It feels like forever since WATAIN released their last album The Wild Hunt, when in reality it’s only been four years and change. That record was actually my introduction to the band, and in addition to really digging it I was also able to catch them on tour here in Philly, a show that was fantastic if you ask me. Though I was hoping for them to throw pig’s blood on the crowd, alas it was not to be that night. Well now the Swedish masters of Black Metal return with Trident Wolf Eclipse (January 5, Century Media Records), a record that is more along the lines of past works than the somewhat experimental outing last round. This is a much angrier and faster WATAIN, and I like that…a lot.
For eight out of nine tracks we are subjected to a pummeling, with our hair ripped out by the roots, our fingers broken one by one, and our asses getting kicked. Right out of the gate opener “Nuclear Alchemy” does all of these things within the first minute. Pelle Forsberg’s guitars, the blast beats from drummer Håkan Jonsson, and Erik Danielsson’s fiery vocals make for one Molotov cocktail of a song that doesn’t let up. “Sacred Damnation” has that vintage dissonance of older Black Metal tunes, but I have to say that the production on this record is outstanding, and never once does it sound like it was recorded in a tin can. “Teufelsreich” comes in at just the right time, and is a little change of pace. Not that the vocals are any less venomous, mind you.
An instant favorite for me was “Furor Diabolicus”. You ever think of someone you hate and just envision yourself pounding their head into a cinder block over and over until it splits wide open? No? Just me, then. Regardless, this song gets me all fired up and ready to destroy. I’m sure it will do the same for many of you as well. “A Throne Below” is another stellar track, the band just going ballistic from start to finish. Same goes for “Ultra (Pandemoniac)”. This fucker is equal parts Alien chest-burster and full-grown Xenomorph!! I can see John Hurt (R.I.P.) on the table right now saying, “I approve” and giving us the thumbs-up.
“Towards the Sanctuary” is a track that simply must be played live, because it is an exercise in controlled chaos, and I think audiences all over the world will eat it up like the zombies eat humans in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Another tempo change comes with “The Fire of Power”, but once again it is still heavy on the riffs, the drums are pounding, and Danielsson’s vocals are excellent. Closer “Antikrists Mirakel” is a seven-minute epic that moves at a slow, stalking pace, almost like Michael Myers in Halloween. He never rushes, he knows he’ll get his victim, so he just takes his time getting there. And that’s precisely how this song operates.
So let’s review. We’ve referenced not one, not two, but THREE horror film franchises to try and convey just how dark and murderous this new WATAIN album is. Sworn to the Dark was my favorite LP from these guys, key word being “was”. Trident Wolf Eclipse has emerged as the new sheriff in town for yours truly. This is a near perfect record that embodies all the things that make Black Metal what it is, while at the same time sounding fresh with a production that is outstanding. And I know it’s only the first day of 2018, but there is a serious fire in this collection of songs that will almost guarantee this record winds up being my Black Metal Album of the Year. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Let’s see who dares to pick it up…
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM