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Watain is a band that seems to have fooled many into believing that they are actually good. They got the aesthetics down of what people "expect" from black metal (right down to the shirt designs), and their banter/philosophy gimmick and "shocking" live performances have provided them with some easy marketability. Of course, people nowadays will buy anything if it "sounds" like something they've heard before, and sounding "like" black metal is about all Watain have done throughout their career. For this album, Watain are making steps to be honest with themselves and admit that they really just want to be Tiamat covering Guns N Roses' November Rain backwards, but they are still pretending to be black metal in their most shambolic offering to date.
The same lyrics are regurgitated over the same crap Watain has written for at least 2 albums now only this time it's even more horrible. Cheesy Dissection inspired melodies that sound like the "hooks" In Flames were peddling on their debut album make their appearance underscoring jagged riffs that many have said pay homage to the era of Bathory and Celtic Frost, or even Sarcófago. Lies. This is by the book mellow-deaf tinged late 90s swede-core with even simpler, more repetitive song structures. One track was so bouncy it sounded like mid 90s Necrophobic playing some kind of blackened pop-punk. There's nothing in this album that will challenge it's audience, just a background drone of inoffensive swede-core cliches. It feels like a focus group effort by Century Media to get swede-core into Hot Topics the world over in a way that Marduk couldn't. The sad thing is Watain at this point in their career are at the same point Sacramentum and Dissection have ended theirs, right into mellow-deaf and stadium rock leanings with rock harmony 101 bits, yet a lot of people are calling this band "brave" for taking a "fresh" approach on this album that is every bit as original as what most bands "blackened" Swedish bands ended up producing by 1999. Only it's 2013, and it's somehow shittier. More pro-tooled and plastic sounding, but still shit nonetheless. Of course what these people were referencing was not the non-entity that the majority of the songs exist here as, but the whopping 2 songs where Watain show their true colors.
On the title track and They Rode On, Watain make no pretensions towards being third rate swede-core anymore. Here they are honest with themselves in admitting that they want to be somewhere between Hammerheart era Bathory covering their favorite Bon Jovi songs and cheesy Guns N Roses styled balladry. The problem is they're still on par with the rest of the album (crap) and these tracks have no more "artistry" than anything you would hear on the radio. The emotional pacing of these 2 saccharine tracks are not unlike what can be heard from adult contemporary music, except with more alcoholic step dad blabbering vocals. The good news is that these 2 tracks show Watain freeing themselves from having to ruin black metal any further and being just another ballad rock band. The bad news is it's still vapid and surrounded by insincere and tired late 90s swede-core that sounds like the byproduct of copying and pasting random riffs together in pro-tools over fast drumming.