Waitain/ Unanimated at Kracken, Stockhom - live review

Sweden’s black metal firebrands reaffirm their supremacy

Art for Waitain/ Unanimated live at Kracken, Stockhom

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A band whose rise has been totemic – each stage arrived at through force of will rather than the whims and political jostling of the wider scene around them – Watain have made it their mission to put on shows that act as both an ushering in of a new age and commemoration of all that has gone before. Tonight they’re launching Trident Wolf Eclipse, and if the large, low-ceilinged bunker that is Kraken isn’t as spectacular as the terraformed sports hall in Uppsala that inaugurated The Wild Hunt, it’s a more fitting venue for the in-your-face fury of the new album. A treasure trove of old posters and all manner of occult, road-worn paraphernalia lines a wall to the side of the stage, testament to two decades’ worth of blood, sweat and more blood, and a shrine for a cult of Watain that’s as loyal and dedicated as it ever was. Watain Metal Militia leather cuts and band t-shirts are out in force, now become a mark of allegiance to something even beyond the band themselves, and this venus is soon to become ground zero.

It’s telling, too, that Watain have chosen an old-school band for support, an extremely rare outing for compatriots UNANIMATED [7], whose gruff take on black metal barrels along atonal riffs, reaches anthemic proportions on Die Alone and acts as a battle cry for an already heaving crowd. WATAIN’s [9] introduction – Erik Danielsson brandishing a torch amidst a stage bedecked with wrought iron tridents – may be ceremonious: what follows certainly isn’t. An opening Legions Of The Black Light sends its furious, searchlight riff through a crowd already in full accordance with its ‘Chaos!’ call, rays of baleful melody eking out like an unholy grail buried in rubble. Nuclear Alchemy recreates the fires of Hell through fiction burn alone, Erik’s conviction-cauterised vocals a yoke determined to drag all of creation with him over the edge. And from Devil’s Blood, through more sizzling new missives, Furor Diabolicus and Sacred Damnation, Watain are an all-conquering force, riffs turned incandescent as if a portal from convulsive realms has been opened wide. On pure propulsive power alone, Watain are untouchable, but there’s a mastery of dynamics at work here that reaches emotionally engulfing proportions. Amidst the now-aflame tridents, Lawless Darkness is a luminous rite of passage, Malfeitor’s acrid whorl breaks into a stunning canopy of starfall riffs, and a closing cover of Dissection’s The Somberlain is a lineage-affirming act of savage grace, like a torch placed on a line of petrol. One for the ages.

Jonathan Selzer

Having freelanced regularly for the Melody Maker and Kerrang!, and edited the extreme metal monthly, Terrorizer, for seven years, Jonathan is now the overseer of all the album and live reviews in Metal Hammer. Bemoans his obsolete superpower of being invisible to Routemaster bus conductors, finds men without sideburns slightly circumspect, and thinks songs that aren’t about Satan, swords or witches are a bit silly.