Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Watain - Lawless Darkness (2010)

Anyone following Watain for the past decade should be well accustomed to the lengthy passage of time that separates each of their releases. So, it was no surprise that the follow-up to 2007's Sworn to the Dark took over three years to come forth. There was a great deal of anticipation for the new record, and even the promotional campaign was proclaiming that, on 7 June 2010, Black Metal would be reborn. Such a statement was maybe a bit arrogant, especially seeing as how many bands have kept the black flame burning throughout the years. Not long before the release of their fourth full-length album, Lawless Darkness, the Reaping Death E.P. gave listeners a small taste of what was to come. Unfortunately, it was a rather disappointing affair and did not bode well for the full-length that followed.

It is difficult to believe that it took so long for the band to write and record this album, as it is quite forgettable. So much of it sounds like recycled ideas from Sworn to the Dark. Those parts that are more memorable come across as them trying to hard to write something anthemic that would appeal to a mass audience, thus seem really boring and contrived. The sing-along chorus of "Total Funeral" is enough to make Euronymous turn in his grave. This seems to be a direct result of the moderate success the band enjoyed since the release of their previous record. Occasionally, there are interesting melodies that seem to hint at the gloom and morbidity of their first two offerings, but these moments are brief and fail to make an impact. One of the few songs that might have the listener coming back for repeated listens is "Malfeitor", though it is only a matter of time before it becomes apparent that the most interesting riff of the song is a rip off of Burzum's "Jesu Død". It still possesses a decent solo, as do several of the other songs, showing that the band has become far more comfortable with their melodic side than creating anything truly dark or menacing. It really seems that these guys are doing their best to try to carry on the style that Dissection utilized on Reinkaos, to a large extent. There are momentary reminders that this is the same band that created Casus Luciferi, but it all ends up just being very disappointing. It is apparent, with the closer "Waters of Ain", that they tried very hard to create something epic but failed. It has its moments, but the more meaningful parts are mixed in with random riffs and passages that only serve to interrupt the flow of the song and kill whatever atmosphere they were able to build up. With the album clocking in at well over an hour, one gets the sense that much of this was simply for the sake of length and it can be a tedious listen, at times. Perhaps, the rigorous touring did not allow them to focus on the compositions as much as they would have liked.

Aside from the haphazard songwriting and rehashed ideas, one of the most detrimental aspects of Lawless Darkness is the production. As with their previous albums, it was recorded at Necromorbus Studio. However, this sounds is even more polished than before, hardly befitting the underground image that the band still tries to project. Then again, that may have died with the multitude of bizarre magazine covers. There is nothing raw or gritty about the sound of this album, rather, it is very clear and somewhat overdone. The drums are far too high in the mix, as well. Sworn to the Dark was the first step in this direction, but Lawless Darkness shows Watain completely abandoning any attempts to maintain an underground Black Metal sound and going for a presentation that is rather plastic and modern. It could be worse, but the production really does no favours for the music.

The lyrical content is a real turn-off, as it contains more of the Orthodox nonsense that seems to be so popular these days. Erik has even stated in interviews that he believes in the existence of the Judeo-Christian god, which should come as disturbing to real Black Metal fans. Many newer/younger listeners look to this band as the epitome of Black Metal, sadly enough, being introduced to this music through this trendy movement and being brainwashed. Then again, most people are sheep in the first place, so it's no surprise that so many of these kids are repeating everything that they read in interviews and professing to share the same beliefs. 

A lot of bands begin to stray from their path, after a couple albums albums, or their material simply lacks the quality of their past work. Watain is no different and have failed to live up to the potential shown on Casus Luciferi, in particular. That album, itself, owed a lot to early Mayhem and Dissection, but was done very well. It seemed that the band would go on to do great things, and to keep the old spirit alive, but fame and success appear to have been more important than artistic integrity. Lawless Darkness is a product intended to generate profit for the commercial entity that is Watain. They will continue to amass a large following, further dumbing down the music and wandering outside the boundaries of Black Metal while still using the aesthetics and rhetoric in an attempt to connect themselves with something that was significant. If you want pure Black Metal, stick to the old albums or follow lesser-known bands like Horna. The music of Watain is now more geared toward children and beginners. Any relevance this band once possessed is long dead and buried.