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I was a late comer to the Watain show, largely due to being somewhat put off by the image-based commercial approach of the band that seems to contradict the ethos they are pedalling. After hearing enough of their material however, I had to eventually admit, that while they are not a great band, they are a very good band and I now unashamedly bang my head to most of Casus Luciferi and Lawless Darkness.
Watain’s career really took off with Casus Luciferi, so that was naturally where I began to go through their catalogue. I have now finally gotten around to their first full-length and was quite surprised with what I found. While their later albums have a very polished and modern sound, with little resemblance to their Nordic ancestors, Rabid Death’s Curse is a different entity altogether. Indeed, if someone had played this to me I would never even have guessed that it was Watain.
What exists here is an album that is deliberately stuck in the old school, attempting very little in the way of adding to what has already done before. There can be nothing wrong with this approach, when it is executed well and intended more as a respectful nod to predecessors rather than claiming it as one’s own.
The sound here is not the raw primitive screechings of Bathory inspired 90’s Scandinavia, but more in the Mayhem camp of rebirthing the 80s thrash scene in a much heavier and uglier way. Indeed I am sure this is the kind of album Euronymous would have loved to release if it has come out in 1992. Apart from the Mayhem influences, this album reminds me a lot of Gorgoroth’s Antichrist, particularly the strong bass presence, although the vocals are a deeper, more guttural sounding than that Pest or Hat. Parts also resemble a less chaotic version of Blasphemy’s Gods of War and others are like an uglier, darker and heavier version of early Sodom.
Overall, this album, being very different to what followed, may appeal to those traditionalists who have thus far dismissed this band for reasons mentioned above. For better or for worse, there is little clue here to what would follow. For me this a definite positive addition to my collection and while I wouldn’t exactly call myself a disciple of this band, I am certainly a fan of most of their music.
The thing about Rabid Death's Curse is, it isn't just Watain's ignoble beginnings, nor a sort of conventional opening to their career - it isn't even conventional but classic like Dark Endless or Secrets of the Black Arts, or anything like what could be expected from Sweden's black metal scene. It is a claustrophobic, unrelenting and putrefying assault of decrepit black death that rewards each repeat listen by unlocking further mysteries. After Casus Luciferi, this is the second most gripping Watain release - given Sworn to the Dark is somewhat tiring to sit through, and Lawless Darkness lends itself more to picking and choosing one or two tracks for the ol' iPod.
The zombified black/ death riffing of opener 'The Limb Crucifix' makes for one of those slightly thrash-inflected, slightly first wave, but slightly too perverse and grotesque for either, experiences that melds ideally with the hissing snare and clattering blast/ double kick drumming; an early example of the famous, trilling trem-picked melodies Watain appropriated by running Von through Dissection and would put to more obvious use on their follow-up is used here to great effect. An exchange of clanging chords over slower beats and gnarly blasting sections defines the title track, and 'On Horns Impaled' seems to have most of the elements that 'Devil's Blood' is familiar for: sort of making me think, as I previously have regarding this record, that Watain sort of peaked in terms of songwriting on this album, and in terms of instrumentation on Casus Luciferi, and have been mostly treading water in terms of inspiration ever since.
The production is a little like accidentally rubbing alcohol in your eye. It fucking smarts, but on the plus side stuff is definitely getting into your system at this point. Just rough enough to really compliment the vile compositions and unsavoury lyrics, but in no way masking anything from the occasional Celtic Frost inspired bulldozer riff sections to the more chaotic manifestations. So much of the music I listened to is produced along similiar lines, I don't notice the aural disparity between this and its younger brothers beyond the album's first couple of minutes, which pretty much shows that the sound is ideal for the material written for the album. I just love the way a vicious, bestial song like 'Agony Fires' rattles along between double-kick and blast drumming, bespattered with ominous slower sections - and part of the reason I enjoy it so much is because the production suits the music. Should you require further proof of the ideological and aesthetic cohesion Watain had in spades at this early juncture, that cover art is also the most suitable and representative thing Watain ever sold one of their albums with, even though it probably cost them about 50SEK, a spare copy of Black Metal Sacrifice and a few cans of pilsener to get, compared to the top rates they'll be paying for seemingly random stuff these days.
