So there's been bellyaching about the production on the new Watain album. Yes, it's cleaner than on previous full-lengths Rabid Death's Curse and Casus Luciferi. Yes, the songs aren't just blurs of blastbeats. They're dangerously close to (gasp!) heavy metal, with, like, actual riffs – fist-pumping ones! Forsooth the thought!
The truth is, Watain was meant for this type of presentation. Even back on Rabid Death's Curse, the band was writing real songs with real hooks. In other words, it wasn't going for the typical blastbeat drone or depressive haze. Instead, Watain channeled the majestic melodies of early Dissection through ridiculously copious Satan worship. "Devil's Blood"? "Satan's Hunger"? "The Serpent's Chalice?" How does the band keep all these straight?
Sworn to the Dark should convince any doubter of black metal's power. It's heavy, it's fast, and it's more evil than a cathedral full of sex-starved priests. Jagged hooks slice through "Legions of the Black Light" and "Storm of the Antichrist"; the title track is a juggernaut of storming tremolo picking and mighty choruses. "Underneath the Cenotaph" is a holy-shit assault of blackened thrash, while "The Serpent's Chalice" ends with somber Iron Maiden harmonies. "Darkness and Death" stomps out grim, steel-toed chords; "Stellarvore" closes the casket with toms thundering out death. Once out of the studio, Watain is strictly blood-soaked business.