Watain - Casus Luciferi
Drakkar
Black Metal
8 songs (50:33)
Release year: 2003
Watain, Drakkar
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

The news that a fourth platter of demonic splatter is imminent from these Swedish devil-worshippers makes it a good time to look back at their highly-regarded second opus, Casus Luciferi. It’s been somewhat forgotten in these modern days where Watain’s 2007 effort Sworn To The Dark gathered critical acclaim, but those in the know will always appreciate this as the superior effort. It’s that rare thing in Black Metal, a mix of impressive instrumental skill and dark atmosphere, clattering, almost ambient percussive misanthropy and razor-tipped riffs hurdling towards the listener and dragging him along a dark endless tunnel, helplessly headbanging all the way to his doom. Not a single track is below the five-minute mark, not Darkthroney minimalism but fully-realised Black Metal songs, hymns as dark as the cover art (an inverted version of a piece of heavenly art by Julius Schnorr van Carolsfeld). Suitably cryptic Satan-friendly lyrics are provided by members of Antaeus, Funeral Mist and Katharsis; there’s barely anything to criticise in terms of presentation or execution.

What really makes this worth listening to is that the band’s passion and skill are obvious. This is sinister, gnarly music, from the first ascending riff of Devil’s Blood making its hatred known, and rarely letting up. It always surprises me just how melodic this album can be, the icy Dissection-influenced riffs half-buried by a torrential downpour of drumming yet still shining through and painting all with their shadow. Erik Danielsson’s vocals are a pissed-off snarl, riding the music expertly as his bass reverberates in a strangely orchestral fashion beneath the other instruments, and the overall effect is stunning. Impressively, the music retains its atmosphere despite the more-or-less clear production – the Emperor-like grandiosity is stunning, truly music fit to invade heaven to despite the lack of keyboards.

Songs aren’t very different on the surface, but are as distinct and separate as if they were. It’s hard to explain; Black Salvation switches between a tsunami of hatred and almost headbangable rhythmic grooves, Erik’s Tom G. Warrior-esque grunts the punctuation in a darkly coruscating rant. My colleague Alex summed the band up as an unholy mixture of Mayhem, Dissection and Marduk, and it’s hard to disagree, although Watain are more than just a mixture of their influences. The slower-paced crawls of Opus Dei (The Morbid Angel) are as bleak and affecting as the faster sections of the song, militaristic rumbles followed by breakneck dashes to cover as tumultuous drumrolls finish the track before you’re aware of time’s passage. Casual Black Metal listeners may smother a giggle at Puzzles Ov Flesh’s grym misspelling, but all mirth will be gone when they actually hear the intense roar behind the title.

The Golden Horns Of Darash and From The Pulpits Of Abomination are excellent, but it’s the closing title track that really shows Watain’s skills off the best. Black Sabbath-esque thunder and church bells open the eight-minute finale, epic riffs building into sudden speed and going on to switch dizzyingly between speed and crawl, a grandiose centrepiece collapsing into a fall as long and relentless as Lucifer’s fall from heaven. Not to get too krieg about it, but this is exactly the sort of music that encourages poetic fancy like that – a read of the lyrics shows that the band could feel it too. Given another three years I would have declared Casus Luciferi a classic, and indeed think it will be considered as such then – for the moment, it’s a very good Black Metal album that fans of the genre will love, if they don’t already.

Killing Songs :
Devil’s Blood, Black Salvation, Puzzles Ov Flesh, From The Pulpits Of Abomination, Casus Luciferi
Goat quoted 90 / 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 - Sworn to the Dark reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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