Popularity. It can either make a band grow big or it can break the band. If there is one thing to be learnt from the years of metal music, it is that when a band achieves high levels of fame, the band most often ends up becoming a shadow of its former self. This phenomenon has remained true in almost all sub genres of metal, including one of the most non commercial ones that is Black Metal. Bands like Satyricon, Dimmu Borgir etc., who were once hailed as great bands, after seeing their share of fame are now regularly churning out mediocre albums. With this in mind, I approached the new Watain album (considering the amount of expectations and hype that this album made before its release) with high scepticism. Has Watain really made the same mistake as their peers?
Watain is regarded by many, as one of the most talented Black Metal bands to come out of Sweden. Their past four full lengths, have all been received with very positive reviews, so much so that the band now commands a very increased fan base. Their fifth full length release, titled ‘The Wild Hunt’, was released on 14th August 2013, through Century Media Records.
In this album, Watain have embarked in a new direction. Change can be a very sensitive thing, especially in metal. Most of the time, change indicates that a band has gotten worse and is usually met with a lot of criticism. But fortunately, Watain has handled change with true class.
This album is like two different sides of the band, packed into one record. The first half of the record, shows the more sinister and intense side of the band. Songs like ‘De Profundis’, ‘Black Flames March’, ‘All That May Bleed’ and ‘The Child Must Die’, showcase the raw and explosive side of Watain, the same side which has been exhibited in all their albums so far. These songs have fast and vicious drumming, over which the aggressive sounding guitar riffs are laid. The lead guitar work gives of a feeling of Thrash Metal.
After four solid Black Metal tracks, the song ‘They Rode On’ kicks in, bringing with it, a whole lot of unexpectedness. This song starts out with some clean guitars which then evolves into a full fledged folk ballad with clean vocals. This does not end here. The clean vocals are employed in a few more tracks after this one, thus showcasing the other side of the band. The change is not regarding the vocals alone. The songs in the second half of the album, exhibit more experimentation in the music than ever before. Inclusion of more clean guitar sections and the increased use of clean vocals are just few of the changes seen here.
The second half of the album is relatively less intense in comparison with the first half. But the composition of the tracks makes them enjoyable none the less. There is even a slight hint of progression, from the band’s side, much like what Opeth pulled off.
This fact, may provoke a lot of the Black Metal purists to cry out that the band has sold out. But though it is a slight change in their style, it is executed in a very effective manner that despite the change in sound, the album makes for an good listen. Musically, all performances including the bass is top notch. These guys have avoided the mistake of their peers like Dimmu Borgir, and have opted a rough production over a clean one. The mixing gives the sound the much needed edge.
All in all, ‘The Wild Hunt’ is a pretty solid album that indicates that the band might be headed in a new direction. The changes are well executed and well performed. It wouldn’t surprise me if this album makes it to the year end list of many reviewers.