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Watain - 'Lawless Darkness'

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Watain - Lawless Darkness

Watain - Lawless Darkness

Season Of Mist

The Bottom Line

Black metal is ill-prepared for the ambitious direction Watain takes on Lawless Darkness.
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Pros

  • Epic black metal that doesn't come off as over-indulgent.
  • An accumulation of everything Watain has done on the past three albums.
  • Closer "Waters of Ain" is the band’s magnum opus.

Cons

  • At almost 75 minutes long, the album flounders a bit in the middle.

Description

  • Released June 8, 2010 on Season Of Mist.
  • Watain’s fourth album.
  • Cover art by Zbigniew Bielak.

Guide Review - Watain - 'Lawless Darkness'

Watain’s third album, 2007’s Sworn To The Dark, catapulted the Swedish black metal band to metal stardom. The hype for them in the black metal community rivaled that of contemporary icons Wolves in the Throne Room and Sigh. The band could have played it safe and replicated their last album, but Lawless Darkness is far beyond what many could have anticipated. This is the sound of a band at their peak, unapologetic and willing to risk everything in the name of evil.

Lawless Darkness is much grander in scale than previous albums. Watain seems hell-bent on not succumbing to the temptations of black metal conventions, using them more as guidelines instead of strict rules. Make no mistake; this is still a sinister affair, with plenty of slicing riffs and thumping blast beats to go around. The band has not gone up and left their roots, which will undoubtedly let long-time fans breathe a little easier.

What Watain has done is used the increased running length to broaden their atmospheric touches. Each song is over five minutes long and invokes a feeling of epic carnage, even with the more standard songs like opener “Death’s Cold Dark” and “Reaping Death.” The pace of the music is never one speed for long, which makes for an album where unpredictability plays a major role. Some of these moments include the thrilling guitar work on the instrumental title track and the harsh contrast between majestic harmony and static aggression on “Wolves Curse.”

While the latter half of the album flounders a bit, it all comes together at the end with the 14-minute “Waters of Ain.” A magnificent closer that ranks as Watain’s best song to date, the track doesn’t waste time with stretched-out ambient sections, making sure to constantly keep the intensity at unbearable levels. Clean guitars underneath samples of a torrential thunderstorm are an ominous start that doesn’t get any lighter. The last few minutes are highlighted by a tantalizing build up to an explosive melodic solo. “Waters of Ain” makes the three year wait for Lawless Darkness well worth it.

Whether Watain outdoes Sworn To The Dark on Lawless Darkness is up for debate. There is no doubt that the band took chances that they wouldn’t have taken years ago, which shows the natural progression that their sound has taken since Rabid Death’s Curse. While there is a lot to digest on the album, which clocks in near the 75-minute mark, Lawless Darkness takes the band in an exciting direction that should bode well for them being positioned as one of the sharpest black metal acts in existence today.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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