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Watain - Trident Wolf Eclipse (Album Review)

Friday, 05 January 2018 Written by Alec Chillingworth

New year, new me, Nuclear Alchemy.

Watain are doing a sterling job of blasting away the cobwebs and any remnants of snow in 2018, scorching that iconic pitchfork emblem into January’s flesh with their sixth album, ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’. 

Just say that title out loud. ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’. ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’. That's just the epitome of black metal, isn’t it? Over the top, ludicrously evil and comes replete with monochrome artwork faithful to the genre’s early ‘90s glory period.

But in Watain’s case, that’s a double-edged sword. They already have two stone-cold classics in the bag: 2010’s ‘Lawless Darkness’ and its successor, ‘The Wild Hunt’. But no, they’re not ‘trve’ black metal. ‘The Wild Hunt’ has a spaghetti Western ballad on it. ‘Lawless Darkness’ ends with a 14-minute prog masterpiece. That’s what makes Watain Watain. It’s what makes them more than Dissection-wannabes, an accusation they’ve battled for their entire career.

So the throwback trappings of ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ seem a tad regressive. Stripped of the extras and lofty ambition, we’re left with 35 minutes of unbridled savagery, essentially picking up where ‘Casus Luciferi’ ended in 2003. Nuclear Alchemy explodes – literally, given the boom in the intro – and you’re enraptured in filthy, ferocious Swedish black metal.

It’s relentless and irrefutably catchy. It borrows tricks from ‘The Wild Hunt’ single Outlaw and peels back the skin on the refrain: “Nuclear! Nuclear! AL-CHE-MY!” That’s the spearhead and a sure-fire chant-along for live rituals to come.

Erik Danielsson’s Goblin rasp remains on fine form, sprinkling spiky blackdeath tracks like Furor Diabolicus with an extra layer of nastiness. But what made ‘Lawless Darkness’ and ‘The Wild Hunt’ so unique was the juxtaposition of that snottiness and hack ‘n’ slash black ‘n’ roll with other gargantuan, epic qualities. The sort of stuff that grants Behemoth’s ‘The Satanist’ or Emperor’s entire back catalogue real authority. That’s somewhat lacking here.

We get a few glimpses, though. Sacred Damnation is a banquet of blastbeats, but climaxes with a build of low-key tremolo picking – and is that the faintest whiff of keyboard? – that conjures a grandiose, riding-beside-Odin feel without slipping into Cradle Of Filth campiness. It’s just the right amount. Lagom.

The Fire of Power serves the album’s nightcap, its bestial chorus butting heads with a mid-section that’s almost ‘Master of Puppets’-era Metallica. No, seriously. It’s brilliant and overblown without being hammy, which can’t be said for the pant-pissingly funny ‘evil’ laugh that closes Ultra (Pandemoniac). Come on. Less of that.

If you liked the full-on, necro vibe of Watain’s first two albums, then ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ will tickle your frosty fancy. It’s a great record, back to blackened basics with a few crucified jazz hands to boot. But over its eight tracks, nothing stands out like the best cuts from the past two full-lengths. That’s testament to Watain’s talent, but also a mangled albatross they haven’t quite removed from their necks.

Watain Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Fri January 12 2018 - LONDON Dome

Click here to compare & buy Watain Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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