Album Title: Trident Wolf Eclipse
Label: Century Media Records
Date Of Release: 5 January 2018
I listen to an awful lot of music and have done for well over two decades now. Over the years, I have found myself mentally sorting bands into various categories in a way of staying afloat and making sense of the vast seas of material that comes my way on a daily basis. For example, I have a category that I notionally refer to as ‘essential bands’, those artists whose every move I study. At the other end of the spectrum, I have a category of bands that I won’t even waste my time with, either because they play a genre of music in which I have little or no interest, or because I have listened to some of their material and shudder at the memory of the experience. In between are several categories ranging from ‘great, but not essential’, to ‘general apathy, but who knows, they might surprise me’.
Watain fit into a middle category I’d loosely refer to as ‘decent band, I have an album or two in the collection and I’m interested in new material as and when it arrives’. The Swedish black metal band have amassed an impressive following over the past twenty years, due in large part to the way in which they have steadfastly remained true to their roots whilst releasing consistently high quality material. For me personally, however, I have never 100% fallen under their dark spell.
Nevertheless, I always find that the name ‘Watain’ always piques my interest when talk of a new album surfaces. And so it was when news of the release of their sixth album reached me. Entitled ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’, I felt compelled to give it a try and see whether I would finally fall under the spell of the Uppsala-based studio trio.
Having spent some time with ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ over the festive period, I must admit that the enigmatically named E (bass, vocals), H (drums) and P (guitars) have certainly gone up in my estimations, because this is a very good record indeed.
First off though, if you are looking for subtlety or copious amounts of variety in your music, I suggest you may wish to continue your search elsewhere. Equally, if you are after a weighty tome to digest, this is unlikely to be for you either because ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ is a fairly brief affair comprised of eight songs and a succinct 35-minute lifespan.
Whilst Watain are unequivocally an adept and talented bunch of musicians, they have a very clear game plan and stick to it firmly throughout. This is dark, grim and aggressive modern black metal with a hint of thrash that generally rips along at warp speed, pummelling the listener with blastbeats, brisk riffing of the icy tremelo/picked kind, nasty caustic gruff vocals and a thoroughly claustrophobic atmosphere that threatens to envelop the listener in a perpetual and inescapable murky misery.
That said, there are plenty of occasions where the pace is dropped a notch and the abrasiveness is replaced by a hefty groove. These moments might be short-lived in the main, but they are a very welcome addition to the overall product on ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’, preventing it from becoming one-dimensional and unremarkable. Take the excellent ‘Teufelsreich’ as a prime example. The blastbeats do make an appearance but the opening to the track is actually quite measured in pace, bringing with it a different kind of malevolence in the process. Similar could be said of the stomping sections within the excellent, atmospheric ‘A Throne Below’.
The chosen production is strong but has an old-school feel to it, especially with the slight echo that accompanies the drumming and the central rhythmic riffs. I am in no doubt that this was deliberate as it undoubtedly creates more of an authentic black metal listening experience that’s enjoyable but also slightly uncomfortable.
‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ isn’t famed for its use of overt melody either, or at least the kind of melody that could be classed as ‘catchy’ or ‘warm’ but there are fleeting occasions when it makes an appearance. The tail end of ‘Sacred Damnation’ is a good example where Watain do make a quick sojourn into more epic, majestic territory. The fact that it is so infrequent only serves to provide greater impact when it does reluctantly arrive.
The final ingredient worth mentioning is the liberal use of reverb and feedback with the guitars as a surprising willingness to lace the music with wailing and gnashing lead guitar breaks, as witnessed within the likes of ‘Furor Diabolicus’, a personal favourite of mine. This apparent excess only makes the music appear even more extreme and disconcerting, whilst plastering a sadistic grin on my face.
Overall, ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ is an extremely edifying record. It offers nothing radically new to the Watain sound, but what it does, it does extremely well. Indeed, there is plenty on this record it to get the juices flowing and to sate black metal fans in general, not just existing fans of Watain. A nice, positive start to 2018.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from previous years right here: