It was with some trepidation that I began my journey into Watain’s new album "Trident Wolf Eclipse", having followed them since the time of "Rabid Death’s Curse", I’ve seen their development and growth into one of the biggest bands in the modern black metal scene — the transition from the raw fury of RDC to the more melodious "Casus Luciferi", then the groovy releases of "Sworn to the Dark" and "Lawless Darkness" (both albums full of riffs, whilst still retaining some black metal edge, would appear to be written with the mindless beer swigging, 'Slayerrrrrrr' shouting, average metalhead in mind), through to the Kerrang front cover, angsty teen efforts of "The Wild Hunt". I must confess to never having made it all the way through "The Wild Hunt" as it did so little of what I had expected a Watain release to do.
"Trident Wolf Eclipse" was billed as a return to the sound of the Watain of old, I can’t help but wonder what happened for them to decide to change their focus from the nearly radio-friendly fare of "The Wild Hunt" to the aggressive stylings found on their newest album.
The new album ticks most of the boxes that Watain fans have clamoured about for a while now, aggressive, fast and a lot less melodic/groovy. The songs feel like they could have been written at the same time as "Casus", Erik’s voice drips with malevolence amongst the thundering onslaught… and yet there’s not really a whole lot that grabs me. All of the right things are there that should be; great musicianship, hate filled vocals, Satanic lyrics, the small familiar nuances of the interplay of every instrument that tell you you’re listening to a Watain album and yet as good as it is to see a resurgence in their aggressive form I feel that the album re-treads ground already covered and it just lacks those riffs and earworms that Watain became masterful at; there is no "Devil’s Blood" style chilling trem riff nor is there a groove laden section like in "Legions of the Black Light" or "Four Thrones" and the album suffers for it.
One of the things that has elevated Watain in the past if the ability to write great hooks but on their latest offering there are very few 'sing along' riffs that get stuck in your head, something they’ve been good at for a long time. "Trident Wolf Eclipse" sounds like so many other bands producing BM and just feels like a very safe bet, regurgitating the 'feel' of what’s come before whilst low on the substance.
This is an oft-divisive topic within BM, as many proclaim that BM should stick to its roots and have a certain sound, personally I look for progression within a band’s sound; regardless of whether I’ve enjoyed their experiments on previous albums, Watain has been a band that has incorporated that mindset into their music for a long time, only to then create an album which doesn’t really push boundaries and harks back to a sound that was perfected by them with "Casus Luciferi" and refined further since by bands like Acrimonious and Ascension.
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This album appears to be the full deal, yet it lacks the things that pushed albums like "Rabid Death’s Curse" and "Casus Luciferi" across the line from 'average BM record' to something special, and is devoid of the more experimental things that made Watain BM superstars. That being said, for some, this is the perfect Watain release; a return to form that got them a cult following and earned them a place on the prestigious NoEvDia roster.
It’s mean, it’s fast, it’s very clearly Watain and for those devotees of Erik and co this is what they’ve been screaming for. For me, it’s another Watain album with a couple of tracks that I’ll occasionally listen to.
Reviewed by Dan