Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Watain - Lawless Darkness (2010)

 Before the release of Lawless Darkness, Erik Danielsson was quoted as saying that metal fans have heard "perhaps fifteen percent" (or was it ten?) of what black metal is capable of.  His stated goal for the album was to unleash the other eighty five (ninety?) percent.  So when listening to Watain's latest, it's hard not to harken back to that earlier statement.  Does Lawless Darkness in fact live up to its potential?

"Death's Cold Dark" begins the answer with some distinctly Watain-branded riffage.  Even though this is familiar territory to fans of the band's earlier efforts, there is also something far more sinister lurking beneath the surface.  By the time "Malfeitor" and "Reaping Death" had finished, I found myself trying to pin down just what Watain had done to make their sound even more wicked than before.  Sworn to the Dark remains one of my favorite black metal albums, but Lawless Darkness takes what I already knew Watain could do well and adds another layer of aggression and chaos.

This diabolical surprise comes from a mix of twists on their old tricks and the inclusion of some throwbacks that one could attribute to the highest forms of Bathory worship.  The production will be instantly familiar to fans of any of Watain or Dissection's previous efforts, and Lawless Darkness isn't going to change any detractor's opinions of the band, but the individual elements are so strong that it's hard to imagine disliking it.  Take, for example, the lyrics:

There is a place beyond the dreamworlds,
Past the womb of night,
Lying in wait beyond the barriers of light,
Shunned by the living, cursed by the dead,
Here is no peace!  Here is no peace!

At times "Reaping Death" is a masterpiece of black poetry and at others a confrontational chant that begs to be experienced live.  As the album descended into "Four Thrones", I almost felt like I knew what to expect from it, but I was still wholly unprepared for just how good it could get.  "Wolves' Curse" is a nine-minute hellscape that bridges into the album's self-titled instrumental break nicely.  "Total Funeral" resumes the assault with a more traditional sensibility that is in no way less horrifying than the other tracks for it's more identifiable roots.  After "Hymn to Qaiyn" and "Kiss of Death" continue the assault, "Waters of Ain" closes the gates and fucks with the listener evermore, throwing in some shockingly good basic metal guitar work over a fourteen and a half minute homage to all things unholy.

Lawless Darkness is a perfect modern black metal album, and it's left me wanting only more and more like it.   This is a game-changer for black metal; all of the elements that make Watain great are not only present on Lawless Darkness, but tested and pushed to their limits.  As pleased as I am to see these Swedes unlesash even more of black metal's potential, I think (and hope) that they can do even more. 

Verdict: Epic Win [10/10]

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