There's something particularly apropos about the pitch-black whirlpool depicted on the cover of Watain's fourth studio album, 2010's Lawless Darkness, since the fast-rising Swedish black metal troupe has, for quite a few years now, been relentlessly swallowing fans of all metallic stripes into the unfathomable darkness of its (to quote Dave Mustaine) sanguinary sect of worship. Sure, some detractors (and of course there are many in a genre where no band is ever extreme enough for everyone) of Watain's oftentimes eclectic yet still roots-oriented approach (they pledge allegiance to the so-called "orthodox black metal movement") will probably interpret the same image as representing a Charybdis-sized toilet bowl, flushing black metal's trve/cvlt traditions down the pipes. Well, in the immortal words of Watain's sadly deceased Swedish black metal forefather, Quorthon, "Vhatever!" So what if the stentorian gang shouts of "Four Thrones" seem best suited to packed arenas rather than dingy clubs, or that the NWOBHM riffing boosting the epic "Wolves' Curse" really puts the roll into black and roll, or that -- good God, or rather, Lucifer! -- the summarized mission statement "Reaping Death" was actually released as a single!? Fact is, Lawless Darkness is black metal through and through, and Watain even make a point of retaining some cardboard-sounding drumbeats in honor of lo-fi pioneers like Venom and Bathory, ferchrissakes! This is why purists looking for their fix need only look to the pulverizing fury unleashed by "Death's Cold Dark," "Total Funeral," and "Kiss of Death," or the Emperor-worthy melodies swirling madly across "Hymn to Qayin," or the majestic glacial desolation of "Malfeitor" and the instrumental title track. Finally, there's the ultimate swan dive into the abyss that is the 15-minute-long, all-encompassing "Waters of Ain," which feels like a mini-album unto itself, and casts a blinding spotlight upon the full scale of Watain's latest, significant achievement for the advancement of black metal's cause.
Lawless Darkness Review
by Eduardo Rivadavia