The burly, offensive sound of Rabid Death's Curse provides sick, addictive black metal carnage of a very high order. An album for lovers of Katharsis, Beastcraft, Teitanblood and Aosoth. An education for those who have only heard Watain's grammy-winning hard rock and thrash albums.
The cult of Watain was formed in 1998, in the cold and grey land of Sweden. After a handful of demos, and even a live album, they unleashed their first LP in 2000. Rabid Death's Curse shows a band with a lot of chaotic energy. I was somewhat familiar with a few of these songs, before getting the album, but Casus Luciferi is the one that really drew me in, so going back and picking this up left me a little disappointed at first. It did not fully match up to the expectations that I had for it. However, what awaits the listener with this opus is a dark and morbid album that is drenched in a deathlike atmosphere.
From the beginning of "The Limb Crucifix", one can sense a very raw atmosphere. It is like your skull is split open by an axe, and your brain erupts. This is accentuated by the grim vocals, sounding somewhat gargled. Erik Danielsson does well not to overpower the sound, simply blending in like another instrument. The raging black / thrash riffs are followed by some more traditional tremolo riffs that really carry a dark and sinister feeling. The drums are blasting and quite typical for this style. Worth mention is that the bass is audible, and the sound is somewhat reminiscent of old Mayhem.
"Rabid Death's Curse" begins with eerie sounds as a ghostly guitar melody fades in. The song rages forth for a brief time, before slowing down a bit. It is during this section that it truly drips with utter morbidity. The vocals have a very "Dead" quality to them, as one can imagine a rotting corpse rising from a dark and forgotten crypt, half-decayed and thirsting for mortal blood. As with the last song, the bass adds depth to the sound, accentuating the macabre guitar riffs. The band really seems to shine during the mid-paced sections, which allows the atmosphere of gloom and dread really begin to unfold and to consume the listener.
"On Horns Impaled" erupts forth, like a legion of demons bursting through the gates of Hell to unleash strife and torment upon the mortal world. Very fast-paced and straight-forward, this features more possessed vocals and pure chaos. The lyrics, on this album, display a wealth of knowledge, regarding the subject matter, far more evolved than most of their contemporaries. As with other songs on here, there is a noticeable Mayhem influence in some of the guitar melodies, though not as emphatic as on Casus Luciferi.
The next song is "Life Dethroned", which continues with the same furious pace as has already been established on this album. The opening riffs are sort of ominous, adding to the dark feeling of the album, followed by a melody that sounds inspired by some of Dissection's work from The Somberlain. The raw sound of the album kind of downplays this a bit, but the influence is clearly there. About halfway through, the sound changes to an oldschool Hellhammer / Celtic Frost vibe, yet with a cold tremolo melody cutting through it and circling like a vulture over a carcass. This is a good mixture of the northern style of black metal and the old school sound of the '80s.
"Walls of Life Ruptured" begins with hellish screams, blasting drums and intense guitar riffs. It is almost reminiscent of something from The Secrets of the Black Arts, from Dark Funeral. There are moments of true brilliance, foreshadowing what would come on the next album, briefly appearing and then vanishing suddenly. Everything about this album seems to be a rejection of the established black metal sound of the period in which it was recorded; instead, hearkening back to the '80s and early '90s. As the pace slows down, briefly, the song switches up and the hauntingly wicked tremolo melody is like a fresh razor slicing through pale, white flesh.
The pace slows down and the macabre atmosphere culminates with "Agony Fires", one of the best and most memorable songs on the entire album. The early moments of this song are rotten with the stench of death and decay. The bleak guitar riffs and the dismal bass lines combine to convey a feeling of doom and hopelessness. Within a minute or so, everything speeds up. The structuring of the song is flawless and the chorus of hellish demons, midway through, is very nicely done. As the opening riff returns, one can feel that the graves are opening and that which has died shall return to end the world of the living.
"Angelrape" opens much as the first song of the album. This album is much less melodic than those that follow it. The twisted sounds serve to possess the listener and hasten the heartbeat, near the point of bursting. This serves to work the listener up into a frenzy, being like the storm before the calm, to reverse an old saying. On its own, it is not necessarily the strongest track on here, but it fits into place very well, within the context of the album as a whole.
