Record Reviews

Album review: Watain “The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain”

The pressure is on but Swedish black metal band Watain delivers. This band is still very much sworn to the dark.

The black metal scene is alive and well globally with great new bands popping up as well as established bigger acts that are still at it. But Sweden’s Watain soldiers on along their own path and they remain at the top of the heap. The pressure is on but they deliver. “The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain” is Watain’s seventh studio album since the band was formed in 1998. Variation is the key that wins the battle this time for the band on this dynamic album that is filled with drama and darkness. Where some other bands either lack the performing and songwriting skills or come across as “image bands”, Erik Danielsson and his Watain brothers are the real deal. They are world-class black metal musicians. The quality of the songs they write is above and beyond what most others are capable of. There is an element of danger about this band’s music. This band is indeed still very much sworn to the dark. The darkness in Watain’s music is real and the authenticity shines through the pitch-black musical landscape. While full-on black metal is the norm here, Watain continues to evolve musically. On the terrifically doom-slow and sinister track “We Remain” they bring in former The Devil’s Blood and current Molasses singer Farida Lemouchi as a guest vocalist. The track also features a guest guitar solo by former Watain live member Gottfrid Åhman (ex-In Solitude, now in PÅGÅ). Another former live member of the band, Tore Stjerna, has produced this exquisite album in his studio which is housed in an old church (obviously!). There is also a splendid instrumental piano/guitar piece called “Not Sun, Nor Man, Nor God”. The album opens with the insanely terrific assault track “Ecstasies in Night Infinite”. It’s Watain’s way of saying to the also-rans: Move aside, the overlords are back and the black metal throne is still ours. Other highlights on this intriguing ten-track album include the rather melodic “Serimosa” as well as the more traditional black metal tracks “Funeral Winter”, “The Howling” and “Septentrion”. “Before the Cataclysm”, an epic song which runs over the listener like a freight train, is perhaps my personal favourite with its runaway guitars and overall mayhem and yet it is a song with great melodies. This is the first Watain album to be recorded live in the studio with a full band line-up consisting of Erik Danielsson on vocals, Pelle Forsberg and Hampus Eriksson on guitars, Alvaro Lillo on bass and Emil Svensson (aka E. Forcas) on drums. While original drummer Håkan Jonsson, who stopped playing live with the band in 2015, is not playing on the album, he remains involved as a songwriter. As has been the case throughout the band’s career, they don’t compromise or censure themselves. They do their own thing, free of any restrictions, and they certainly don’t care if someone gets offended. Erik’s lyrics are as dark and sinister as ever:

“For you have seen it in your dreams

And sensed its presence

Your sons and daughters on their knees

The black goat upon its hind legs standing tall”

As the band states: “Watain is not intended for everyone” and “Our work is a celebration of the chaotic, the sublime, the sacred, the insane and of the triumphant ecstasy of the free spirit.” The result of the band’s dedication is one fine piece of extreme metal music that shows us that Watain has still got it. They remain leaders, not followers.

Watain’s album “The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain” will be released on 29th April via Nuclear Blast.