“Show me the face of uttermost madness!” Perhaps a sign of things to come, indeed. The debut studio album from the Swedish Satanic elite has more than stood the test of time. Though the band has progressed and evolved greatly since the release of “Rabid Death’s Curse,” it is important to pay respects to their main point of origin.
Rabid Death’s Curse is a trip back to the early days of Black Metal. Long before it became the phenomenon that it is today. When bands were still laying the early foundations for what would ultimately become one of the most antagonistic art forms to date. The sound and imagery of early Black Metal is very much present throughout the album. The band exhibits their fiery passion for the early traditions and sound introduced by preceding bands likes Bathory and Mayhem. Watain is a band that refuses to forget the fundamentals of raw, dirty and primitive Black Metal regardless of current standing trends (now or then). Rabid Death’s Curse isn’t underproduced to the point where it’s inaudible, but those that were exposed to the later Watain material first might find it quite a bit different. A lot of people might be turned off by the fact that this album at its very core can come off as another ‘stereotypical’ Black Metal record. I do think it is important to mention that there are very few bands that can present the atmosphere found on Rabid Death’s Curse without coming off as ‘cheesy’ or ‘clichè.’ That cold and ominous vibe that permeates the record is in my opinion what makes it truly special. It’s difficult to describe but there is a certain feeling the album gives off that many others do not. A feeling of death, decay, and the rapid spread of disease. Rabid Death’s Curse is raw, violent, and stands ultimately as a tribute to the dissolution of every living thing. It is a very detailed glimpse into just how fragile human existence really is. And above all, it is the groundwork for what Watain would eventually become.
“Casus Luciferi” is the follow up to 2001’s “Rabid Death’s Curse.” While Rabid Death’s Curse boasts more primitive song structures, Casus Luciferi introduces a much more dynamic sound for Watain. I will start by stating that this is some of my favorite material that they have released to date. “Devil’s Blood” is nothing short of a monumental opening to the album. The opening riff offers a musical gateway to the divine. Of course while the overall sound is paramount, this album to me is where Watain’s lyrics began to truly take shape. This is where you can see that Watain’s art has reached a level of unparalleled gnosis.
The music of Casus Luciferi has a strong melody to it, yet at the same time that melody is not to be misinterpreted as something of an uplifting nature. Instead the more melodic guitar parts often weave together to create a very powerful and unsettling atmosphere. What I mean is that when all the songs come together it creates a violent and chaotic atmosphere reminiscent of a raging sea. Even though it feels as if the entire universe is being dismantled there is a certain indescribable beauty that exists within that all consuming annihilation. There is not a single track on Casus Luciferi that I felt was lacking in any way, shape, or form. One could spend years dissecting this album track by track. The music itself is astounding. It builds off of where Rabid Death’s Curse left off, but at the same time manages to evade the usual trap that most artists fall into. That inescapable pit of monotony and repetitiveness.
The lyrics themselves require an intelligent and open mind to even begin to comprehend. Watain has stated before that they are not a ‘propaganda’ oriented band. Although they are devout practitioners of Satanism and the left-hand path they do not make it their mission to break things down for their listeners and explain to them the many mysteries that influence the band or their music. It is entirely up to the listener to do this. This is one of the greatest things about this record for me. There is something immensely satisfying about listening to the haunting sounds of songs like “I am the Earth” or the title track, “Casus Luciferi” while attempting to further explore and understand the words that accompany them. This has opened many spiritual gateways for me and opened my eyes to truths that I otherwise would have lived the rest of my life and died without knowing. It sounds absolutely insane, and the review of this album gets more off track with each passing statement, but I think it’s imperative that I firmly state that this band does not exist for your amusement, or for churning out one “cool riff” after another. Watain is a vessel that is used as an outlet for three very spiritual individuals to express their beliefs and share some of their experiences. Casus Luciferi is a dangerous album because it explores concepts that were not meant to be explored. It derails the mind and can, if used properly, direct you to some very powerful revelations. This is what Black Metal has always been about. The advancement of the mind and spiritual exploration beyond what something as one sided as Christianity could ever offer. It is in essence a way of communicating with an ancient and terrible adversarial force that most people have been taught their entire lives to avoid. Casus Luciferi is a gigantic leap for Watain. Rabid Death’s Curse established the temple’s foundation and Casus Luciferi continues to build the temple walls even higher.
“These words are not spoken through me, but through…”
“Rabid Death’s Curse” laid the foundations for the temple. “Casus Luciferi” erected even higher walls. Now, with the release of Watain’s third full length record, “Sworn to the Dark,” the band has entered a state of divine illumination. This record was a monumental and breakthrough album not just in regards to Watain, but the entirety of the genre. The old guard may be instantly disappointed with the more vibrant and well produced sound. Gone are the days of that raw and stereotypical Black Metal sound present on Rabid Death’s Curse. While Casus Luciferi broke new grounds in terms of composition it was still recorded in the raw and traditional vein of the early nineties material and I do think this served the album well at the time. With Sworn to the Dark, Watain has taken the epic compositions of Casus Luciferi and brought them to new levels. Produced in none other than the infamous Necromorbus Studios in Sweden, Sworn to the Dark begins with “Legions of the Black Light,” an eight minute track dedicated to those that have devoted themselves to the fiery and arduous spirital path that Watain themselves tread upon. The sound is epic in every sense of the word. It is epic, it is foreboding, and above all it represents the dark spiritual energies that are the driving force behind the band. The title track is a monumental piece in particular. It opens with some of the most ominous riffs I’ve ever heard. From the moment those first chords are struck it creates a desolate aura in the room. A sort of massive vacuum and a feeling of swirling in a black hole. The title track would also be the best place to start in regards to understanding what the very core of the album is about. Another track very much deserving of praise is the titanic, “Stellarvore.” It is one of the few songs that I feel emulates a musical ritual. There is a slow and steady striking of the drum kit every few seconds accompanied by a massive power chord. This continues to repeat for about a minute or so before breaking into a sharp and precise tremelo riff. The song is over eight minutes in length making it even longer than the opening track. Lyrically the only thing that can really be explained to somebody who has not heard the song or attempted to read into it for themselves is to expect words speaking of cosmic decimation.
A lot of people have made the musical comparison between Watain and Dissection. While there are some similarities I do believe that Watain is a completely unique and separate entity. As for this album in particular sounding like Dissection I believe that it should be left to the listener to draw their own conclusion. It goes without saying though, that the resemblance found in the closing riff to the eighth track, “The Serpent’s Chalice” is uncanny. It is so strikingly Dissection esque that anyone who has heard any of the pre Reinkaos Dissection material will instantly recognize it as such. This obviously is not a bad thing at all. For those that failed to find interest in Dissection I encourage you to still give Watain a few listens. It is important to note that as much as this album in particular has been compared to Dissection’s earlier sound I still believe it is also very different as well.