Sworn To The Dark: Why You Should Know About Watain
Watain, the black metal band from Sweden, have just released their fifth album The Wild Hunt, and what a record it is. It’s a continuation of Watain’s take on black metal – that is to say it’s quite melodic and brooding in parts – but the group is never afraid to unleash the beast within themselves for a blastbeat-laden and shrieking savage passage in any of their songs. The trio stands tall and proud in a genre that is quickly moving towards more accessible territory (see the amazing Sunbather by Deafheaven or any of Alcest‘s wonderful albums) and they fly that flag proudly. But the band doesn’t just make solid album after solid album. Here is why you should know about Watain.
Preserving What Made Old-School Black Metal Unique
All too often, it seems like black metal, a genre made in response to the increasingly marketability of extreme metal in the late 80s and early 90s, has lost sight of what made the genre unique and appealing back when it first started. It’s traded the bare-bones production and anti-commercialism for more accessible soundscapes and lighter melodies throughout. Not Watain, though. Through and through, Watain’s sound has been unrelenting and punishing, while still keeping the melodic undertones that hold everything together. They are maintaining the spirit of Norwegian black metal brutality from bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone, while adding the melodies of Swedish BM stalwarts Dissection or Naglfar.
Memorable Live Performances
Watain performed at The Granada in Lawrence in April of last year. Before their set, they brought out tons of candles and elaborate stage designs – pentagrams, pitchforks, etc. (Your standard run-of-the-mill black metal band stuff.) Then they started bringing out the animal skulls. The skulls weren’t fake – you could see bits of meat still on them. Okay, that’s kind of weird, but still nothing too out of the ordinary.
And then the door opened for the band to come in. And then the stench came.
Watain is notorious for using fresh roadkill in their stage setup. Whether it’s a fox draped across a microphone stand or a vest made out of freshly dead rats and vermin, they don’t skimp on anything. It adds some mysticism and notoriety to their live performances, which is sorely missing from way too many bands in extreme metal these days. Did they go out and kill these animals themselves? Was it part of some sacrificial ritual? What kind of demons are these crazy Swedes invoking? It all just makes for good, clean fun. Well, maybe not clean.
Watain has paid tribute to the bands that have inspired them. It started with a cover of one of black metal’s anthems – Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger. But throughout the years, they’ve acknowledged another anti-authority figure that should have influenced every band that considers themselves any part of rock and roll. Of course, that can only mean the legendary GG Allin. As a bonus track from the latest album, they pay tribute to the last true punk rocker by covering his anthem “Fuck Off, We Murder,” which could serve as Watain’s anthem.
With their consistent output of quality albums, instantly memorable live performances and their range of influences, Watain is one of the most exciting bands in extreme metal. If “The Wild Hunt” is any indication of things to come, expect great things from this trio of savages.
Watain’s new album “The Wild Hunt” is available right now on vinyl at Mills Record Company.