Watain: Lawless Darkness

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Watain: Lawless Darkness
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Watain: Lawless Darkness
Black Metal
Season of Mist Records
June 7th, 2010
Release length: 1:03:28
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Watain had formed back in 1998, but if you aren’t a die hard Black Metal fanatic, you probably wouldn’t have known about them until more recently. In 2007, the band signed with Season of Mist records to put out their third full-length album, which, thanks to some good label support, the infamy of their live performances, the band’s name started to get around more and more. It seems nowadays you can’t enter into a Black Metal discussion without the name Watain being mentioned. If you have yet to hear Watain, then now is the right time, as Lawless Darkness is a great Black Metal release full of animosity and takes plenty from the early Black Metal wave.

Many hold Watain in the highest respects of being a true Black Metal band and of the whole “kvlt” following due to the lyrical content. Luckily, this band doesn’t follow the same quality pretenses that many others do. Lawless Darkness is actually a rather clear-sounding album with enough distortion where needed, such as on the vocals and guitars. Other then that and a slight echo used on the drums as well, which is noticeable during the song “Wolves Curse” when the music slows down a bit, it’s actually of a rather high quality and sounds as great as the tracks are menacing and often tinged with evil thanks to the distortion on the guitars and the riffs being played. You can really pick up on a strong influence from first wave Black Metal acts all through the album, but it’s more obvious during the haunting guitar solo that starts the track “Malfeitor”, which actually sounds like something stolen from a King Diamond album. As you go through the album you’ll hear more first wave Black Metal influences in there, as well as some heavy Dissection and even mid-career Cradle of Filth-esque guitars. However, during “Four Thrones”, “Kiss of Death” and the title track, “Lawless Darkness”, among others, you’ll note all that is missing from this release being a more Black Metal oriented album then a Symphonic Black Metal is industrial elements or keyboards and vocal distortion. If that were present, you’d be holding the latest Dimmu Borgir clone thanks to the many similarities. But, oh wait, “Total Funeral” has the distortion on the vocals too…

Lawless Darkness doesn’t stick to one designated style of playing, which is great. There’s plenty of tracks on here, such as “Death’s Cold Dark” and “Malfeitor” that simply bleed the old school Black Metal sound that has already been discussed. But that doesn’t mean that’s the entire album. Many songs on here will continuously change up speed, but a good majority of the time the material comes at you full force at a pretty intense speed without resorting to same constant blast beat to pull it off. Luckily, the release manages to shy away from black beats very well, instead utilizing some impressive drum work and fills to really move the material along. “Four Thrones” is a great example of this and has some great double bass kicks that happen throughout. This track, as well as others, manage to create a trance-like sound with the guitars and vocals, really setting a very grim atmosphere for the album that you can just slip away to. The only tracks that don’t have this feeling are “Wolves Curse”, and “Total Funeral”.

“Total Funeral” is a little more excusable on that aspect then “Wolves Curse”. “Wolves Curse” just completely lacks it when the song is in dier need of it to be entertaining, whereas “Total Funeral” is just a flat out fast paced Black Metal song that will get your fists pumping in the air wherever you may be. Unfortunately, it is also one of the very few entertaining tracks in the latter portion of Lawless Darkness. Unfortunately, as you progress through this release, it starts to get boring really quick, especially when you hit “Wolves Curse”. The song itself is not bad, but the song is simply just drawn out, spanning over nine minutes. The musical harmony mentioned earlier between the guitars and drums isn’t there either and this just sounds like an every day Black Metal song in the long run that has a few segments in the guitar work that sound good, but, for some reason, the band felt needed to be one of the longest songs on this release. “Lawless Darkness” is an instrumental track and not bad, but not that good either and will wind up losing you about half, maybe a third of the way through, which brings the filler to an end and the music starts picking up again with some entertaining material. Even “Waters of Ain” is more enjoyable then “Wolves Curse”, and it’s longer, but it’s done so well you won’t lose interest in it the further along you get.

TO make it blunt, Lawless Darkness by Watain is not a bad album, but really sounds like they are trying to be a more intense Dimmu Borgir. There are plenty of moments that establish the band as their own entitity, such as the trance-inducing instrument work, as well as the first and last tracks of the album. However, there is no denying that with some mode vocal distortions and some keyboards, this band would sound no different then the aforementioned act a good majority of the time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that originality is dead, but this takes being influenced by a band to a slightly different spectrum. But, either way, with all of the band’s musical similarities, it’s still a strong album with plenty of hard hitting tracks that do give off an aura or originality for the band. If you can happen to look past all of that, you will find a very create album that is strong in all aspects (lyrically, vocally, and musically) that is still worth a spin.

01. Death’s Cold Dark – 5:29
02. Melfeitor – 6:58
03. Reaping Death – 5:07
04. Four Thrones – 6:16
05. Wolves Curse – 9:12
06. Lawless Darkness – 6:08
07. Total Funeral – 6:04
08. Hymn to Qayin – 5:57
09. Kiss of Death – 7:46
10. Waters of Ain – 14:31
Overall Score: 6.5/10
Watain (Band)
Watain (Logo)
Digital review copy of this release provided by Season of Mist Records via Earsplit PR.