphere.

Having witnessed one of their live performances for the “Lawless Darkness” tour, they created an incomparable ambiance that every metal head should experience at least once. They used real raw meat on stakes, giant fixtures adorned with pyrotechnics, and massive inverted crosses on stage. The smell was rank and putrid, but it definitely informed people for miles that Watain was in town! Erik Danielsson took to the stage and initiated the ceremony, while his leather and spike-clad Swedish brethren began performing. The intensity is unparalleled, and each sense is bombarded  with unearthly images of demonic figures while their raw, aggressive sound pummels your ear drums.

The title track, “The Wild Hunt”, is one of the only other songs with a notable amount of clean vocals, and is my personal favorite off the album. His moaning is a gloomy chant that echoes a deep melancholy, and is as equally alluring as it is mesmerizing. Watain is one of those bands that plays by their own rules, and their newest album is nothing short of breathtakingly good. The dynamic shifts from exhilarating and aggressive, to despairingly beautiful and seamlessly flows between songs without err. The album is an experience, a riveting journey throughout the unexplored regions of the mind that are shrouded in a compelling darkness. “The Wild Hunt” is a culmination of the genre’s evolution that maintains the timeless sound, while leaving mimicry to the plenitude of easily forgettable bands that merely haunt the void of used CD bins.  Watain is by no means amateur, their sound is instantly identifiable and hopefully they will continue to churn out these jewels of music for years to come.

Track list:W-TheWildHuntLE

01. Night Vision
02. De Profundis
03. Black Flames March
04. All That May Bleed
05. The Child Must Die
06. They Rode On
07. Sleepless Evil
08. The Wild Hunt
09. Outlaw
10. Ignem Veni Mittere
11. Holocaust Dawn



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