Watain – The Wild Hunt

watain wild

The Wild Hunt releases August 20th via His Masters Noise (Century Media)

I liked Watain’s previous album Lawless Darkness. I saw them open for Behemoth when they played in Tampa, and while I hesitate to use the phrase “stole the show,” I had more fun watching them than I did any other band on the bill that night, including the headliners. Now, if they had simply released another album that was very similar to Lawless Darkness it would have been easy to write them a nice review and be done with it. But that’s not what Watain did. Instead they released an album that challenges the listener to set aside preconceived expectations and judge this album on its own merits. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Watain went rogue and released an album that sounds like it was written by a different band, Metallica style. But I am saying that instead of playing it safe and releasing the “follow up to Lawless Darkness” they offered up an album that demands your full attention.

The Wild Hunt starts off with a pretty standard clean guitar intro that crescendos at the end and flows into the first song De Profundis, which is a total mess of a song. The opening guitar riff sounds like something a novice band would write, and then there’s this weird, off-putting vocal delay thing. There’s also an awful sounding guitar solo about three quarters of the way through the song. After a few listens I did discover a couple of redeeming parts in this song, but after the first listen I thought I was in for a rough one.

Then the second song Black Flames March kicks off, and after a minute or so I felt like everything would be ok. There’s nothing particularly astounding about this song, but it is a solid black metal song. The next song, All That May Bleed, is the standout track on the album in my opinion. I love the vocal delivery in this song, and I love the way the bass cuts through the mix around the 3:40 mark. I wish they had put this song first. The next song, The Child Must Die, is another solid song.

Then something weird happens. On the sixth song, They Rode On, Watain channels their inner Pink Floyd. At first I didn’t know what to think, so I just listened…and I liked it. My only complaint with this song is that it goes on for over eight minutes without much intensification.

The remaining five songs on the album continue to deliver a unique and eclectic blend of black metal, complete with some Spanish style guitar at the end of the title track. Additionally, not that it’s of the utmost importance with black metal, but the production is cleaner and slightly more polished than Lawless Darkness.

I normally listen to an album three times for review. The first time is just for overall impression. The second time is to make sure I didn’t miss anything, and the third time is to make a mental list of the things I would change about the album. I had to listen to this album about five times to take everything in. There are details in this album that aren’t apparent with a casual listen, and I think that is the challenge that Watain has issued to their fans.

Overall score 7.5/10. It would have been very easy for Watain to make a “safe” black metal record. They didn’t, and that is to be commended.

Reviewed by Alonzo Mosely aka Slippery Jim, the other half of the legendary Crotchduster. Alonzo also plays guitar for the incredibly badass punk/thrash band Destructonomicon

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