WATAIN

It’s not a threat. It’s a prom­ise. As Watain un­leash their most fe­ro­cious al­bum in a decade, Erik Daniels­son un­veils their new mis­sion state­ment

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: TOM O’ BOYLE

Un­der­ground metal’s favourite Satanists are back with al­bum num­ber six. We find out why Erik Daniels­son is still firm friends with the Devil, and why he wants to watch the world burn.

Matain’s ra­bid ex­trem­ity serves as a gate­way to a dark path many fear to tread, a jour­ney full of the prom­ise of the un­known. Le­gions of de­vout fans have fol­lowed, drawn to a band who seem more like a gang, and dan­ger­ous in a way most mu­sic just isn’t any­more. To dis­miss the fire and blood of their renowned live show as mere the­atrics would be folly – their devil wor­ship is still as deadly se­ri­ous as ever.

“For me, the Devil has never been evil as such; the devil has al­ways rep­re­sented a force,” ex­plains ar­tic­u­late front­man Erik Daniels­son. “It’s some­thing that em­pow­ers you, makes your eyes gleam and the hair on your arms stand up and fuck­ing wants you to go to war,” he says pas­sion­ately.

“It’s an up­lift­ing thing.”

There’s a sense of ac­com­plish­ment about the man, in Lon­don to pro­mote sav­age forth­com­ing sixth record Trident Wolf Eclipse. He looks out of place in his hum­drum ho­tel room – slight of frame and wirily mus­cu­lar, dressed as ever in road-worn leathers, both flesh and at­tire adorned with the ne­far­i­ous oc­cult sym­bol­ism of his beloved band.

Erik and his band­mates – drum­mer Håkan Jon­s­son and gui­tarist Pelle Fors­berg – are Watain, born from the hot­bed of ex­trem­ity that is their home­town of Upp­sala, a small, re­li­gious town where a closely knit metal com­mu­nity has given rise to some of the un­der­ground’s most in­spir­ing artists in re­cent years.

It’s been four and a half years since they re­leased The Wild Hunt, an am­bi­tious opus that saw them broaden their mu­si­cal hori­zons, as they re­flected upon their 15-year ex­is­tence. They’ve never left it so long be­tween records.

“We took a long time to write and record The

Wild Hunt, longer than usual, so it was nat­u­ral

“THIS IS THE MOST SAV­AGE AL­BUM WE’VE DONE”

TRIDENT WOLF ECLIPSE IS RAW, DARK AND AN­GRY

that it would also take a longer time to let it pass,” states Erik, “which isn’t that strange con­sid­er­ing what kind of an al­bum it is; even the ti­tle can be said to re­fer to our jour­ney. It dealt with ev­ery­thing be­tween ut­ter tri­umph and ut­ter loss, which is why it be­came very broad in its ex­pres­sion.”

once the band had got the record out of their sys­tem with pro­longed tour­ing, it was time to fo­cus their wolf-like glare on the next stage, re­ju­ve­nated, and hun­gry.

“The Wild Hunt was a heavy moth­er­fucker in many ways,” Erik re­flects. “The minute we stepped into the rehearsal room we re­alised Trident Wolf Eclipse was go­ing to be a hard fuck­ing al­bum – very straight to the point, very di­rect.”

If The Wild Hunt was about re­flec­tion, Trident Wolf Eclipse is a re­turn to Watain’s essence, its ti­tle a ref­er­ence to the three sym­bols that rep­re­sent the band’s core tenets: an in­fer­nally in­de­pen­dent pack of out­siders re­ject­ing so­ci­etal con­ven­tions. “It made for a very ef­fec­tive sum­mary of not only the al­bum but how we de­fine our strug­gle and our work,” af­firms Erik.

Trident Wolf Eclipse marks a re­turn to the feral pace of their ear­lier clas­sics, 2010’s Law­less Dark­ness and 2007’s Sworn To The

Dark, but faster, nas­tier, hun­grier. “This one goes for the throat,” warns Erik, proud of their un­com­pro­mis­ing achieve­ment.

“It’s rougher, raw; the most sav­age al­bum we have done.”

Clock­ing in at 34 min­utes, its brevity is a back-to-ba­sics nod to the length of old-school vinyl close to Erik’s heart.

“It’s some­thing I’ve wanted to do for a long fuck­ing time: four tracks per side, the pace, the hos­til­ity of it.” Its raw­ness echoes the tape-trad­ing days of old, even down to the roughly hewn cover art – a love let­ter to early black and death metal, a clas­sic era that, for Erik, “glim­mered in the dark­ness”.

“For me, it’s all about the rough­est, home­made, 80s, pho­to­copied demo tapes

– as much from metal as old punk, when it feels like an un­der­ground ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion that’s done it, that it’s more than just sub­cul­ture, that these peo­ple are try­ing to…” he trails off, search­ing for the right word. Sub­vert us? “Ex­actly,” he glow­ers. “That per­me­ates all our work.”

From open­ing det­o­na­tion Nu­clear Alchemy to fin­ish­ing blow the The Fire Of Power, Trident Wolf Eclipse is set to kill, yet im­bued with a catch­i­ness that owes as much to clas­sic rock and metal as it does ex­trem­ity. It’s a bal­ance they’ve al­ways ef­fort­lessly struck.

“Peo­ple re­late so much to the 90s Nor­we­gian scene when they talk about black metal – they seem to for­get celtic Frost, Sodom, even Bathory [them­selves es­sen­tial black metal in­no­va­tors] had a lot of rock’n’roll el­e­ments,” asserts Erik. “No one can deny the black metal tra­di­tion at Watain’s core, but it’s very im­por­tant to feel cul­tur­ally un­bound. Watain doesn’t owe any­thing to any­one.”

