Review Summary: Music, Faith & Magic combine with wide eyed conviction to produce a truly blackened masterpiece.
Watain. A black metal band from Sweden synonymous with their devout views on Satanism and practice of rituals as well as often performing concerts soaked in blood. Needless to say Watain are a band strong in their belief in themselves and their chosen faith, having blasted Anton LaVeys brand of Satanism in various interviews and declaring themselves believers of chaosophy and being devout followers of the temple of the black light (Of whom Dissections Jon Nodveidt was once a member).
Musically speaking Watain play a mid paced melodic style of black metal with occasional faster and more blast beat fuelled moments (Imagine Dissection crossed with Mayhem). Kicking off the album with a riff eerily reminiscent of Dissection is Legions of the black light which is in fact dedicated to Jon Nodveidt and features and entrancing guitar solo by one time Dissection guitarist Set Teitan. As with a lot of tracks on this album it starts off with a fairly quick up tempo melodic tremolo riff before slowing down into a more mid paced groove. Satan’s Hunger is next with more of the same mid paced groove before the first instrumental track is brought in, in the form of withershins, which is a small atmospheric instrumental which has a sort of dream like feel. In the way that you’d hear it in a dream as you felt the feeling of impending doom and dread. Then comes a dramatic change of pace for Storm Of The Antichrist, a blast beat propelled monster that catches you completely unaware with no messing around on this one Watain just go for the throat and pin you to the wall with sheer conviction. The next couple of songs slow things down again although a special mention should go to the title track with Erik Danielssons rallying cry of “SWORN TO THE DARK!” being surprisingly catchy and at the same time completely primal in its declaration. Underneath The Cenotaph picks up the pace again with another burst of speed before arriving at one of the albums biggest highlights in the form of The Serpents Chalice. Another mid paced song that constantly shifts and changes before everything falls away towards the end to leave whispered vocals and an overbearing atmosphere which is punctuated by a final roar of “FIRE!” before giving way to one of the most beautiful, entrancing and stunning melodic moments on the album with the riff being repeated as it fades out. Another quick song in the form of Darkness And Death followed by another short instrumental gives way to the closing track Stellarvore. another mid paced yet astounding song loosely based around satanic ritual, with the opening and closing growls of “God of death, manifest. God of doom, move and appear” this final track carries with it a feeling of magic and amazing atmosphere. And as the final moments of Watains ritual ring out, it’s over and you just realise an hour has gone by and you just wonder were it’s gone. It’s one of those albums were it only feels half as long as it actually is. The listening is just effortless and just amazing to experience. The album keeps flowing at you every so often changing the pace to keep you thoroughly immersed weather it be the shorter instrumentals adding atmosphere and darkness or the faster paced songs such as Storm of the antichrist or darkness and death seething with venom and fury, or the slower mid paced magic of The Serpents Chalice and Stallarvore leaving you transfixed by their magical brilliance.
The production on this album is another thing which helps to further assert its power. Unlike a lot of black metal albums the sound on this album is surprisingly dense and thick, with the guitars being clear while still retaining a perfect amount of distortion and also unlike a lot of black metal albums the bass is actually at a decent level in the mix and helps pack that extra punch at just the right moments. The drums serve their purpose while not outstanding they do the job just right and that is just the point of this album. All the elements of this album are as strong as each other, Watain refer to themselves as an unholy trinity. This is true in the sense that they are all as committed as each other in their beliefs and in their music, which means that not one person outshine the other nor does one person bring the band down. Combine this with the amazing lyrical content and it all just comes together in such an amazing way.
There are lyrical references to the bands faith dotted all over the album be it in track names such as, Legions of the black light, sworn to the dark etc or overall lyrical themes such as the ferocious declaration of Sworn to the dark or the ritualistic Stellarvore. What this album does is combine an amazing lyrical content with solid black metal to give the feeling of overwhelming conviction and darkness in every moment of this album. This isn’t just a band passing off some cheap comments about Satan and having a rant about Christianity. This is the sound of a band unified by their beliefs and thoroughly convicted to their cause. Watain follow the black light and have shown the entire world that they are truly “SWORN TO THE DARK!”