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Watain - "The Wild Hunt" (CD)

Watain - "The Wild Hunt" CD cover image

"The Wild Hunt" track listing:

1. Night Vision (3:39)
2. De Profundis (4:33)
3. Black Flames March (6:21)
4. All That May Bleed (4:36)
5. The Child Must Die (6:04)
6. They Rode On (8:43)
7. Sleepless Evil (5:38)
8. The Wild Hunt (6:21)
9. Outlaw (5:07)
10. Ignem Veni Mittere (4:39)
11. Holocaust Dawn (7:07)

Reviewed by on August 5, 2013

"...'The Wild Hunt' gets wild indeed, bringing in an eclectic spread of everything from melodic segments, classic metal material, and even clean singing throughout the blackened chaos."

One of the stalwarts of the pure black metal scene, Watain has taken the lessons from 15 years of experience and finally decided to kick the evolution into overdrive in one massive leap. Words like “grim” or “raw” only rarely apply to this release, as “The Wild Hunt” gets wild indeed, bringing in an eclectic spread of everything from melodic segments, classic metal material, and even clean singing throughout the blackened chaos.

“Night Vision” is an atmospheric opener done right, as it’s more like a song than a throwaway segment that builds up properly to the actual metal with a teasing atmosphere. “De Profundis,” on the other hand, then has lots of familiar old school black metal tropes. There’s blast beats in abundance, along with bursts of guttural screams and a fuzzy tone to the guitars that recalls the genre’s glory days, but without actually sacrificing the sound quality. The songs is perhaps even too chaotic in parts, with the revving guitars played alongside layered, stuttering vocals, and it becomes more of an aural assault towards the end than an actual song, although that’s probably the point.

The third track “Black Flames March” and onward is where things start to get really interesting, as the black metal continuously gives ground on each track to other genre influences. The song prominently features building keyboards and ominous whispers, and heralds the start of some truly diverse material from an area of metal that is usually known for stagnation more than experimentation. From here on out, there’s a noticeable tempo change between each song, like the blistering “Sleepless Evil” giving way to the deliberate pace of the title track.

Tracks like “The Child Must Die” and “They Rode On” feature some riffage that is very much of a non-black metal variety, bringing to mind more of a classic metal sound, and the latter song even brings out female singing for a vocal duet, along with strummed acoustic guitars. The kvlt elitists will hate it, but anyone with a broader musical horizon should be able to get behind it. “Outlaw” is another unexpected change in the style of the album, offering up sounds that would be more at home on a thrash or melodic death metal disc, and the tribal chants at the end come out of nowhere. The title track’s slow movements and chants then have a bit of a Viking-doom feel in yet another change-up.

So just how big a leap is “The Wild Hunt” from the black metal norm? Well, if someone were to hear just the second half of the album without knowing ahead of time which band this was, the term “black metal” likely wouldn’t be the first genre tag to come to mind. The release as a whole, however, is balanced and diverse, and one of the more intriguing releases to come out this year from an established band.

Highs: Black metal gets a serious overhaul, blending in classic metal, thrash, melodic prog, and even more sounds.

Lows: Some of the changes won't sit well with the band's fanbase, and there are a few brief parts that are perhaps overly chaotic.

Bottom line: Watain packs more than a decade of brewing musical evolution into a single release, going way past traditional black metal into other realms entirely.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)