Who says only Norwegians can play true black metal? Hailing from the deepest, darkest reaches of Uppsala, Sweden’s black metal baby Watain has proven time and again that they’re fully capable of worshiping Satan with the best of them. Following up their 2010 release, Lawless Darkness, Watain’s The Wild Hunt is every bit as brutal as its predecessors but with a marked improvement in production and atmosphere.
Released via Season of Mist and Century Media Records, The Wild Hunt begins with a gloomy instrumental track called “Night Vision” which segues perfectly into the booming sounds of “De Profundis.” Right off the bat, it’s obvious that the band spent a lot of time and effort making their latest album sound as evil as possible. I mean, the opening moments of “De Profundis” actually sound like that first crack of thunder during a terrifying storm.
This latest effort from Watain is actually a surprisingly diverse take on the black metal norm. Although The Wild Hunt does feature several traditional black metal songs, i.e. “Sleepless Evil,” “Outlaw,” and the first single from the album, “All That May Bleed,” it’s also chock full of surprisingly melodic, slowed down tracks, such as “Black Flames March” and the title track “The Wild Hunt.”
Granted, slowing down an otherwise completely normal black metal song is far from revolutionary. But what Watain lacks in originality they make for in spades with personal evolution. The Wild Hunt progresses the sound of the band by leaps and strides with atmospheric instrumentals, unexpected bass solos, and, get this, CLEAN VOCALS!
Truly a first for Watain, “They Rode On” is a nine minute long, brutal power ballad with no guttural screaming what-so-ever. Sandwiched between two of the album’s most intense tracks, “The Child Must Die” and “Sleepless Evil,” Watain’s melancholy rock opera seems somewhat reminiscent of the score that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis composed for “The Proposition.” Hell, there are even some female backing vocals laid into the last moments of the song; a choice that I would have never expected from Watain in a million years.
Overall, The Wild Hunt is another roaring successful for Sweden’s own Watain. It’s nice to see a black metal band with such an elaborate, and horrifying, stage show confident enough in their abilities to push themselves beyond the boundaries of the black metal norm.
That being said, The Wild Hunt is not perfect. Don’t get me wrong, the album is a good listen and a noticeable step up in terms of the band’s talents. However, it still feels like something is missing. Perhaps, it’s due to the fact that only a few of the tracks on The Wild Hunt are obviously different while the rest of the album feels a little like more of the same.
Although isn’t that what growing up is all about? I mean, let’s face it. Some change is definitely better than no change. Years from now, we’ll be looking back on The Wild Hunt and saying “Oh yeah, that was Watain’s transition album. You know, before they became the black metal pioneers that they are today.”
Hopefully, that day will come sooner rather than later. Until then, you can catch Watain on October 8th as they tear apart New York City’s Irving Plaza with In Solitude and Tribulation.