Label: Century Media Records
The first major metal release of 2018 is already here, less than a week in to the new year. Trident Wolf Eclipse sees Watain return, fighting on all fronts, with their most vicious record to date. In the five years since The Wild Hunt – a record that took some risks, and was met with mixed reactions – the band have continued touring, and their profile is still significant, but they no longer feel like the leading light they were during the times of Sworn to the Dark and Lawless Darkness. As such, Trident Wolf Eclipse carries a lot of expectation with it; so it’s good for the band, then, that this is their best release since Casus Luciferi.
Much has been made in some sections of the underground and press over this album representing Panzer Division Watain; a record of relentless black metal savagery, where the only command is to attack. It’s an accurate assessment, but also one that’s slightly misleading. For sure, this is as rabid as Watain could sound without abandoning their core, Dissection-indebted sound, and tracks such as ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ and ‘The Fire of Power’ are a punishing listen. Yet there’s still plenty of dark melody here, as would be expected from Watain, and it sits comfortably alongside their vicious aspect, most notably on ‘Teufelsreich’, a song steeped in most melody and malice; whilst ‘Furor Diabolicus’ includes some more mid-tempo sections, that help stop Trident Wolf Eclipse running in to the same problems that Panzer Division Marduk did – namely, of being single-mindedly vicious to the point that it can become boring.
Yet, by the standards of modern black metal, it is not as apocalyptic an album as it might be painted. For sure, Watain are firing on all cylinders, and Trident Wolf Eclipse is a devastating listen; but it still draws from the same sources of inspiration as Sworn to the Dark and Lawless Darkness did. It is a vicious honing of their orthodox black metal sound, a blade sharpened to a lethal edge that is sure to cut and slay with ruthless efficiency. This is both the strength and weakness of Trident Wolf Eclipse; whilst The Wild Hunt, for all its mis-steps, showed a band who had climbed to the top of the black metal pantheon and were using their position to take artistic risks, Trident Wolf Eclipse is the sound of a band going back to basics, demonstrating that they are still masters of their craft, and reminding everyone just why they became one of black metal’s biggest names in the first place. The only vaguely experimental moment comes with bonus track ‘Antikrists Mirakel’, but given that it’s a bonus track only on certain editions of the album (including, interestingly, the one on Spotify), it can largely be overlooked – and given that it upsets the flow and feel of the album, ending it on an off-note, I recommend you do so.
Judged on its own terms – of recognizing what the album wishes to be, and what it wishes to achieve – it is impossible to deny the success of Trident Wolf Eclipse. It is a masterful work of vicious, yet melodic black metal; and whilst there may be those of us who miss the more raw sound of their early work, the sound of Watain in 2018 has the kind of production that is palatable enough for mainstream tastes, but still retains one foot in the underground (which is a remarkable achievement in its own right). If any record was to win back those who lost interest in Watain with The Wild Hunt, Trident Wolf Eclipse is that record, and it may well win over some new converts in the process.