From Rabid Death’s Curse to Lawless Darkness, Sweden’s Satanic three-piece, Watain, have enjoyed one of the best careers the black metal community has ever seen. With each release, the band explored more and expanded farther than the record before. The result is that 2007’s Sworn to the Dark and 2010’s Lawless Darkness are a couple of my favorite albums of all black metal. But, then, a peculiar thing happened. That thing was 2013’s The Wild Hunt. Love it or hate it, The Wild Hunt will forever be the most interesting (and, to some, the most hated) release of the band’s catalog. Some found it progressive, while others found it abhorring. Regardless how it hit you, there’s no denying that it was different. So much so that many of you screamed “sellout,” while others discovered the band because of it. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Trident Wolf Eclipse ain’t The Wild Hunt.
That said, Trident ain’t Lawless Darkness, either. If anything, Trident Wolf Eclipse is closest in character to Casus Luciferi or Sworn to the Dark. Though it ain’t as memorable and riff-happy as Sworn, Trident is crushing, it’s streamlined, and it exchanges the experimental qualities of Lawless and Hunt for pure bloodshed. It has ravaging black metal riffage, layers of black melody, and it breaks every line drawn by Bathory, Dissection, and the rest of the Swedish scene.
And it begins with the track most deserving of the title “nuclear.” The sound of opener “Nuclear Alchemy” is what 1349 wishes they could reclaim. It’s Watain when they cut their two-minute fuse down to a ten-second one. It hits hard and reverts to a classic Watain melody only for a second before building, building, and exploding. Like “Nuclear Alchemy,” “Furor Diabolicus” and “Ultra (Pandemoniac)” tear across the frozen tundra like a souped-up Ford Falcon. Both are covered, from head-to-toe, in soot, yet each act like an adolescent thrasher. The solo work is short and voracious, the vocals are harsh and sharp, and the mood hums and crackles as it prepares to blow. And what an explosion it is. Especially “Ultra (Pandemoniac),” which is destined to be a live favorite.
Then, there’re the melodic, fretboard navigating Watain numbers, like “Sacred Damnation” and “A Throne Below.” Both are smooth—regardless of the start-stop nature of the guitars and drum. And both inject an eeriness that lingers like a floating ghoul in the graveyard. The former is the harder hitting of the two, with a sick thrashy breakdown midway through, and the other has a melodic beauty that makes it the most “ballady” of the lot.
And, interspersed between, is the Dissection-esque “Teufelsreich,” the deeply-punishing, Thorns-like “Towards the Sanctuary,” and the Dissection-meets-Celtic Frost “The Fire of Power.” All are memorable, with “Towards the Sanctuary” being the best of the bunch. Though closer “The Fire of Power” isn’t comparable to Lawless Darkness‘ “Waters of Ain,” it sure beats the album’s closing bonus track. If you’re on the fence about spending the extra cash for the bonus ditty, “Antikrists Mirakel,” save those greens for beer and coffee. This meandering “instrumental” only hurts the record.
What doesn’t hurt the record is its fantastic dynamics. Bringing home a smooth DR10 and a warm, crisp, clean sound, Trident Wolf Eclipse is, perhaps, the best sounding Watain record yet. The vocals are some of Danielsson’s nastiest, and the soaring leads of “A Throne Below” and the drumming of “Teufelsreich” and “Ultra (Pandemoniac)” are fucking fantastic.
Trident Wolf Eclipse may not have the epicness of Lawless Darkness or the memorability of Sworn to the Dark, but it’s much improved from The Wild Hunt. While, for me, its predecessor was only memorable for “They Rode On,” Trident finds memorability via the times of yore. Time well spent on the almighty riff—as it was on Sworn. Also, the brevity of this new record shows—for the first time since Rabid Death’s Curse—that Watain can keep things interesting without breaking an hour-long runtime. As a comparison, Trident is a whopping thirty-five minutes in length compared to Lawless Darkness‘ seventy-three minutes. It’s not Watain‘s best but Trident Wolf Eclipse ain’t far from it.