Watain - The Wild Hunt
Century Media
Black Metal
11 songs (1:02:49)
Release year: 2013
Watain, Century Media
Reviewed by Goat
Major event

Following up an album as good as 2010's Lawless Darkness would be a tall order for any band, but Sweden's Watain here seem to have struggled in taking their formula of black metal onwards and upwards without it suffering. Lawless Darkness gained both underground and mainstream plaudits (winning a Swedish Grammy) for producing black metal both fiercely uncommercial and enjoyable, but the band seem to have failed in reproducing the trick here, making this a hard album to swallow for previous fans. It's not that The Wild Hunt is a bad album, or is altogether removed from the black metal world; much of the songwriting is good, and the black heart of the band is still beating. Yet it's a real step down from Lawless Darkness, lacking its dark energy, its terrific songwriting, and its sheer immediate listenability. Sections of The Wild Hunt plod on initial listens, and although multiple listens have brought it up in my estimation, it's hard not to feel that Watain have become lessened somehow after hearing it...

Previous fans of the band put off by the bad press from initial singles should definitely have patience with the album though, as it is very rarely as bad as trailed. Intro Night Visions has a taste of Emperor-ial grandeur to it, building up to an expected blast with De Profundis, which doesn't quite live up to the opening, coasting a little at first and only really finding its mark with a more rocking riff about a minute in, and when the song becomes more wild and widdly towards the end. An arresting martial drumbeat is a foretaste of the following Black Flames March, crashing and epic, and the first sign of the Watain we know and love at their vicious best, complete with bellow-along chorus. First single All That May Bleed seems a little closer to latter-day Marduk than to Watain to me, a mid-paced riff-driven slow-burner that gets its energy from Erik Danielsson's over-the-top vocal performance, complete with rolling 'r's. The following The Child Must Die continues in this vein but tones it down a little, focusing more on the infectious riffing but relishing in Pelle Forsberg's lead guitar – his contribution throughout is undeniably excellent.

Perhaps the most controversial moment is the clean-sung They Rode On, a surprisingly gentle eight-minute tribute to Viking-era Bathory complete with acoustic guitars and female vocalist (Anna Norberg, who also appeared on In Solitude's The World. The Flesh. The Devil). I've seen it called Watain's Nothing Else Matters, but it doesn't feel anywhere near as calculated for radio play. It's not awful, but it destroys the album's pacing, feels very out-of-place, and should definitely have been left off, especially given the hour-plus running time. Give Danielsson credit though, he has a very good voice and I'd love to hear more of it – I'm not entirely convinced the best place for it is on a Watain album, however. Yet throughout The Wild Hunt, Watain definitely seem happier when they are moving away from the more atmospheric blasting moments – Sleepless Evil a great example, seeming to go through the motions for the blasting opening, and is only interesting due to a piano interlude which leads to a slower, much more atmospheric section, returning to the blasting at the end.

The clean vocals return with the title track, still quite Bathory-esque but with more energy and a lovely guitar solo, and things take a weird turn for the tribal with Outlaw, kicking off like a black metal Soulfly, becoming more chaotic and noisy, thrashy riffs and wild soloing building back up to a closing tribal section – it sounds mad, but it's an experiment that absolutely works, making it one of the best songs on the album. Sadly, the following instrumental Ignem Veni Mittere feels like filler, and the closing Holocaust Dawn is a seven-minute slow-burner that only gets off the ground at the end, finally unleashing some pent-up anger into a properly furious black metal speedfest. Cutting them, and They Rode On out, would have made for a tighter, better album that flowed better and concentrated more on the band's strong points. As it is, The Wild Hunt is a good album that has much to recommend is, but is hard to praise anywhere near as wholeheartedly as Lawless Darkness due to it being overlong and stretched out. The more you compare the two albums, the more The Wild Hunt suffers; it contains no songs as melodic and infectious as Malfeitor, no songs as viciously anthemic as Total Funeral, and certainly nothing as impressive as Waters of Ain. Disappointing, then, a step down from past glory, but not a disaster, and an album I hope grows on me more.

Killing Songs :
Black Flames March, All That May Bleed, The Wild Hunt, Outlaw
Goat quoted 73 / 100
Other albums by Watain that we have reviewed:
Watain - Trident Wolf Eclipse reviewed by Goat and quoted 78 / 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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