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The overwhelming majority of metal bands will never, ever record a classic album. A handful of them will record one classic, and only one, due to having the right people in the right room at the right time, when the stars are aligned or whatever. Even fewer bands can record two classic albums in their careers. These are the groups we call geniuses. Bands like Amorphis (Elegy/Skyforger) and Candlemass (Epicus Doomicus Metallicus/Candlemass) fall into this category.
Out of that tiny fraction of a fraction, a smaller group still can do it twice (or more) in a row. These are the gods among musicians--Black Sabbath, Metallica, Opeth, Mastodon. You can now add Watain to that list.
After 2007's universally-praised Sworn To the Dark, who would have thought they could actually get any better than they already were? With Lawless Darkness, they've done just that. Sweden's black metal masters have simultaneously dug into their roots and evolved, creating a thrashier, rawer album than before while still managing to be more melodic and more epic.
Their incredible songwriting skills are evident. The dual weapons of all-out assault and melodic subtlety have never been in more capable hands, resulting in tracks both immediate and memorable. Not only that, but it's consistent, and feels like a true album.
The album is significantly longer than its predecessor (by about 15 minutes), but they manage to keep it interesting with tempo changes, interesting rhythms, and great leads and solos. Those with shorter attention spans may think it drags a little bit somewhere between the end of the instrumental title track and the beginning of the incredible closer "Waters of Ain", so there will ever be a dispute about which album is the better (Ride vs. Puppets, anyone?), but classic they both are.
It makes you wonder where such brilliance comes from. Watain would have you believe it's inspiration from the devil himself, enhanced through secret rituals and living in the gore of dead animals. But like many great artists in all media, being really screwed up in the head is probably the source. Van Gogh and Dali, Handel and Tchaikovsky, Hemingway and Dickens: All share the common threads of brilliance and mental illness. Perhaps impetigo mixed with schizophrenia is the key for Watain. In any case, it's brilliant, and the production is excellent too.
The Verdict: Watain has joined the ranks of the very few who consistently create classic records. Lawless Darkness is even better than Sworn to the Dark.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/