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Watain, the throne is yours. - 94%

Myrkrarfar, May 8th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Season of Mist (Limited edition, Digipak)

“On June 7th, 2010, Black Metal shall be reborn.”

Hefty words. With this message trumpeting the release of their fourth full-length album, “Lawless Darkness”, Watain chose the one and only path they could. The unveiling of their follow-up to “Sworn to the Dark” (2007), one of the most heralded black metal albums of the last decade, comes with massive pressure; and obviously, they chose the “offense is the best defense” strategy. Obviously, because these Swedes have never been about compromises in any form whatsoever; be it music, lyrics, stage appearances, interview answers etc. Watain walk their own way and have thus come farther than any who aren’t true to themselves. I applaud their integrity, and their records as well. Thus far, all Watain albums have been favorites of mine, and their developmental curve has ever been pointing upward. So, does “Lawless Darkness” hold up to the band’s lofty promises, or to the fans’ rabid expectations? Well…

The overall feeling I get out of “Lawless Darkness” is that it is a more atmospheric and diverse version of “Sworn to the Dark”. The foundation still lies in melodic black metal with frequent thrashy outbursts, and the Dissection influences that have ever been present in W’s music are now even more significant. Most of the 73+ minute behemoth sounds like trademark Watain, but there are some exceptionally tasty surprises to be found as well. We’ll get to those in a bit. What is most important is that the spirit, the atmosphere, the feeling is intact – this is uncompromising black metal art, delivered with an unwavering hand and grasping onto your soul with the vile claws of Satan.

Opener “Death’s Cold Dark” is an energetic piece that drives stakes through the hearts of the holy in a malevolent frenzy. Blast beats, tremolo riffs and thrashy outbursts keep the momentum driving ever forward while E spews out his illwill with inhuman malice. “Malfeitor,” one of the record’s best pieces, has a more dismal aura around it, keeping mostly to tempos in the mid-range. Gold-selling single gutfucker “Reaping Death” unleashes some eager hellfire upon us (and a majestic chorus), while slithering doom-epos “Four Thrones” looms above the puny mortals, leaving them to either bask in the might of its onyx shadow or be devoured alive. The rest of the tracks are built from the same bricks, although every track has its own identity.

The harmonies utilized on “Lawless Darkness” by the blackened trio can be divided into three categories: 1) chaotic, dissonant and shrill blackness; 2) melodic, harmonic and beautiful melancholia (Magic Tip: 3:25 into “Kiss of Death”); and 3) simple, thrashy, chromatic primitivity. The tempos can actually be categorized much in the same way; we have A) fast, insane outbursts (Magic Tip: The beginning of “Reaping Death”); B) moderately fast and groovy mid-tempo Chaos worship; and C) slow, satisfactory episodes of doom. Okay, now that we’ve got all of the rules ready, let’s play Teh Black Metal Composer Ov Hell v666.0! Let’s begin with a 1A intro riff, followed by a 3A verse, explode into a 2B chorus, and then proceed by milking the son of a bitch with a 2C post-chorus, and ta-dah! You’ve got yourself half a Watain song.

What the wolf pack from Svecia have done differently, this time around, is that they’ve managed to spice things up with various unexpected flavors. We have a whole six-minute instrumental song, the title track; we have a chorus with Attila-type chanting in thrash-feast “Total Funeral”; we have some palm-muted guitars reminiscent of Megadeth at the end of “Hymn to Qyain”; we have a truly epic closer in 14 minutes and 31 fucking seconds of “Waters of Ain”, incorporating a fucking fantastic coda (Magic Tip: 9:45 and onwards) with minute after minute of build-up, harmonic jamming and a great solo wrapping up the whole disc. The aforementioned Dissection influences are at the very forefront throughout the album, and I really don’t have to point out where they’re audible – they’re all over the place, especially in the lead melodies and the parts with acoustic guitars. Not to worry, they carry on Jon’s legacy with all honor so I don’t mind. Still worth of noting.