"Mortem Sibi Consciscere" is the highlight of the album. This is what it has all been building up to. This is epic in nocturnal glory and utterly morbid and hideous. To listen to this is to voluntarily cast your body into a pit of serpents, reveling in the agony as their fangs pierce your flesh and the venom enters your veins. Beginning with mid-paced riffs that hearken back to the classic era of Mayhem, this track soon picks up speed and drags the listener deeper into the abyss. This does well to mix the gloom and occult feeling of the aforementioned band with the cold and melodic style of early Dissection.
"For what dwells behind those flames
Is hidden for your eyes
And just one single glance
Would transform your smiles into cries"
There is a grim desperation to the vocals, at certain points, and one gets the feeling that this is no mere song. This is a dark ritual to be experienced. As the song builds to its climax, you can feel the dark spirits of the night embrace you, soon to be taken beyond the darkest shadows and into the grim nothingness. This is what is possible when a band comes along and truly embraces the spirit of the ancient ones, while also cultivating a darkness within themselves and going beyond mere imitation.
Rabid Death's Curse may be a few steps behind Casus Luciferi, but if offers an intensely impassioned performance of raw and morbid black metal, filled with haunting melodies and horrific vocal lines that will linger in your subconscious for a long time to come. Watain did a very good job in meshing the various influences that they had into something coherent and memorable, never compromising for even a second. This is the best black metal album to come from Sweden in a few years. If you're new to the band, take a break from the latest album and immerse yourself in the grim atmosphere of Rabid Death's Curse.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com (Jan. 2009)
"Rabid Death's Curse," is the debut album of Swedish black metal band Watain. After first hearing "Casus Luciferi," I decided to purchase that album's predecessor, and was honestly disappointed with what I heard.
On their debut album, Watain's version of black metal features much more thrash/death sounding guitars than traditional black metal. The guitar's play with a style that is similar to that found on Bathory's self-titled debut album, however, Watain's seems more technical. In fact, the riff from "The Limb Crucifix" sounds almost exactly like "Hades" from Bathory's debut album, which costs the band points in originality. At times there is a certain dark melody present at certain moments like during "On Horns Impaled," and "Life Dethroned." The guitar players certainly are skilled but they suffer from two setbacks. The first is the complete and utter lack of variation throughout the album and a lack of original ideas. Almost every song sounds exactly the same, with the exception of songs like "On Horns Impaled," "Angelrape," and if you have the bonus track version, "The Essence of Black Purity."
The vocals are actually quite well done. They're the traditional black metal shrieks, but harsher sounding. To me Watain's vocals sound like the vocals from Marduk, both of which are from Sweden. They're also similar to older black metal bands in that they add a dark, depressing feeling to the music. At certain times, Watain's vocalist sounds almost like Abboth's vocals did on "Battles in the North."
The second setback of Watain's debut is the bad production quality. Normally on black metal albums, this isn't a problem for me seeing as they thrive on the "I recorded this in my basement," sound, and for the most part, I enjoy that. But Watain takes the low value production to the point where you have to pay close attention to clearly hear what's going on.
Rabid Death's Curse could've been a good album, but the poor production and lack of originality weaken it considerably.
Watain are a band that have slowly grown on me over a long period of time, their strange blend of the more melodic sides of their Swedish brethren Dissection, while maintaining the grim atmosphere and stage presents as Mayhem, is at times a somewhat contradictory mix. ‘Rabid Death’s Curse’ is Watain’s first album, and features far more of the Mayhem-esq grimness than their later albums. I tend to see the album as an attempt at a very fast and brutal onslaught of black-metal, in fact they held back some of the more melodic songs that they played on their demos from this album. The entire thing clocks in at 38 minuets, making it a fairly short listen.
The album starts off with ‘The Limb Crucifix’, which sets the tone for the entire album, if you don't like this song, shut off the album. It displays both the technical musical talent of this band, which far outweighs the majority of their contemporaries, which also gives rise to the early comparison to Dissection. However, the use of power-chord based song structures as oppose to tremolo picked riffs being the lead, is far more similar to Mayhem songs like ‘Pagan Fears‘. The listener is immediately greeted by the voice of Erik Danielsson who I personally find to be one of the most consistent black-metal vocalists ever. His voice comes across as a slightly more controlled version of Dead, and most importantly, his vocals are understandable, which allows for one of the most important elements of Watain’s music, their lyrical talent. While their lyrics are not up the amazing standard on Casus Luciferi, they are far superior to their contemporaries simply in the religious scope and the knowledge of esotericism shown.
