Of course, I’m speculating, but, speaking of Coachella, I can’t help but compare Watain to Ghost nowadays. Ghost have been wildly successful at bringing their schlocky Satanic shtick to the unsuspecting mainstream rock/ pop music masses, and The Wild Hunt indicates that Watain may be looking upon Ghost’s instant success with a fair degree of jealousy.
You may come to the same conclusion when you reach what is obviously going to be called the most ‘controversial’ track on The Wild Hunt, namely “They Rode On.” It is a ballad, plain and simple. I’m not talking about a ballad in the vein of, say, “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” by Metallica; I’m talking Atlantic Records’ hamstringing of Testament by demanding the radio/MTV friendly “Return To Serenity.”
“They Rode On” features a glacial pace, strummed melodies, clean vocals from Danielsson, and just about every MTV cliché that you could possibly imagine. Change the lyrics around, and it’s “The Final Countdown.” The song’s sheer saccharine nature and obvious attempt at a cash grab wouldn’t be so laughable if the song just wasn’t so awful. It is, and sullies what is already, at best, an average melodic black metal album devoid of personality and a sense of viciousness or mystique.
The Wild Hunt is probably the next logical step for Watain after Lawless Darkness, though, given the band’s obvious hunger for fame and fortune. The songs are generally slower and contain lots of melody built around traditional rock music song structures. The production is rather sterile, considerably more so than that of Lawless Darkness.
But, the main problem with The Wild Hunt is that it’s mostly just boring. Most of the songs are paint by the numbers and are dumbed down for easy consumption (see the title track). Any moments of interesting songwriting come off as derivative of, say, Emperor circa Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk. The guitars on songs such as “De Profundis” typify this feeling.
There are songs that reveal Watain’s black metal roots featuring plenty of blastbeats and fast riffing, songs such as “Sleepless Evil,” the darkest and fastest song on the album and the song that dutifully follows “They Rode On.” But, the general impression is that these moments are an afterthought tacked on to Watain’s desire for mainstream respectability.
I’ve no doubt that Watain will continue to gain notoriety with The Wild Hunt, resulting in tours, merchandise sales, etc. I’ll leave it you, however, to decide whether or not this is the right direction for black metal to go.
(released August 20, 2013 on Century Media Records)