Notorious black metal band Watain release their seventh studio album on an unsuspecting world, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain.
It has been almost twenty-five years that Watain has stalked the earth now. This black metal band from Sweden has a reputation like no other, building loyal fans from all over the world by creating unique dark music with no compromises. Their first full-length album, Rabid Death’s Curse (2000), was a sign to anyone who wanted to read it, and the promises made then are fulfilled with every new set.
Anyone who has seen Watain live surely has a story about the experience. It is a journey bathed in darkness. The band has found a way to capture the live experience more essentially than ever before with the new album, which was itself recorded live in the studio, where founding members Erik Danielsson, Håkan Jonsson, and Pelle Forsberg, were joined by Alvaro Lillo, Hampus Eriksson, and Emil Forcas.
“Ecstasies In Night Infinite” breaks through the veil first with an unrelenting, monstrous assault. The combination of the roaring speed with cascading riffs overlaid by a black lace of cogent lyrical hooks is a structure that stands up to the many twists and turns presented. The vocals are coarse and intimately discernable; the lead breaks are savage and crackling. Watain stands alone in the way they combine dark, heavy elements into music that is approachable in the groove and complex on every individual layer as well as in the spaces between them. Just listen and you will hear it in every song.
“The Howling” is next, and it offers us more of everything from other angles we hadn’t contemplated before. The groove is seductive and black metal is razor sharp. “Serimosa” shows a down-shifted tempo perspective with theatrical balancing, further demonstrating the variety and complexity of the music Watain presents on this album. “Leper’s Grace” is another example of the unexpected in rhythm and pace – it is one of my favorites from the set as it left me tipsy by the halfway mark.
“Before The Cataclysm” is especially eerie, and that is saying something in the context of this music. Here again, it is the fascinating combination of elements that are themselves individually stunning and somehow, in their amalgamation, rise to another place altogether. “Septentrion” brings the curtain down in a grand fashion, hearkening to the mystery and wonder of the spaces in the cold dark north. It is an enduring culmination.
This music is not meant for the weak of heart or mind. The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain is out through Nuclear Blast Records on Friday, April 29th. Recommended.
Live photos by Wayne Edwards, Webster Theater, Hartford, 2019.
Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/band/watain
© Wayne Edwards