Watain - Sworn to the Dark
Ajna Offensive
Raw Black Metal
11 songs (57'42")
Release year: 2007
Watain, The Ajna Offensive
Reviewed by Alex

Not as prolific as some of their other black metal brethren Watain is just as notorious. The live shows have been legendary, foul smell of blood and animal rotten carcasses filling the air. However, on Sworn to the Dark the Swedes show that they are definitely not about the shock factor, but about raw stinging black metal coupled with refined songcraft and excellent musicianship.

The album takes electric buzzing catchy thrash, minces it with periodic blastbeats, double bass and more reserved rhythmic patterns, while not forgetting, at times, to slow down and drag thy ears through the mud, for full measure. P. Forsberg’s guitars sometimes buzz on the verge of earbleed creating a frozen feeling of which early day Dissection would certainly approve (Satan’s Hunger). Yet Watain’s music is not about high-end gutless tremolo, although Stellarvore provides an excellent example of how to implement this approach properly. Instead, the Swedes deliver some muscular riffing, sometimes fast (Legions of the Black Light), sometimes sinister and catchy (like the main riff of Underneath the Cenotaph, check if this one does not leave the hook marks on your skin), and sometimes completely Celtic Frost primal (The Light that Burns the Sun), which, of course, does not mean primitive. Watain’s double bass supported melodies soar high discovering unexpected harmonies (The Serpents Chalice) or flow vastly over the chorus in The Light that Burns the Sun. The music on Sworn to the Dark does not grow stale because it constantly mutates from bone shattering pounding to measured predatory attacks to something rather melodic and memorable. There are even a couple of instrumentals here, Withershins coming as if from the dungeon, and trust me you would welcome those short breathers.

Guitars yielded as deadly weapon, this does not distract Watain’s bandleader Eric Danielsson’s bass playing, always audible, sliding along the axe and bending the crap out of those hellnotes. And when a sad tone solo is needed on Legions of the Black Light Set Teitan (Dissection) lends a helping hand. In line with the rest of the package being quite audible, Eric’s vocals are not overdone, no hiss or shriek to be found here. The Satan’s power is to be expressed via Abbath-like dry cackle driving the final steak through the heart. Stellarvore adds a religious style chorus to make the Black Mass feeling absolute while also nailing the coffin with authority.

Watain is their own entity, but they do epitomize much of the full-circle evolution of black metal. Convinced that their brand is the truest, Watain combine the basics - rawness of Mayhem, musicianship and polish of Dissection, power approach of Marduk, avoiding the all-out constant speed syndrome - and the new, by blending in a very acceptable dose of well-produced Norsecore. This is no closet made claustrophobic minimalist metal. This is, if there ever was one, a way of purification through some of the darkest human emotions, utter disdain and non-discerning hate, taking the center stage. Not for the unprepared or weak of heart.

Killing Songs :
Legions of the Black Light, The Light that Burns the Sun, Underneath the Cenotaph, The Serpents Chalice, Stellarvore
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Watain that we have reviewed:
Watain - The Wild Hunt reviewed by Goat and quoted 73 / 100
Watain - Lawless Darkness reviewed by Goat and quoted 93 / 100
Watain - Casus Luciferi reviewed by Goat and quoted 90 / 100
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