Watain – The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain

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Swedish black metal act Watain grew ever more sophisticated than its peers in the last decade with each studio album. Their craftsmanship shaped them into an archetypal personification of the unorthodox style of black metal. Throughout the 22 years, Watain has achieved mastery over its craft the long-awaited seventh album 'The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain' is a masterwork of demonic grandiosity. In this magisterial epoch E. Danielsson (vocals) P. Forsberg (guitars), A. Lillo (bass), H. Eriksson (guitar) and E. Forcas (drums) have refined their sonic architecture that manifests the rawer roots of bands like Bathory and Hellhammer.

The opening salvo ‘Ecstasies In Night Infinite’ erupts into a frenzied drum bombardment. As the blazing sharp tremolos lay the groundwork for the vicious vocals, the black furnace bursts like hellfire through frantic tempos while the drums deliver consistent gales of blast beats. Watain offers a malicious performance with their trademark sawing guitars spewing chunks of sinister black metal riffs in which the range of technicality is vividly defined. Much like its predecessor ‘Lawless Darkness’ the songs are built on the primitive foundations of black metal and they are showcased by rapid tremolos and guitar hooks on ‘The Howling’. The heavy pounding of the bass guitar swells with immense power and the rawer sound production of the guitars gives it a sharper edge.

With the entry of an infectious chorus of Erik Danielsson‘s malefic screeches, the tremolo lead guitars gradually creep in, saturating it with an eerie sense of evil. One of the darkest tracks that show the appeal of this progressive style is ‘Serimosa’ which builds up hauntingly slowly as it captures the mesmerizing mood. The guitars unleash layers upon layers of thick atmosphere while maintaining the tempo. The towering lead guitars add a magical significance to the song. Ever since ‘Casus Luciferi’ Watain has shown great mastery in writing catchy songs and such quality is perfectly combined in ‘The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain’. Exerting a spellbinding force throughout the album, a mid-tempo track such as ‘Black Cunt’ is cold and frenzied and the thunderous double bass brings some hefty riffing. In every sense the awe-inspiring guitars are brimming with memorable performances from the lead guitar. The drum gallops are aplenty and thrashy guitar breakdowns driven by demonic growls uncover an unprecedented coherence.

Leper’s Grace’ is a paragon of the band’s songwriting dynamics that shows how Watain has refrained from utilizing unnecessary blast beats. Guitarist P. Forsberg constantly shifts from standard black metal tremolos, imbuing the tempo with omnipotent riffs resulting in rapid tempos against the relentless onslaught of the battering drums. The guitars contrast with the stormy tempos and the savage drum outbursts ignite the primordial fires of Luciferian wrath. Ultimately, Watain breaks in a new cycle of vicious savagery. The change in sound here reflects the natural progression without sacrificing the foundations of the band.

Watain fuses unremitting aggression while the guitars and the drums maintain powerful and high-intensity levels where you can easily notice the significant modifications in sound. The melodies and the lead guitars are all over the place, seemingly evoking fragments of their past work. ‘Before The Cataclysm’ opens with an infectious guitar riff that unleashes a powerful wall of hammering drums and lightning speed blast beats. The guitars are heavily laden with blazing tremolo-picked riffs bringing the influences of Dissection from all levels to the forefront, harmonizing melodies interweaving in the mid-pacing. There is a moment in this track where the catchy hooks are streamed into a groovy motion. ‘The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain’ is full of haunting melodies and hooks. Despite its eerie musical experimentation Watain  here presents the epitome of their sonic art.

We Remain’ is a highlight track featuring Farida Lemouchi (exThe Devils Blood, Molassess) as a guest vocalist. Its epic song structure and atmosphere display the entrancing and ritualistic quality which makes you focus on the screeching vocals and the ebbing effect of the synth. Its splendid guitar arrangements and drums have a touch of refinement amusing the listener with atmospheric details, emotive tremolo lines and an electrifying guitar solo executed by Gottfrid Åman (ex-In Solitude, PÅGÅ).

Chock full of frenzied and malefic hymns such as ‘Funeral Winter’ which starts at a furious pace, it will remind fans of the old albums like ‘Sworn To The Dark’ with its blazing hellfire riffs brought to the classic songcraft of classic Swedish black metal. The closing track ‘Septentrion’ sets a grandeur trademark to Watain’s sonic boundaries. The guitars apply a catchy, yet haunting effect to the dark swelling melodies. While the drums keep the momentum in the mid-tempo scale, there is some pure talent in the screeching vocals and the rhythm guitars that make it one of the most memorable songs of the album.

REVIEW SCORE

  • Music / Songwriting 10/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 10/10
  • Mix / Production 9/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 9/10
9.2

‘The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain’ is supremely menacing in its contents and scope, a magnum opus that offers everything to please the fans of black metal.

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