REVIEW: Watain – ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’

After the all-out black metal warfare of the opening track, “Nuclear Alchemy,” this is another one of those albums that could’ve ended right there, the listeners being sent through hellfire, much to our delight. It’s that damn good. “Trident Wolf Eclipse” is Watain’s sixth studio album and its first in five years since 2013’s “The Wild Hunt.”

“Nuclear Alchemy”also was the first single released for the album as a 7-inch, appropriately on Halloween 2017 (“The Year of our Lord,” as Watain stated). And that’s the thing about Watain—as much as you can compare it in musical style to fellow Swedish black metallers Marduk, Watain is focused more on the occult, with each album playing out like a ritual, whether songs have a connection or not. So where Marduk draws influences from World War II, this is Watain’s thing. And though I don’t believe “Trident Wolf Eclipse” to be a concept album, here’s what vocalist/bassist Erik Danielsson had to say regarding the album’s title:

“The main thing that the title refers to is, of course, the three symbols that we have been using as kind of the central symbolic language in Watain for many, many years now: the trident and the wolf and the eclipse. And that’s a way, of course, of summarizing the nature of Watain in many ways, but it also summarizes the nature of the album.”

OK, so there’s that. Anyway, moving on.

Back to “Nuclear Alchemy.” Not only is this played at maximum velocity, but Danielsson doesn’t just chant his vocals or groan like other black metal vocalists; his are filled with rage. This track and the one that follows, “Sacred Damnation,” also contain subtle hints of old-school thrash. Be it the guitar tone, the subject matter or something else from below, I had “Slayer” in my head at a point in each track.

Like previous Watain albums, the sound is violent yet has an organic and primitive style. Drummer Håkan Jonsson and guitarist Pelle Forsberg remain with the wolfpack, hunting for prey alongside Danielsson. Forsberg’s solos and fretwork are on fire (“Ultra Pandemoniac”), while Jonsson can shift from high octane to medium-high octane in the blink of an eye (“Furor Diabolicus”). The thrash element appears again on the former, as it yields a “Beneath the Remains” echo-effect on the vocals and ends with sinister laughing a la “Master of Puppets.”

The slightest of melodies (and I do mean ever so slightest) can be found in the chorus on the brooding “The Fire of Power,” before erupting into a near identical part of the climax of “Fade to Black.” Rather than these ’80s thrash moments influencing or engulfing entire songs, these few similarities I’ve pointed out are merely callbacks to the band’s early influences.

This album is 99 percent black metal. If there were any concerns of stylistic changes on “The Wild Hunt,” they surely can be put six feet deep. “Trident Wolf Eclipse,” like the band’s wolf moniker, is savage. It’s a beast.

Watain is set to tour the U.S. this winter, bringing its infamous blood-soaked stage show to a venue near you. Click here for tour dates.

January 5, 2018, Century Media Records

Rating: 9/10

 

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