WATAIN have been fighting their way to recognition since their forming in 1998, and they havenít even stopped to take a breather. After being gobbled up by Black Metal label Drakkar Productions following their first official release, "The Essence of Black Purity," WATAIN have not only succeeded in achieving gold certification in their home country of Sweden, but have also lent a hand in reinvigorating the genre itself.
The first notable aspect of the bandís latest offering, "Lawless Darkness," is the steadily climbing length, which now clocks in at over an hour and ten minutes. WATAIN are clearly becoming more comfortable with their writing, but the length is also an indication that the band are starting to slow things down. Which they are, masterfully I might add, as the intro to "Four Thrones" shows they are capable of lowering the tempo and boosting the menacing desecration all at once.
In an attempt to describe WATAINís sound, Iíd say they were the MAYHEM meets DARK FUNERAL of the Black Metal world. Thereís no doubt their highly polished production will put a smile on any BM-naysayers face, before quickly wiping it off when the band break into a blast-beat section, with ex-DISSECTION member Eric Danielssonís hateful screams at the forefront. While this may be seen in a positive light by anyone who isnít kvlt enough to sleep in a coffin and bathe in embalming fluid, WATAIN have caught a modest amount of shit from those who swear that every Black Metal album should sound like itís been recorded on a busy motorway (adjacent to an icy forest, naturally).
So if WATAIN were always too clinical sounding for your tastes, you wonít be surprised to read that "Lawless Darkness" will not change your opinion. Yes, WATAIN have made Black Metal accessible, but not in that rubbish, simplified kind of manner that youíre thinking of. Theyíve struck a resounding equilibrium between stone cold, icy forest buggery and squeaky clean instrumentality, which is a massive plus to anyone who feels that traditional Black Metal couldnít evoke the darkly foreboding atmosphere that was intended. Just listen to the fourteen minute epic "Waters of Ain" on the album and rejoice. This is what youíve been looking for.
Itís not like WATAIN are newcomers on the scene, but their work just keeps getting better with every release. "Lawless Darkness" is the band's best sacrificial offering yet, showing signs of musical progression while maintaining the wildly adventurous sound that defines them. For Black Metal newcomers and veterans alike, this album has a playthrough with your name on it.
(Online January 14, 2011)