It seems only fitting to give Watain the credit they deserve at this juncture in time. In the three years since they gave us ‘Sworn to the Dark’, it’s them who’ve been the great active group in Black Metal.
Touring relentlessly, they’ve have popped up everywhere from Ballylinan to Baltimore. It’s clear they have the ambition and intention of making their mark in the world and it’s fair to say that this is a pretty critical album at this point in their careers – a blasphemous make or break if you will.
‘Lawless Darkenss’ instantly sounds like a record that’s substantially removed from the suffocating fuzz of their early releases. The group are now playing for the entirety of the metal underground rather than the clued-in BM lurkers , and as such, the songwriting of the record is what jumps out. ‘Death’s Cold Dark’ rumbles in fairly energetic fashion, and it’s the measured, song after song approach that defines this album.
Production wise, the group have thankfully opted not to clean things up from their last effort. Neither has there been a decision to up the level of increased melodics that that Dissection indebted album exhibited.
This is about as modern a Black Metal record as you could hear in 2010, full of cutting chords, solid blasting and forceful screams that are one hundred per cent invested in generating atmosphere.
‘Malfeitor’ is a good example, opening with echoing guitar before thundering bodily into a section of double bass before the powerful chorus roars in. Things get a bit Celtic Frost (occasionally referenced throughout the whole record) with a bout of ugly, crude riffery before the first guitar refrain sees us out of the track.
Like the excellent booklet illustrations, this opening clump of tracks have clearly had a lot of work put into it them, but there’s a lingering sense of merely being very satisfied rather than any hair-raising moments of excellence jumping out.
And there’s the rub. For the majority this powerful, catchy metal, but it’s not until the excellent ‘Waters of Ain’ closes out the album that we really get our ears around something really impressive sounding.
Shades of Emperor’s grandeur are evoked as passage after passage of real darkness rush by, with Erik Danielson’s vocal imagery, always effective, hits its absolute zenith.
The feeling is that here, at last, we’re getting a dose of the greatness the group are fully capable of. It’s a shame that the album takes this long to hammer home the group’s ability, but in terms of album closers, this has to be one of the year’s best.
The cover of Death SS’s ‘Chains of Death’ (digipack only) serves as an entertaining and gloom-ridden post script, delivered with a great chorus and buckets of spirit.
So has the band delivered on the high expectations? Yes in word. There’s no way you could call this a poor record in any department, from the packaging down to the nuances of the guitar solos, it satisfies.
One just gets the impression if the group can push the boat out for the next effort, to a level that transcends the style and mixes things up in the chaotic spirit that they regularly exalt, they’ll have cemented their name with the greats. As it stands, it’s conventional, but extremely competent.
4/5 – Lorcan Archer :: 27/07/10