Watain - The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain
Nuclear Blast
Black Metal
10 songs (49:31)
Release year: 2022
Watain, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

It has not been a good year for Watain so far. Visa issues meant that they had to pull out of a big US tour with Mayhem, a serious financial blow, and then their latest full-length (first with Nuclear Blast) leaked online two months before release. A shame for any band, but especially galling in this situation given that The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain is one of the finest records from Watain in years! Ignoring the ugly (if intricate) cover art and focusing on the within, the band continue along the Trident Wolf Eclipse path of intense, barraging blackened metal with a touch of Dissection-y melody, and do so with songwriting skills as sharp as ever.

Sure, the usual touchstones are not so much grazed as lovingly punched; opener Ecstasies in Night Infinite has a compelling Swedish black melodic opening before exploding into a torrential blaster, widdly lead guitars and groovy, near-death metal riffing coming together to kick things off very well indeed. The infectious riffing of The Howling is balanced well with an atmospheric black rumble alongside, making for a form of melodic black metal that seems directed towards earning the band a second Swedish Grammy (which is no insult; Lawless Darkness was a great album and recent winners include distinctly B-tier outings from Candlemass and Dark Tranquillity!) Following that, the slower if no less melodic Serimosa feels perfectly judged.

And some may mourn the lost experimentation of The Wild Hunt, although it's continued here in subtler form, such as the electronic effects on the crawling (and charmingly/edgily titled) Black Cunt, which opens up into almost black n roll groove, or the crackling weather that heralds Leper's Grace. The dramatic female vocals on the doomy We Remain are the closest thing to that album, but it works as an extended interlude rather than as They Rode On's Bathory tribute. Those distasteful towards Watain, including many underground devotees, will turn their noses up at this 'fast food black metal' regardless, arguing that the genre shouldn't be made accessible. That line of thinking, of course, is not helped by Erik Danielsson saying similar things in interviews!

Yet few bands have continued the Dissection legacy quite as well - if Nödtveidt made different choices and continued along the Reinkaos line it's easy to see his band approaching Children of Bodom-esque status in Sweden - and there's plenty of 'real' black metal here (late album highlight Funeral Winter is downright Emperor-esque, for example!). The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain is neither Lawless Darkness nor Casus Luciferi, but it is impressive or at the very least solid; if you've not been pleased by Watain of late, then this may change your mind.

Killing Songs :
The Howling, Serimosa, Before the Cataclysm, Funeral Winter
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Watain that we have reviewed:
Watain - Trident Wolf Eclipse reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 100
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
Watain - Sworn to the Dark reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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