A notable difference is also the extensive use of slow parts, epic arrangements and subtle transitions between the tracks, giving the album a great sense of wholeness. After years of listening, I still find new stuff with every spin, and this album is a massive grower. Which is quite exquisite, as this record is already my favorite Watain album. Yes, it is better than “Sworn to the Dark”. Yes, it is better than most black metal albums, ever. This album is absolutely astonishing in its passion, beauty, dedication and craftsmanship. I’m not sure if I can agree that “black metal was reborn” with its release, but “Lawless Darkness” sure as hell did rejuvenate and bring new life to the darkest, deepest, most mysterious and most powerful of all genres. Watain, the throne is yours.

Best of both worlds - 93%

Felix 1666, January 8th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Season of Mist (Limited edition, Digipak)

Usually, it is a kind of challenge to listen to an entire album with a length of more than 60 minutes. Honestly speaking, I think that the perfect playtime of a full-length is roughly 45 minutes. In this respect, it is definitely a naughty act that Watain do not care about my opinion. They have written an excessive album of 80 minutes length. But I must admit, they master the challenge in a very clever manner. I am impressed, because Watain seize the moment. What they do is actually simple. "Lawless Darkness" shows a band that gets the best of both worlds. On the one hand, the musicians still have their juvenile energy and their extensive songs are able to convey this restlessness. On the other hand, they have already achieved a very mature level of musicianship and their exuberant creativity does not suffer from childish sensationalism or stubborn decisions. Thanks to these requirements, "Lawless Darkness" turns out to be a milestone in the discography of the Swedish artists. Let us take a deep breath and dive into the magnum opus.

The album holds fascinating details, for instance the opening riff of "Total Funeral". It kicks off one of the most brilliant songs of the full-length, because "Total Funeral" marks a prime example for the ability of the band to combine malignancy and fury outstandingly. This brings me to the core competency of Watain. Irrespective of single details and individual songs, "Lawless Darkness" shines with its sophisticated yet still authentic type of profound viciousness. Inter alia because of the transparent, heavy and voluminous production, the band convinces with majestic and epic song configurations, but also with regard to the gapless overall appearance of the full-length. The three-piece has not yet started to betray the credo of black metal. (All of you who are familiar with "The Wild Hunt" will probably now what I mean.) Although the hype has already begun, the band members do not yet think about seeking new opportunities in order to increase the commercial usability of the name Watain. As a result, "Lawless Darkness" does not flirt with the main stream. It just needs the furious and diversified 14 and a half minutes of "Waters of Ain" in order to overcharge the usual, "non-metallic" listener.

With regard to those who fight for the pure black metal spirit, I admit that the here reviewed album is less hostile and less harsh than, for example, the band's first masterpiece called "Casus Luciferi" from the year 2003. "Lawless Darkness" is not only focused on death and destruction. But, and that's the crucial thing, this does not mean that the three-piece lacks of enthusiasm, spirituality or obsession. Watain are still grounded. The rapid guitar leads, the hymnal parts, the woeful melodies, the atmospheric or wistful sections, the rebellious voice, the unleashed drumming, each and every component oozes black metal from every pore. By the way, it is a comparatively independent form of black metal. One finds a few trace elements of other bands, for example of Celtic Frost at the beginning of "Four Thrones", but overall Watain's sound does not show a specific inspiration. Instead, the band offers a wide range of emotions and plays with the lyrical stereotypes of the sub genre in a skilful manner. Lines like "Beware / The wolves curse" do not push the genre on the next tier. But they fit the musical concept of the band and this is what counts in the end. Anyway, the most outstanding feature is the enormous joy of playing that enables them, among other things, to present a suspenseful instrumental (the title track) of six minutes length. Unfortunately, epic instrumentals without any boring parts are anything else but a matter of course, but I am sure, this is no new information for you. It just confirms the exceptionality of Watain's performance.

