Provided you were a fan of WATAIN’s previous album The Wild Hunt, which admittedly was not the case for everyone by any means, Trident Wolf Eclipse is a tad bemusing at first. Since 2003 when Casus Luciferi took debut Rabid Death’s Curse’s raw bloodcurdling screech into more abyssal and magisterial domains, each WATAIN album has been more expansive and ambitious than the last. Sworn to the Dark brought in swaggering outlaw conviction that had its sights set squarely above the underground, Lawless Darkness is an absolute opus as good as anything to come out of the Norwegian scene in the 90s, and then came The Wild Hunt with WATAIN’s most liberal experimentation yet. Much was made of pseudo-cowboy ballad They Rode On (the track remains a masterstroke, sorry purists) and for good reason, but all across its hour plus runtime, The Wild Hunt gleefully broke new ground and riled naysayers. To be presented a long four and a half years after its release with a WATAIN album that isn’t a sprawling leviathan is again, something of a surprise.
But that’s just what Trident Wolf Eclipse is, WATAIN suddenly deciding to eschew all fat and to dial things back into their purest and most volatile form. Those who hated the things WATAIN dared to do on their last record will likely be delighted, but you’d be forgiven for wondering whether this is a regressive step. Ultimately, it comes down to a far blunter and more simplistic point: when it’s this good, who cares? Having WATAIN with all of their fire and bluster bare their claws and tear through a 35-minute onslaught is thrilling, the kind of incendiary start that 2018 needed. What’s more is that due to WATAIN‘s distinct characteristics and stellar songwriting, it still feels like much more than just your run of the mill black metal album, rewarding more intricate details on repeat listens and still feeling like it can continue their dark crusade into the mainstream.
It also starts off with a moment of sheer blood-pumping excitement that should be able to go toe-to-toe with any singular second of extremity this year, that being when Nuclear Alchemy’s initial caterwauling suddenly explodes into a wall of aural hellfire that is frankly jaw-dropping in its ferocity, frontman Erik Danielsson encapsulating things perfectly with his opening command of “Fire at will!” before the song is eventually engulfed in squealing SLAYER-esque leads. If WATAIN choose to start opening their live sets with this track, then god help those who witness it.
An incredible opener isn’t the only thing Trident Wolf Eclipse has going for it, WATAIN flexing their muscles throughout managing to craft compelling and memorable songs from such high velocity templates which is a skill in itself. Danielsson as a vocalist is charismatic to a degree that most black metal singers simply aren’t capable of and his hooks on Nuclear Alchemy, Furor Diabolicus and The Fire of Power are simple but rousing. After Nuclear Alchemy’s initial carpet bombing, Sacred Damnation’s ice cold tremolo lines slither through the debris while maintaining the high energy levels, before the super taut chugs in its final half proudly display their METALLICA influence. Teufelsreich’s eerie ¾ lurch could live on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas feeling like thick fog choking a mountainside, Furor Diabolicus and Towards the Sanctuary are heads-down double bass charges with the latter making seamless transitions into more stirring emotive passages, while A Throne Below accentuates its blast beats with deep rumbling tom hits and features a tad more of the melodic DISSECTION influence that has always been deep in WATAIN’s DNA.
Four years ago, BEHEMOTH made an unprecedented impact with The Satanist, a record that managed to transcend its musical world while entirely staying true to the values within it. WATAIN are very much peers of BEHEMOTH in that regard, and for those with a casual interest in black metal who were perhaps sucked in by The Satanist’s monumental power, Trident Wolf Eclipse is one of the records to have come since that is most suited to furthering the plunge (alongside MGŁA’s Exercises In Futility and MELECHESH’s Enki which sadly did not receive the push to reach those larger audiences). Trident Wolf Eclipse is a more feral and untamed beast, one that is ritualistic through violence rather than grandeur. In regards to their capability to do more, this is a band who passionately champion ideas of liberation and artistic freedom, and thus it’s likely that their willingness to push musical boundaries and experiment will come back some time in the future. For now, we have a WATAIN intent above all else on destruction, and it is glorious.
Trident Wolf Eclipse is out now via Century Media Records.
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