Release DetailsLABEL Season of Mist
RELEASED ON 2/19/2007
Sworn To The Dark
posted on 6/2007 By:
When I first heard from a few reliable sources that the new Watain was more melodic and deliberate than their past works, admittedly, apprehension set in very quickly for me. It’s common knowledge that this group has collective high respect for the late Jon Nödtveidt and his band Dissection, but unlike the less than triumphant exiting limp that was Reinkaos, Sworn To The Dark sees Sweden’s Watain injecting added melodic elements to even the fastest material with defiance and ironclad resolve. If you’re going to slow things down and make everything overall a little easier on the ears, this certainly isn’t a bad way of doing it.
At first, I was highly disappointed with Sworn To The Dark. The way Watain ripped through Rabid Death’s Curse with such tireless savagery, and the way arguable classic Casus Luciferi aligned beautifully dismal melody with spurts of meticulously calculated aggression made for two very difficult albums to follow-up on. They’re both nearly flawless, and so the outright restraint this talented, clever band shows on this latest disc knocked me back a step or three. You’ll notice immediately how very clean this album sounds, almost crystalline, and features a rather heavy bottom-end. “Legions Of The Black Light” leads things off by firmly establishing the groundwork of this less ballistic direction, mixing slower trudging riffs with short blast sections, diving through frequent time changes without losing the underlying groove which has a spiked fist held high in the air.
“Satan’s Hunger” is dominated by an off-kilter drum pattern, most notably with the double bass structures which form an odd gallop that loosely holds everything together. Big, pompous power chords and crowd pleasing shout along phrases are everywhere on this record, which I’m sure will be something cool to experience with this shit being played at full volume just a few feet in front of you. Instrumental “Withershins” phases out into unexpectedly wispy, minimalist atmospherics, and serves as an excellent segue into “Storm Of The Antichrist”, a pummeling bash of a tune with bare tinges of Bay Area thrash mixed in. The chorus to the title track is yet another example of the band's ability to craft a simple yet instantly memorable turn of phrase, with things suddenly slowing wwaaayy down for a little while to a sloth’s pace before re-launching into thin, sharp tremolo bursts of speed.
Even though it isn’t nearly as intense riff-wise, many characteristics of Sworn To The Dark remind me of Immortal’s At The Heart Of Winter and Sons Of Northern Darkness. The songs all have an individuality about them while still maintaining a vibe that carries itself above bargain basement black metal in both aural presentation and mood. However “Underneath The Cenotaph”, even with the additional melodies unapologetically attached, is an exercise in hate on par with their most furious back catalog, so while things have become a bit more epic in scope, Watain are very much still the same band we’ve come to know and admire. The richer production suits the music like a studded leather glove, especially with lumbering, grandiose songs such as “The Serpent’s Chalice” benefiting greatly from the layering and thickening of sound.
Clocking in at just a couple minutes short of an hour, this runs rather long for a black metal album, and if they had left off instrumental “Dead But Dreaming”, it wouldn‘t have hurt. Many of the faster parts of the album are nondescript and commonplace, there were also a few tunes that could have had a little fat trimmed off such as “Darkness And Death”, and “Stellarvore” is almost too majestic for its own good at a whopping 8+ minutes. There is a cleanliness and simplicity present that purists might be quite pissed about, and this is a very ‘metal’ album that still avoids sounding overly catchy at its core. Watain have taken a bit of a risk, which I can dig, but this disc takes both time and patience to fully appreciate, which are luxuries more than a few of us just don’t have. Still, Sworn To The Dark is a respectable disc worth seeking out and owning, but I can’t help but feel most people will reach for their older material before this. One word review: Challenging.
Register to post comments.