Perhaps it is not necessary to mention highlights in view of the consistently high quality. Of course, it is easy to enthrone the monumental "Waters of Ain", because it bundles all the strengths of the album. But giants like "Malfeitor" or "Reaping Death" are no less exciting. They are just shorter and - more or less logically - more compact than the large-formatted closer. "Four Thrones" provides also a very intensive experience, but my personal favourite is still "Total Funeral". Its guitar work and the conjuring chorus remain unrivalled and the same applies for its excellent dynamism. Anyway, "Lawless Darkness" is a more or less flawless work, only the bonus track "Chains of Death" from the Italian clowns called Death SS (most stupid name of all times) meanders on a subordinate level. The other songs reflect the grandeur, splendour, aggressiveness and negativity of the darkest metal genre in all its shady and spooky dimensions. Watain's fourth album gets better and better after each listen and the probably comparatively high budget was profitably used. The sound - as well as the optical design - demonstrates this sustainably. But nobody can deny that the musical creativity marks the greatest advantage of the vehement full-length. This capability cannot be measured in terms of money.

Darkness Beyond Imagination - 95%

powerblack, March 27th, 2013

Watain, the great Swedish act, has become an icon for the modern black metal scene, upholding the spirit of true black metal with majestic excellency. "Lawless Darkness" is their fourth full-length and follows the melodic approach of black metal showcased in predecessor “Sworn to the Dark”, but it certainly surpasses all of their previous efforts and yeah, “Lawless Darkness” is their opus magnum.

When talking about the music, Watain have always played it darker and sinister. "Lawless Darkness" is not different. The icy cold atmosphere and the frozen fury of dark, cold music shivers the listener like always. What is best about this record? Well, they showed their brilliance over their masters Dissection and proved that the stream of classical Swedish black metal is never gonna dry up.

Okay, the music on this record is just amazing. The guitars are evil and dark, which is usual for the genre. The riffs are excellent on this record. The harmonized rhythm guitar doubles the atmosphere. Another noticeable thing on this record is the solos, which is not very familiar with Watain, but on this record the guitar solos are superb and reach their peaks in tracks like “Malfeitor”, “Kiss of Death”, “Lawless Darkness”, and especially in “Waters of Ain”.

The bass lines are pretty high in the mix and they are quite audible. The bass follows the guitars throughout the album. The drums are flawless and there is a good touch of technicality in the drum tracks. The blasts are inconsistent, but there are rolls and fills frequently that suit the tracks very well.

Not much to say about the vocals. When it comes to the point of black metal vocals, Eric is the MASTER. They are so evil and vicious. Coming to the point of the lyrics, which have always been an important factor for Watain, and this record is no different. The lyrics on this album mainly manifest with black magic and occult themes. The band surely knows what they are up with and invokes that perfectly to the world.

The production may displease many raw black metal fans as the production is polished and pretty nice, but the clear production doesn’t hinder the atmosphere of this album. The use of ambiance appearing in "Malfeitor", "Wolves Curse", "Hymn to Qayin", and "Waters of Ain" take the listener to another dimension.

Watain once again mocks the "showing off" and cheap black metal kids with their mastery of playing. The name "Lawless Darkness" and the cover art describes the record perfectly. It's certainly gonna take the listener to the crypt of ancient darkness.

Better than Its Predecessor - 100%

FullMetalAttorney, December 17th, 2010

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

The Grimness of "Lawless Darkness"! - 88%

MystifyXD, June 16th, 2010

With every blue moon comes a Watain album… Of course, I was just joking there a while ago, but figuratively speaking, I could say that it really is true. Since 1998, Watain has only released four full-length albums, “Rabid Death’s Curse” (their debut full-length), “Casus Luciferi”, “Sworn to the Dark” and “Lawless Darkness”, which is, no doubt, the band’s fourth album (and their latest one, as of now).

First things first, the songs here have a chorus, and although the songs have a minimalist approach, they play more varied black metal riffs here (but still sinister, of course), which I find as a plus if done right. If there is something I really like here, it’s the unique vocals here, which sound more like a raspy scream, unlike the vocals on “Casus Luciferi”, which definitely sounded raspy. Meanwhile, the drumming here, just like before has moments for some simple 1-2 beats and some moments for some blast beats.

