Completely hits the mark

Watain is the kind of black metal band that has always interested me. They are obviously devout in their belief of their music should be – religion baiting, dark and brooding – while maintaining an element of theatricality to their appearance and live show.

Along with these standard tropes, they like to push the usually elitist black metal fan base just enough with their music so as to create some controversy from within inside the scene they are such a heavy part of. But more of that in a little bit.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain opens with unrelenting force in the shape of Ecstasies in Night Infinite, the pace showing the band on their best form. Without a second to absorb what just happened, The Howling comes out to further bruise battered ears. Perhaps realising this, the track breathes and sighs, allowing the listener to take in some actual melody. And there it is, the element of difference that Watain like to add to their sound that makes the elitist crowd’s mascara run a little.

There is more to  come, as from this point on Watain are back to experimenting just enough to make their music memorable. With the delightfully tilted Black Cunt, the band plays with the original tones of early black metal including some well hidden more traditional riffs, and its follow up Leper’s Grace should remind the elitist just what they are doing here.

But it is also here, parked on the second half of the album, that the band really shines a light on their love of changing things enough to keep their music interesting for themselves as the artists while releasing their venom on the unsuspecting listener. Not Sun Nor Man Nor God, a piano and guitar led short instrumental, serves both a resting post for the previous twenty five minutes of audio violation and an introduction to some of the more interesting material. Before the Cataclysm challenges the listener in more than one way as it ebbs and flows through a seven minute run time that would put a smile on the most ardent thrash fan’s face.

This leads into the most surprising and positive track on the album. We Remain throws everything out the window. The closest Watain have come before to this is the eerie calm of They Rode. This time they welcome vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and with it comes a separate kind of darkness and heavy to the rest of the album. The fact it is so deep on the album makes it a refreshing surprise and a welcome reprieve from the swirling bleakness that surrounds it.

The Agony and Ecstasy… closes out on the melodic Septentrion, a track that continues to prove that Watain are a multi-faceted black metal beast. This is more than obvious throughout the second half of this interesting album. A band that can sometimes be hit and miss have completely hit the mark here.

1. Ecstasies in Night Infintie
2. The Howling
3. Serimosa
4. Black Cunt
5. Leper’s Grace
6. Not Sun Nor Man Nor God
7. Before the Cataclysm
8. We Remain
9. Funeral Winter
10. Septentrion