Monday, 9 September 2013

Watain- The Wild Hunt

Artist: Watain
Album: The Wild Hunt
Record Label: Century Media

The Swedish Black Metal titans return with an album that "holds the world in the palm of its hand"

The universe is far too giant a thing for the human mind to understand. We think we understand, or we understand what we know about it. But such complexes are so vastly beyond human understanding that it only plays into the arrogance of our species' nature to assume such a thing. Another thing that comes seamlessly (and more positively) to human nature is the art of making music, and it would be far- fetched to suggest that, in the past, humans haven't tried to conjure up a sound to encompass or to attempt to depict the magnitude of the universe. An unsuspecting Brian Eno, Swans, a plethora of 19th century composers would maybe be prime culprits. But no one would point the finger at Swedish Black Metal legends Watain... until hearing "The Wild Hunt", perhaps.

Alas, the band's fifth full- length does not encapture the magnitude, vastness or unbeknownst of the entire universe, but it gives it a pretty good try. In doing so, it takes its place as a God- like entity, surveying the Earth from the darkness above and watching over mankind, but not with benevolence. It wields an iron fist that threatens to erase the Earth at any given moment, thus making the insignificance of the human race a true, literal reality. It's a record that holds the world in the palm of its hand.

The idea of being at the mercy of a Black Metal can conjure some pretty negative connotations, but in the case of "The Wild Hunt" it's summarised by the fact that the music does most of the talking. Opener "Night Vision" is like the still before the storm in a desolate French market town, soundtracked by ghostly guitars, weeping violins and pensive accordion melodies. Eventually the storm hits, and tremolo- picked destruction ensues. "De Profundis" veers between chaotic, blast beat- led dissonance and a hard- rocking, impenetrable groove. It's alienating and punishing, but also astonishingly accomplished. "Black Flames March" traverses from epic, sky- kissing tremolo soundscapes to an intensely dramatic smash- down and on to a mid- paced, atmosphere drenched gallop.

"All That May Bleed" brutalizes its way through with all the bone- shattering force of a ten- tonne battering ram and still remains monstrously groovy and creative through the thickness. "The Child Must Die" runs its course through a detonating myriad of melodic, rollicking grooves, as well as glistening solos and captivating fantastical lyricism (sample lyric: "The child of fire must die to be free").

"They Rode On" presents itself as the album's "November Rain" without being anywhere near as masturbatory. It's a slow- burning, atmosphere heavy ballad that's almost Swans- esque in its dusty roots and epic ascent, as well as it's "larger than life" mysticism and magnitude. "Igrem Veni Mittere" is a gorgeous amalgamation of lilting but strong arpeggios and crushing, mountainous solos and riffs, before descending into doom- laden apocalypse in its second half.

That Watain have shouldered all other Metal albums this year into the abyss via "The Wild Hunt" is not necessarily as surprising as you might think. They've always had the magnitude lesser bands can only dream of possessing, and there's always been an imperial force and understanding to their music that allows it to soar higher than their contemporaries. It's usual to feel insignificant when listening to Prokofiev, or Bach, but that's not a feeling commonly resounding outside of Classical Music. Well, Watain might have something to say about that, and rightly so.

Key Tracks: The Child Must Die, All That May Bleed, Black Flames March, Holocaust Dawn
For fans of: Marduk, Bathory


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