Watain – ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’

By James Davenport

It’s been five years since Sweden’s Watain unleashed a studio album but now, at last, comes their most recent offering: ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’. Before we delve into the darkest depths of what this record has to offer, a little perspective on black metal for those not in ‘the know’. Since its conception in the late ’80s/early ’90s, black metal became the most ‘dangerous’ style of music a band could play. Like the special effects in a Hammer Horror movie, what shocked the world then doesn’t necessarily have the same effect on today’s audience. The same applies to most modern black metal churned out today. What was once music’s bogeyman has become a parody thanks to the invention of internet memes. This generalisation however doesn’t apply to every band on that side of the music spectrum. Enter Watain, who do everything they can to fly the flag for extreme music, to make sure it still invokes those elements of fear and danger.

Their notorious live performances regularly see the stage decorated with severed animal heads and leave a percentage of the crowd and venues doused in blood. Watain are one of the few acts that can quite firmly consider themselves to be ‘trve’ black metal. One only has to look at the visuals explored in the artwork of their back catalogue to feel a sense of dread.

Breaking the five-year silence, album opener ‘Nuclear Alchemy’, which also happens to be the first single released, wastes no time making its presence known. Pummelling and unrelenting from start to finish, Watain more than prove their ground within seconds and don’t’ let up. Continuing along this same ferocious path are ‘Sacred Damnation’ and ‘Towards The Sanctuary’ which, despite remaining viscous black metal, also explore one or two more experimental elements. The former flirting with a mildly post-metal feeling towards the end, whilst the latter uses storytelling to describe an Odin-ic pilgrim destined to roam through purgatory.

Although furious and an all-out aural assault from beginning to end, ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ does have minor moments where it’s essential to take a breather before diving back in. ‘Teufelsreich’ and ‘Furor Diabolicus’ or ‘Devil Rich’ and ‘The Anger of The Devil’ for the non-Latin speakers amongst us, incorporate far more groove and atmosphere than the bludgeoning attack of ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ for example. Despite this, Watain have in no way become complacent, both songs still spew the same venom as ‘A Throne Below’ and ‘Ultra (Pandemoniac)’ which both create an atmosphere reminiscent to that of early Darkthrone; in short, they’re terrifying.

‘A Throne Below’ with its jaggedness and ‘Ultra…’, which utilises the use of maniacal laughter and faded bell chimes, wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie movie. In terms of what a lot of modern black metal bands such as Carach Angren are creating, this is the closest Watain come to anything remotely ‘symphonic’.

To bring the album to a close it only seems fitting that ‘The Fire of Power’ describes one man’s ascent to an almost God-like figure after watching the world beneath him burn. This track is surely an anthem of destruction with the howling of the words “of fire” still ringing in your ears long into the deafening silence once the album ends.

‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ is by no means a defining moment in Watain’s career, but it’s an exceptionally strong effort that could easily be the soundtrack to a war as well as a harkening to the ‘glory days’ of black metal. If the production and sound quality weren’t up to modern day standards, this record could quite happily sit alongside some of the classics that formed an entire sub-genre that, despite promoting ‘evil’, is still going strong almost three decades later.

JAMES DAVENPORT

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