Album Reviews : Watain – Lawless Darkness
Three years since the release of the highly regarded Sworn to the Dark, Watain have just released one of the most anticipated albums of 2010. From the captivating cover art by Zbigniew Bielak to the 14 ½ minute closer ‘Waters of Ain’, Lawless Darkness stretches far beyond what anyone could have anticipated.
Watain have improved their sound and technique with each album and that precedent continues with Lawless Darkness. The blueprint for the new album feels like a combination of ‘Sworn’ and fan-favourite ‘Casus Luciferi’ but there’s also a definite old school metal/thrash element to this album. There are still plenty of blast beats and frosty tremolo riffs on hand with ‘Wolves Curse’ and the awesome ‘Hymn to Qayin’. But within the first few seconds of ‘Four Thrones’ I’m instantly reminded of ‘Innocence and Wrath’ by Celtic Frost (minus the horns) and maybe it’s my imagination but I even feel a little bit of ‘pre-Black’ Metallica, particularly in ‘Kiss of Death’ and ‘Waters of Ain’.
Lawless Darkness kicks off where ‘Sworn’ ended with album opener ‘Death’s Cold Dark’ and for the first few songs it feels like maybe ‘Sworn Part II’. However, things rise to an elite level with the devastating ‘Four Thrones’ and stay there for the remainder of the album. The songs are epic in their complexity and length (most around the six or seven minute mark). The production is exceptional, mix is very well balanced and the musicianship is brilliant – exciting riffs and drum patterns complimented by the raspy clean vocals of Erik Danielsson, this band is at their peak.
Lawless, as with their previous albums, is a grower rather than an instant pleasure. Clocking in at over 75 minutes I thought it floundered a bit with my first few listens. However, when I gave it some honest time it all came together. Don’t try and absorb this album while you’re at the kid’s swimming lessons or folding the fucking laundry. Take a sickie, allocate some real time to this album and you’ll discover a wealth of dark imposing treasures, like the solo in ‘Total Funeral’ (about 4 minutes in), and the cool little guitar lick throughout ‘Kiss of Death’. I won’t give them all away.
It’s hard to pick a standout track. There certainly isn’t anything you need to avoid. I find the chorus in ‘Total Funeral’ a bit annoying, which is just each syllable of the song title drawn out, but the riffs and drumming in this song are enormous and the chorus only makes an appearance a couple of times anyway. My play list would suggest ‘Hymn to Qayin’ and ‘Malfeitor’ as the most played but honestly, this album is an entity and should be treated as such.
If you’re a fan you pre-ordered this album months ago (and probably scoff that I did not award a perfect score). However, if you’re new to Watain this is a great place to start. It’s their best album without doubt; progressive but traditional, epic and sinister. I pray to Satan that ‘Darkness’ will inspire an Australian tour in the near future. 9/10
Album: Lawless Darkness
Genre: Black Metal
Label: Season of Mist/Riot!
1. Death’s Cold Dark
3. Reaping Death
4. Four Thrones
5. Wolves Curse
6. Lawless Darkness
7. Total Funeral
8. Hymn to Qayin
9. Kiss of Death
10. Waters of Ain
Reviewed by Pete Williams