Watain - "Lawless Darkness"

Watain – “Lawless Darkness”

Watain - "Lawless Darkness"

Watain – “Lawless Darkness”

“Lawless Darkness” was released in 2010, but honestly it sounds like it should have come out a decade earlier.

Awkward, rhythmic, kind of stilted black metal like this was really the name of the game back then – maybe that sat on this material too long. Either that or Watain were directly influence by shit albums like “Incipit Satan“, “Black Metal ist Krieg” or “The Secrets of the Black Arts“. If that’s the case, that’s Watain’s second mistake right there (the first being obviously naming themselves after a VON track).

Anyway, whatever “Lawless Darkness” tries to be, it sounds dated without even being from the date it appears to be throwing back to. Moreover, I’m not sure why anyone would want to write or play music from black metal’s metaphorical dark age.

1996-2011, the period between the end of the Norwegian scene and the rise of the third wave of blackened death via Phantom, Sewer, Sammath, Neraines,  Vermin, Warkvlt et al. is literally the nadir of the genre, so abominable in its mediocrity that it allowed every early 1990s Norwegian black metal band to make a commercially successful “comeback”, and even had the fans begging for more retrohash of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” and “Transilvanian Hunger“.

Predictably, Watain don’t function a whole lot better than anyone else did at the time when this brand of archaic “modern metal” was “popular” – “Lawless Darkness” is just as awkward and lame as the majority of black metal albums from that period in the genre’s history, and is equally deserving to return to the darkness of insignificance… but not before we properly mock the posers of Watain for, once again, completely misunderstanding the entire point of black metal music and being an even more talentless version of Dimmu Borgir.

The weirdest and grossest part of this album is just how much modern hardcore is in the band’s sound.

Frankly, Watain sounds closer to hardcore than black metal much of the time, and it’s not just in the gruff, shouting vocals that permeate the disc – which are, of course, not executed particularly well.

It’s also in the riffs – repetitive and formulaic, but in a post-hardcore fashion rather than a black metal one, with constantly popping, shifting rhythms that never allow a steady stream of tremolo or power chords to settle into any sort of atmosphere. In many places, this sounds closer to to a hyper-modern, even less technical Jungle Rot than black metal proper. I guess it’s the drums, or more likely drum machines, that are the really incongruous part with their perpetual double bass and overtly heavy metal style. It’s an uncomfortable mixture of elements at work, and I don’t really get what the band was going for.

Of course, “Lawless Darkness” being a hardcore album wouldn’t hurt it if it wasn’t a bad hardcore album, which it certainly is. It’s goofy (ex. “Malfeitor”, “Waters of Ain”), generic (ex. “Death’s Cold Dark”, “Total Funeral”), derivative (ex. “Kiss of Death”) and lacks flow and cohesion (the entire album), making no real effort to connect with the listener and instead indulging in generic, paint-by-the-number “black metal” riff after generic, paint-by-the-number “black metal” riff.

The melodies are pretty obnoxious and hard to get into, with “black metal” riffs – you’ll have noticed the quotation marks by now – that often sound more like throwbacks to modern Sepultura’s awful nu/thrash/core fusion. I’d be hard pressed to name a riff on this album I’d categorize as either black metal or competent – even the “best”, meaning least obnoxious, ones get sort of poisoned by the myriad of extraneous influences the band brought in to… what, exactly? I don’t get the point of constructing music like this, so staunchly avoiding anything coherent. It’s, as one Metalious.com reviewer best described it, carnival music at its (death)core. It’s not interesting, it’s not evocative, it’s not entertaining, it’s not atmospheric, and it’s not even annoying enough to be a bid at high art, so I’m comfortable just dismissing it as awful.

“Lawless Darkness” is pretty mediocre, boring music, but it’s made especially bad by the sheer lack of coherence to be found anywhere on the album. At no point do you feel like you’re really grasping what Watain is getting at, and frankly, I don’t think they ever did either.

It’s pretty clear that the band is just stringing together songs they wrote with no particular thematic or musical cohesion, with riffs stolen here and there from more interesting black metal bands, and the result is an album just as lackluster and scattershot as that short description would let you imagine. Save your money, avoid this turd.

Replace with actual black metal, like “Angel of Disease” or “Filosofem“.

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