Watain - _Sworn to the Dark_
(Season of Mist, 2007)
by: James Montague (
It was kind of inevitable that Watain would sign with a label like Season of Mist, who have a tendency to sign the chicken rather than raise the egg. This is where an established underground band goes when it's time to tour the world and get some quality time in the best recording studios. It must have seemed the perfect marriage for Watain, whose heavily Dissection-influenced brand of blasting black/death metal seemed an odd fit for their old label Drakkar, better known as the breeding ground of murky black metal cultists like the French "légions noires".There's no doubt that _Sworn to the Dark_ is an exceptionally refined record in terms of sound quality, with every component in perfect balance and crystal clear despite the requisite level of distortion. As for the band itself, Watain excels in all aspects: technically proficient without being too flashy, fast and energetic rhythms, strong vocals, excellent sense of dynamics and arrangement, and a fine balance of melody, catchiness and brutality. Frankly, this is a flawless piece of modern black/death metal.Why the modest rating then? I guess "flawless" isn't my thing, as my love of rawness and savagery in extreme metal is a dead horse I've been beating for some time on this site. Dare I say it, Watain is too Swedish -- a bigoted statement for sure, but one which many metal listeners will relate to. There's just a certain lack of risk in _Sworn to the Black_ -- the niggling sensation that the band is writing songs to please its audience rather than unleash the demons and creative urges boiling within their own souls.In short, this album is perfect, but not so great. It will nonetheless be the perfect tonic for Dissection fans wondering what the fuck the deal was with _Reinkaos_, and its solid hits would surely make for an impressive live show. Despite not being a major fan of Watain nor a great admirer of their latest piece, I'm still kicking myself for missing their recent Parisian visit in support of Kreator and Celtic Frost.
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