Over the past decade, Sweden’s Watain have usurped the throne of Scandinavian black metal. By marshaling the forces of total darkness to create a string of devastating albums and asserting their dominance through mesmeric live performances, the unholy trio have positioned themselves as the one BM act that just might be able to make good on the genre’s promise of creating the soundtrack to armageddon. Their latest album, Lawless Darkness, is the culmination of the trio’s hellbent war-march towards the unlight. I spoke with frontman Erik Danielsson via e-mail to discuss the new album and cutting through the fabric of the universe.
THKD: Tell us about the new album, Lawless Darkness. What did you set out to accomplish?
Erik Danielsson: A thorough musical exploration of the darkside. Lawless Darkness to us is the greatest and most well-crafted monument we have ever risen in honour of ours gods. To the listener, it will be a glimpse into a world where the illusions of this world of flesh and light are absent; the garden of unearthly delights, the abode of liberated fire and boundless becoming.
THKD: How would you describe your songwriting approach for the new album? How has it evolved over the years since Rabid Death’s Curse?
E: As every craftmanship, the art of making larger-than-life music also demands constant progress and refining. When you are 16 years old you are usually not aware –or at least I wasn’t- of the many marvels and wonders that this kind of artistry has room for. In that sense, Watain started as a blunt piece of ardent iron, and through the years we have worked it into one of the sharpest daggers this cesspool of a world ever had thrusted into it’s fat belly. The sharpening and the embelishment of the blade that is Watain will be ever ongoing, until it can cut through the very fabric of the universe.
THKD: Unfortunately my promo copy of the album did not include lyrics. What are some of the main lyrical themes behind the new album?
E: The exploration, glorification and adoration of the Devil; the eternal adversary and enemy of the world as we know it.
THKD: What is “Lawless Darkness”? How does it relate to the overall concept of Watain?
E: The idea of Lawless Darkness is based upon the thought that light is a impulse of restriction and definition. Darkness, in turn, is the absence of light, and therefore the absence of the same restrictions. Note that Darkness in this context is also used as a spiritual and archetypal concept, not only the physical absence of light during, for example, night-time. The darkness that we refer to is the primordial wellspring of Chaos that is the abode of our gods, and unto which their children, the bloodline of fire, shall return.
As it is above, so it is below. Therefore, the same primordial darkness is reflected here in this filthy world as lawlessness, natural disasters, white-eyed panic, horror, bestial lust, passionate art, acts of true Will and to take a closer example that in a way binds all of these things together; in a band like Watain, and in all our work.
THKD: Aside from just the new album’s title, many Watain songs refer to the “Dark” or “Darkness” in various ways. Is this an allusion to Satan? What does Satan mean to you?
E: Satan is the archetype of the afore-mentioned darkness, the godform embodying all it’s aspects. His is the sword by which the bonds to creation are torn, and his is the torch that shall guide us his faithful children unto liberation by enlightenment.
THKD: To my ears, Lawless Darkness is a very natural progression from Sworn to the Dark. How do you think the band has changed /progressed since the last album?
E: I would say the new album sounds like if Sworn to the Dark had been on a journey beyond the stars, wandered through the magnificent gardens of the darkside, got drunk on the wine of the dark Mother and killed itself to be reborn as a free, radiant spirit in the great halls of the ancient gods. It will be very interesting to see where things will go from here…
THKD: For Lawless Darkness, Watain once again recorded at Necromorbus studios. Did the recording process for the the new album differ at all from that of Sworn to the Dark?
E: Not that much apart from that it was twice as long, two months this time. This allowed for more contemplating and more serious thinking, and less stress. This can undoubtedly be heard in the result.
THKD: The recently released “Reaping Death” single has been certified gold in your home country of Sweden. What was your reaction to this?
E: A yawn, and a scornful leer towards those who reacted with surprise and, in some cases, reluctance.
THKD: Sworn to the Dark was released in 2007. Why such a long wait in between albums?
E: I know this might be hard to fathom for all of you in this new myspace generation, but once upon a time there existed something called “artists”, who made music because their hearts and souls left them with no other choice, no other wish, no other way of feeling at ease with the filth of life. And, guess what, these brilliant beings were in fact NOT driven by greed, ego-centric whoredom, narcisism or the rules of an industry. And yes, Watain still belong to this rare kind of creators.
Next Watain album may come in 10 years or in 4 months. We do as please, and do not answer to the rules of any materalistic music industry.
THKD: Watain has emerged as one of the world’s leading black metal bands. What are your thoughts on the current state of the genre?
E: Similar to our thoughts of the world in general; overpopulated and uninspiring, with the exception of a small percentage who are able to spice it up. In a black metal scene context, those would be Norma Evangelium Diaboli, the Watain militias, Blasphemy, Vomitor, Nifelheim and a few others. In a world context, it would be truly excentric artists, terrorist groups, outlaws, drug-dealers, all those who aim to FUCK THE WORLD.
THKD: Watain takes its name from a song by the mighty VON. What is about that band that you found so inspiring when forming Watain?
E: Usually when you listen to music you can picture instruments being played and recorded, and what you hear is the outcome of that. When I heard VON i pictured a cauldron of human blood, in which was boiling the heads of dogs, infants, wax and resin made of human corpses and forbidden fruits. And what I heard were the sounds of that abominable concoction hissing, pounding, beckoning, evoking…
THKD: At this summer’s Sweden Rock Festival, Watain will play a special Bathory tribute set. How did this come about and how would you describe Bathory’s influence on the band?
E: We see it as a chance to educate the idiots who thought that Black metal started with Gorgoroth. If people would have turned to Bathory for inspiration instead of fjords and trolls then maybe this Black Metal thing would not have been so embarassing today. So this will simply be our way to point a torch towards Bathory, and also a personal opportunity to pay homeage to a band whose influence on our musical and artistic expression is undeniable.
THKD: To my knowledge, Watain has always been a trio. The number 3 and the concept of the trinity or triad is often considered a powerful symbol. Does it hold any special significance for you as it relates to the band?
E: The number 3 is a very important numerological key in the world of Watain, yes.
THKD: The band is known for using a lot of blood, carrion, etc when playing shows. What does this add to the live Watain experience?
E: They are totems uniting us with the forces which we want to flow freely through the performance. If you want to have a romantic dinner with your partner you light a candle and buy roses. If you want to commune with the powers of Satan you might have to employ other things.
THKD: You’ll soon be returning to US soil for the Maryland Deathfest. Are you looking forward to once again slaughtering US audiences?
E: We look forward to give them an orgasm shaking the very boundaries of the continent, as the forceful phallus of Lawless Darkness shall penetrate the unexpecting holes of their bodies and souls. The feeling afterwards shall be one of shame, confusion and blushed exhaustion.
THKD: Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to add?
(originally written for Sonic Frontiers(dot)net)