When Watain dropped the The Wild Hunt back in 2013, I initially praised the band for their willingness to take chances with their sound. But truth be told, I haven’t felt much of an urge to revisit the album since that time, opting instead to reach for their more immediate, visceral works, such as Casus Luciferi and Sworn to the Dark. In retrospect, The Wild Hunt was a good album and an interesting change of pace, but it lacked the sense of urgency and hunger that characterized the band’s finest work, ultimately making it the weakest entry in their storied catalog.
It would appear the Swedish trio must’ve been feeling the same way about The Wild Hunt in the intervening years since its release, because Trident Wolf Eclipse, their first album in half-a-decade, completely does away with any and all of that preceding work’s experimentation in favor of a full-on return to the bulldozing yet catchy and melodic black metal sound that brought them to the Devil’s dance in the first place. It is the sound of Watain distilled down to their purest essence and bathed in atomic hellfire.
Indeed, the band wastes no time in letting listeners know they’re back for the attack with “Nuclear Alchemy,” a three-minute barn-burner that’s as blisteringly fast and heavy as it gets. It’s a perfect statement of intent, and the intent is to bring Watain back to their headbanging, fist-raising, ass-kicking roots. From there, the album rarely provides any reprieve over the course of thirty-five tightly-wound minutes, only letting off the gas occasionally in order to allow the malevolent atmosphere to fully sink in. Every track here, from the violently thrashy “Furor Diabolicus” to the stomping, apocalyptic “The Fire of Power,” goes out of its way to bring the pain and take no prisoners.
For Trident Wolf Eclipse, Watain have continued their long-standing relationship with Tore Stjerna and Necromorbus Studios, resulting in an album that sounds every bit as crushing as you’ve come to expect from this match made in Hell. At this point Stjerna knows the band inside and out and is able to bring out all of their darkest, heaviest aspects in painstaking sonic detail; listening to the album it’s damn near impossible to imagine Watain working with anyone else to capture what has become the gold standard for modern black metal.
Whether or not Trident Wolf Eclipse will go on to stand shoulder to shoulder with classic Watain albums such as the aforementioned Casus Luciferi and Sworn to the Dark remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, the band have fully righted the ship after ever-so-briefly straying from the Left Hand Path with The Wild Hunt. It’s not the kind of album that’s going to sway their legions of haters, but it is an unholy blessing for those that have remained faithful to the trident-toting wolf pack from Uppsala, not to mention one of the new year’s best big league black metal albums.