The biggest criticism of this album one can argue, is that the songs all sound the same. This is not helped by the production, which tends to sound like a studio attempt to recreate ‘Live At Leipzig’ which while admirable becomes annoying by about the 20 minuet mark. However, while the production causes problems, it also makes the albums sound evil. Few albums come across as technically accurate and yet produced so raw, and I guess it’s this mix of ‘kvltness’ and technicality that I’ve always liked about Watain.. Song’s like “Life Dethroned” and “Angelrape” often break from the more complex riffs into a very simple Darkthrone like riff that chugs along, which provides the listener a temporary break from the endless dissonant tremolo picking.
Over all, this album really does come across as a very youthful attempt at black-metal. There is not the sense of pacing or control that one finds on later Watain albums. The band here almost seem to be obsessed with being “kvlt” never breaking from form for a moment. However, it still provides a very good listen, were it any longer than 38 minuets it would simply becoming monotonous, but as it stands, it is a quick brutal blast of an album, from a band attempted to recreate the golden days of black-metal.
Watain is a band that doesn’t try to be “true” by producing formulated trite black metal in an attempt to keep Scandinavian black metal pure in respect to its roots with such bands as Emperor, Marduk, and Immortal . Rabid Death’s Curse does away with tradition and creates a grim, fast, and brutal black metal album that stands on its own. Not only is Rabid Death’s Curse different and unique from other Swedish black metal bands and albums, its different from most every black metal album out there. Simply put, the debut album from Watain, Rabid Death’s Curse, is nothing short of Amazing.
Rabid Death’s Curse features many different songs with many different things to offer. The songs on this album are mostly riff based. While there is not to much centralization with the riffs, they will be the main carrying force of each song. On Horns Impaled the song can be broken down into sections where riffs will be dominant and different from the rest. One part of the song features a grim melody based riff, while another part of the song showcases an aggressive, heavy, and brutal riff. The strongest point of making Rabid Death’s Curse a riff based album is that it allows for something unique to happen on this album that doesn’t happen on many other black metal albums, the structure. Rabid Death’s Curse structures their songs similar to death metal songs so that songs like The Limb Crucifix and Life Dethroned feature heavy melody. Grim and atmospheric melodies will carry songs like these giving them a great flow and making them quite memorable. The best comparison to how the songs on this album are structured would be to the songs of Opus Nocturne, a focus on riff based melody and a concentration on flow.
One thing that ruins many black metal albums is the vocals don‘t fit at all and they sound like they were just placed haphazardly over the music. This vocal style sometimes works very well for albums trying to be grim, like Darkthrone. Fortunately the vocals on Rabid Death’s Curse never once sound like this. Vocally Erik Danielsson knows how to create the perfect type of vocals for this album. They are similar to those of Darkthrone, but more gargled and harsh. He also knows how to lace them seamlessly into the songs melodies and riffs (somewhat like Nergal of Behemoth and Abbath of Immortal). On Walls Of Life Ruptured the song features a segment that has somewhat chaotic guitars and choppy drums, Erik Danielsson sings with the same pace and structure of this somewhat technical segment making his vocals seem more of an instrument, a part of the song, instead of sounding like ordinary black metal vocals over aggressive guitars and blast beats.
Rabid Death’s Curse certainly has made itself an unique and great album in the black metal scene. With great melody and vocal work its in the top of its class. Other elements like an audible bass line, one that actually flows perfectly with the melodies of the album makes Rabid Death’s Curse even more unique. That aspect helps with the volume very much. The perfectly timed and placed drumming gives this album at sometimes a technical feel and also helps with some of the more aggressive riffs making them sound more brutal as well as making the two instruments sound as one. Fans of old style Marduk will like this album, as well as fans of Abazagorath. Rabid Death’s Curse is easily one of the best albums of the past five years in the black metal scene, look into them for something new and unique. Absolutly nothing is done wrong with this album.