Though the album has a lot of mid-paced moments, especially good (or rather, evil) ones like “Malfeitor”, “Kiss of Death” and “Wolves Curse”, songs like “Death’s Cold Dark”, “Reaping Death” and “Total Funeral” contain a lot of speed too. The title track in this album is a six-minute instrumental, and it isn’t even that black metal, mind you. Despite that, it managed to be eerie enough not to be out of place in this album. Last but not the least; we have here “Waters of Ain”, a song that spans for more than 14 minutes of pure blasphemy and evil. The song has good transitions, speed and brutality (and I mean a lot), and a good ending solo, making it one of the album’s best songs, though the solo isn’t even close on sounding like black metal.

The thing here is that the album has a somewhat polished production. I know that we aren’t in the age of bedroom black metal anymore, you know, but a little crisp and/or a little fuzziness in the production won’t hurt. However, the real issue here is that the album is a “Sworn to the Dark, Part II”. “Lawless Darkness” follows the vein of their last album three years ago, plus some other non-black metal influences. Although I don’t find anything wrong about that, they could at least try a different approach to their music (perhaps adding progressive elements won’t hurt).

Well, even though not a pure black metal album, “Lawless Darkness” still is a great album of its own right. It might not appeal you much at first for its non-“kvlt” tendencies, but try to go with the flow when you listen to this one and feel the grimness within “Lawless Darkness”!

Originally made for

Tasteful, but flawed - 85%

burnoutfool, June 7th, 2010

When I think of Watain, one of the starters of the Orthodox black metal genre, I think of the fact that they have never changed. In almost 12 years, they have never changed. All their records seem to flow together in a sort of mediocre paste that you can lap up and almost enjoy. However, this new record is a lot more deep and meaningful to me in the fact that they turn down Danielsson and the drums and tone up the lead section. It's nice to hear the guitar over his screams for once.

This band has always come off to me as a starter black metal act, in which you listen to them in the beginning, but then ditch them later to listen to black metal that actually has a progressive feel and moves around in their music (ex: Cobalt). I mean, people can only take so much of "O thy dark lord, take my soul for however you so choose!" over and over. It's almost as bad as "Its a small world". I will say that they do better at their monotony then Slayer, but that's not saying much. Now, I'm not saying I hate Watain, nor do I say they're my favorite band. I do like their music, and Casus Luciferi was a great album when I was 15, but now, I can't listen to them for too long.

Lawless Darkness was an album that sort of brought back the sound of Casus Luciferi and spun it around a bit. It was more thrash oriented then Casus, but at the same time, kept the overall feel of the album. I loved the leads in the songs, especially Reaping Death, (Released in April, two months before the actual release of Lawless Darkness) even though the solo was really just guitar wanking and a bunch of higher end power and barre chords. Another thing - What's with bands adding "Funeral" in their song titles for their newest releases? I mean, there is "My Funeral" (Dark Funeral...go figure) and "No Funeral" (Nachtmystium). Now there's "Total Funeral"? It just seems like bands these days have lost their creative juices.

Another thing I noticed about the album is that it was more progressive then the last ones. It didn't focus solely on blast beats and tremolo picking like the earlier releases. Most of the album is very high octane, yes, but much follows a progressive feel. The drums don't just sound like popcorn popping in the microwave, and the guitar doesn't feel like a gradeschooler playing the same 6 notes over and over again. I like that aspect of the release more then anything.

Danielsson's vocals also improved a lot. He is more focused, less screechy. He sounds like he's going to try a more Mortuus (Marduk from Sweden) feel to his vocals. This is a great thing because I was tired of the whole black metal that sounds like a dying cat screaming into a megaphone thing.

There's really not much to say that hasn't been said about Watain, especially since they started going more and more mainstream. Next thing you know they're going to be the next Gorgoroth, so enjoy their semi-unknown-ness while you can, because the second they can get signed to a huge label, it's all over for them.

Highlights: Reaping Death, Lawless Darkness, Waters of Ain