Watain’s live shows are trans­fix­ing, un­for­get­table rit­u­als. The stage be­comes an al­tar adorned with burn­ing tri­dents and in­verted cru­ci­fixes, the hot air thick with the pun­gent stench of blood, and at the very cen­tre of the chaos con­torts Erik, eyes white, en­rap­tured, the fo­cal point of a horde bay­ing in uni­son.

“Peo­ple have a hard time re­lat­ing to that, or think it’s very spe­cial, but to me it’s not very dif­fer­ent from the state I’m in when

I’m fight­ing or fuck­ing – we all ex­pe­ri­ence height­ened states, mo­ments in time we feel de­tached from re­al­ity – they are mo­ments to em­brace and ex­plore… the live sce­nar­ios are the mo­ments my life feels im­por­tant; a pure flow of emo­tion; pure force.”

The band worked hard this time to cap­ture that feel­ing on record, a tran­scen­den­tal aura of fury that has eluded them in past at­tempts.

“There is a sav­age en­ergy on­stage that might not be ob­vi­ous on the al­bums,” be­lieves Erik. “It’s there, but it’s never had a cen­tral role. We’ve be­come a band known for our live per­for­mances, so it was nat­u­ral to try to chan­nel the en­ergy we feel on­stage into the al­bum.”

In or­der to do that the band se­cluded them­selves, re­turn­ing to Upp­sala, Erik mim­ing build­ing walls as he de­scribes the record­ing process.

“We wrote for most of 2016, scrap­ping a lot of ma­te­rial that wasn’t heavy or fast enough. Even though it’s been the big­gest gap be­tween al­bums, the cre­ative process was short. We were fuck­ing ea­ger to hear new Watain ma­te­rial,” he laughs. “Af­ter 20 years it’s get­ting pretty ex­cit­ing to see what comes next. It was very much about the three of us in a room. It hap­pened fast and with­out re­morse.”

His ev­i­dent pas­sion for his band goes a long way to af­firm the strength and pos­i­tiv­ity Erik gets from metal, ac­tively dis­cour­ag­ing any as­so­ci­a­tions of neg­a­tiv­ity. “Let’s avoid that word,” he in­sists. “out of this hell­fire, brim­stone… fuck­ing chaos that em­anates out of Watain, a lot of peo­ple run; they try to joke, or get up­set, but it gives met­al­heads a sense of power, makes them raise their fuck­ing fist. That’s what we tried to un­der­line on Trident

“BE­ING ON­STAGE IS LIKE FUCK­ING OR FIGHT­ING”

ERIK SEES AN­I­MAL­IS­TIC IN­STINCT IN HIS ART

Wolf Eclipse. This isn’t an al­bum meant to pro­duce neg­a­tiv­ity at all; rather the op­po­site.”

Watain’s phi­los­o­phy is about be­ing un­afraid to walk your own path, to ex­plore an in­ner dark­ness most shy away from. “We are a group that gen­uinely found beauty and good in what oth­ers con­sider di­a­bol­i­cal and sin­is­ter,” Erik says rev­er­ently. “We have al­ways made a point of hav­ing Watain as a sep­a­rate world, where the world of man isn’t of great con­cern.”

Trident Wolf Eclipse stands as a tri­umphant marker on Watain’s per­sonal jour­ney. Their des­ti­na­tion re­mains un­known, Erik open to what­ever chaos has in store. “The goal is sa­cred and be­yond words,” he be­lieves. “It’s all about the way there. The more I learn, the closer I get,” is all he can add as an ex­pla­na­tion, re­luc­tant to be seen as hav­ing an­swers to life’s big ques­tions. “Watain is not an answer. It is an out­come of liv­ing your life ex­plor­ing these ques­tions. Ev­ery al­bum rep­re­sents where we are in that search. Watain has given us hard­ships and sor­row, but it has even more so given us strength; the courage to be­come more than we could have hoped for when we were 16 and thought we’d die be­fore we were 20.” He laughs. “We were con­stantly head­ing for­ward into chaos, and when you do that the con­cept of to­mor­row be­comes, at times, non-ex­is­tent.”

Erik has long since be­come un­afraid of death. “The end comes un­ex­pect­edly, rad­i­cally, and it’s not some­thing you get chance to think about.” It’s a les­son he’s learned the hard way, hav­ing re­cently en­dured the deaths of both his men­tor, Jon Nödtveidt, leader of Swedish black metal pathfind­ers Dis­sec­tion, and close friend, Se­lim Le­mouchi of satanic rock­ers The Devil’s Blood – them­selves named af­ter a Watain song.

Erik re­mains stead­fast, though, rel­ish­ing the long jour­ney still ahead. With Trident Wolf Eclipse Watain have carved the most vi­cious chap­ter of their legacy yet. They’ve in­flu­enced black metal in­deli­bly, rais­ing the bar with their to­tal com­mit­ment to ex­trem­ity – as the patches that adorn their le­gion of fans across the world state – ‘to the death’.

“my fear of death has be­come so blunted over the years,” he con­cludes. “We have al­ready made Watain im­mor­tal.”

TRIDENT WOLF ECLIPSE IS OUT JAN­UARY 5

VIA CEN­TURY ME­DIA

Watain (left to right): Pelle Fors­berg, Håkan Jon­s­son, Erik Daniels­son

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