Sweden's Watain have quickly ascended to a leading position within the insulated and stagnating black metal scene. "Lawless Darkness", their 4th album, further cements the band's malevolent throne. Watain aim exponentially higher (or is it lower?) than their brethren, and "Visible Darkness" is a masterpiece of terror and unrelenting darkness. It's a charred, fiery blast furnace of bleak and impenetrable heaviness that may end up redefining the genre.
Purists have criticized "Lawless Darkness" for sounding like traditional metal ala Motorhead (maybe true somewhat on tracks like "Reaping Death" or "Total Funeral"), therefore bastardizing the sacred "black metal" genre. I say hogwash. On the contrary, Watain have singlehandedly advanced the scene with their melding of classic metal inspirations (just listen to some of the guitar solos here), furious cut-throat aggression, dark mood and melody, and, last but not least, a crisp, punchy, and thunderous production (sorely lacking in a lot of the genre's stalwarts).
The intensity never wanes, from the opener, "Death's Cold Dark", through the bold instrumental title cut, and all the way to the stunning end. The surprise guest vocal cameo on the closer, "Waters Of Ain", by Carl McCoy of occult-rock act Fields Of The Nephilim is mostly token, but it does emblazon Watain's sincerity and genre-crossing fearlessness. Vocalist Erik Danielsson has stated that this contemplative 14+ minute finale is the soundtrack to his own demise. And true to black metal tradition, this rollercoaster of emotive texture, quiet contemplation, and enraged bombast is wholly appropriate. There are elements of intense sorrow, poetic depth, and fiery resolution. It's a powerful and truly magnificent tour-de-force.
Limited editions of the album include a bonus track, a furious cover of the Death SS song, "Chains Of Death". It's a worthy addition to the album, and brings it all to a brilliantly epic 80 minutes. "Lawless Darkness" is essential to any fan of modern metal, and may well bring the essence of black metal to a whole new audience. (Season Of Mist)
Temple Of Watain site