It has been widely known and publicized that the fifth and latest Watain album, “The Wild Hunt” would take its listeners through a completely different territory than anything the band had done previously. While there are a lot of things for older Watain fans to love about this record there are also a lot of things that will be very polarizing amongst not just Watain fanatics but definitely among Black Metal devotees in general.

First off I have to say that I’m very impressed with the album. I’ve followed and supported Watain for awhile now and have no intention of stopping. This album to me shows that Watain is more than capable of exploring other musical styles while still remaining true to the core values that represent the totality of the band.

This album is quite unique from start to finish, the opening instrumental track, “Night Vision” is an excellent piece that sets a more somber and somewhat ‘gothic’ tone for the album. The following track, “De Profundis” is also an assertion that Watain is still the same furious and unforgiving entity that they have always been while songs like “Black Flames March” and “The Wild Hunt” seem to place focus a bit more on crafting nightmarish atmospheres for the listeners to lose themselves in.

Of course the most widely discussed song would have to be the nearly nine-minute acoustic sung entirely with a ‘clean’ vocal style “They Rode On.” In some ways I see this as the center point for the album. “They Rode On” was expressed as an introspective look at where Watain came from and where they are now and everything that took place in between. The acoustic carries a very melancholic tone to it. Nothing could have prepared me for this, no matter how much it was talked about or publicized beforehand.

It’s no secret that Watain unabashedly worship and honor the legacy of Bathory. What’s most interesting is that “The Wild Hunt” resembles the much later and unfortunately less talked about work of Bathory. If Watain had decided to take the easier and much safer route they could have just recorded another album that sounded exactly like “Sworn to the Dark” or “Lawless Darkness.” Instead they chose to walk a much more arduous path and craft something entirely different altogether. In my humble opinion I truly think that alone is worth something and speaks volumes about their artistic integrity.

The second half of the album continues to showcase a bit more diversity from Watain. Both “Outlaw” and “The Wild Hunt” begin with strong atmospheric chants. The beginning and end of “Outlaw” in a lot of ways has a very tribal sound to it. The title track also features more clean vocals towards the latter half of the song. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit uneasy upon hearing that the album would make use of clean vocals, but I think that in the context of the album they fit well and most importantly are done well.

“The Wild Hunt” is without a doubt one of the most divisive metal albums to be released in a long time. This album draws a clear line in the sand between elitists who simply cannot see beyond the borders of a predefined sound and image and those who would willingly take a plunge into the depths of the unknown in order to experience something that transcends ‘scene mentality’ in favor of pure artistry. This is an album that needs to be heard in its entirety in order to really be appreciated and is ultimately another solid release in Watain’s catalog.

“Would you join their march or would you have them ride on?” – They Rode On.