Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist)
By Mike Delano
Sure, they can incite violence and perform shows drenched in blood, but what’s most remarkable about Watain on Lawless Darkness is how comfortable they sound as a unit. This isn’t an album about “pushing the boundaries” of black metal by incorporating a million different sounds into the mix – they’re more than happy to stick with what works, namely the blastbeat/wall of sound hallmarks of the genre. But they twist these conventions in such creative and satisfying ways that it never sounds like they’re straitjacketed by the genre’s self-imposed constraints, meaning that they’re able to get freaky, and at the same time, earn the approving nods of the arms-folded, humorless guardians of all things black. “Malfeitor” and “Hymn to Qayin” have some great, stretched-out guitar work that co-exists on a layer above the usual grimy assault. “Reaping Death” has some breakdowns that could be straight out of a hardcore show, and the hair-raising opening scream of “Wolves Curse” sounds like something straight out of the animal kingdom.