Album review: Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse
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Holy crap guys, it’s nearly 2018! We’re only a fortnight away from an entirely new calendar year, but, unlike 2016 – which was a hot garbage fire for innumerable reasons – it’s actually quite saddening to see the back of 2017. After all, this year has been phenomenal for metal: over the past twelve months, the genre has seen both excellent debuts from newcomers such as Zeal & Ardor and VUUR, as well as unexpected chart smashers from veterans like Stone Sour, Mastodon and Paradise Lost. As a metalhead, it’s hard to leave 2017 behind, but lending a hand with that daunting prospect are the Swedish black metal stalwarts Watain and their magnificent Trident Wolf Eclipse album, which will be hitting shelves on 5th January. Arguably the first high-profile metal disc due in 2018, Trident Wolf Eclipse gets the New Year started in the best possible manner: with raucous anarchy, glorious Satanism and vicious growls of ceaseless agony. Normally in an album review of this nature, it’s prudent to guide the reader through the record chronologically, picking out highlights or significant moments along the way. However, there really is no need for that with Watain’s impending sixth release. All of it, without fail, is designed to rip your head off and kick it around like a football for 42 minutes. While the 21st century has seen black metal transform into a beast increasingly reliant upon other styles like dark ambient and folk, Trident Wolf Eclipse bucks trends. It takes unabashed pride in forcing metalheads back in time to the black metal sound of the early 1990s, when hauntingly lo-fi demos were being birthed by thrash-inspired anti-Christians like Mayhem, Gorgoroth and Burzum. And despite Trident Wolf Eclipse having infinitely superior production quality to a disc like De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (1994), the same rawness and embittered despondency that fuelled old-school black metal are undeniably omnipresent here. The chainsaw-like vocals of frontman Eric Danielsson care not for such trivial notions as melody or subtlety (if you are looking for such things from this album, turns your back and run). Much like on prior releases, Trident Wolf Eclipse sees Danielsson both excite and terrify with his unhallowed delivery of equally unhallowed words, roaring incessantly about the spiritual Satanism that he and his band adhere to in real life. “Fire at will! / Arsonists of Lucifer, / Congregation sworn, / Heed the flames’ command” are the dark lyrics that ring out at the opening of first track ‘Nuclear Alchemy’, perfectly setting the tone for the eight more intense slices of madness yet to follow. The riffs of shredder Håkan Jonsson are similarly harrowing, their dissonance and impossibly quick, repeated picking one of the primary unifiers between this album and the black metal of old. Jonsson’s frenetic mastery of his instrument gives Trident Wolf Eclipse its sheer, violent aura, the guitars of ‘Furor Diabolicus’ and the opening of ‘Sacred Damnation’ especially unholy. Then, beneath it all, lies drummer Pelle Forsberg, who bashes and cuts with his kit at an insane speed that brilliantly frames and sets up the rest of this album. Forsberg’s pummelling beats on ‘A Throne Below’ and ‘Ultra (Pandemoniac)’ boggle the mind, with the ferocity to destroy arenas all over Sweden and beyond by the time it comes to laying out these new songs in a live capacity. And with recent years seeing black metal become more tranquil and sophisticated thanks to names like Wolves in the Throne Room and Alcest, Trident Wolf Eclipse is the biggest kick in the bollocks that the subgenre has dished out in quite some time (on this popular a scale, at least). Truly, it is a masterpiece in recapturing and emulating the roots of its style, even down to the monochromatic cover art as present on such classics as Transilvanian Hunger (1994) and Burzum (1992). As weird as it may sound, there’s a genuine charm to this record: in an age of “post-metal” and experimental metal and vegetarian progressive grindcore, it’s refreshing to hear a heavy disc this driven, direct and primal, bringing forth waves of extreme music nostalgia while also standing loudly and proudly on its own two, unnaturally muscly legs. Ergo, if you’re looking to stay aboard the heavy metal train in 2018, Trident Wolf Eclipse is your trial by fire. And with the deliciously evil Watain, those flames are going to be spawned from the sheer, blistering coals of Hell itself. Brace yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, because if this is just the beginning, it is going to be one harsh year indeed. Good luck. Trident Wolf Eclipse will be available via Century Media on 5th January.