Black metal maniacs Watain should need no introduction having been at the forefront of the extreme music underground for several years, gaining notoriety for their abrasive live shows as well as their vitriolic studio outpourings.

It is hard to believe that 2018 marks their 20th anniversary, and will be marked with the release of their sixth album ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’. Their previous album ‘The Wild Hunt’ was their most diverse release to date and even included clean vocals, so I was really interested to see what direction they would take on this album. Would they return to their roots or would they stray even further?

From the outset it is apparent that the latest chapter in their unholy collective is not for the faint hearted and to my ears sees a return to their aggressive best, while still managing to sound fresh.

Opening track, and single ’Nuclear Alchemy’ gives an uncompromising start with trademark rasps and hostility combined with underpinning melody in exactly the same mould as we have come to expect from the Swedish Masters before ‘Sacred Damnation’ picks up the baton with more straight forward, battering black metal building to a dramatic climax. What sets Watain apart from many of their peers is the depth to the music and this is very apparent during this track.

‘Teufelsreich’ slows things down a little but loses nothing in intensity as the sound takes on a distinctly sinister edge, before ‘Furor Diabolicus’ ups the ante once more with hypnotic rhythms set atop screaming guitars to great effect.

The aural assault continues with ‘A Throne Below’ before ‘Ultra (Pandemoniac)’ brings a simple but very effective mesmerising melody that it is impossible not to bang your head to, before guitar solos that wouldn’t be out of place on an early slayer release tear things up. The momentum continues with ‘Towards the sanctuary’ before the album is brought to a fitting climax by ‘The Fire of of Power’.

This is Watain at their vicious best, powerful and aggressive and at times has the feel of a unhinged captive beast straining at the leash. The London album launch show in January promises to be something special, and to any of you lucky enough to secure tickets, I’ll see you in the pit!

(9/10 Andrew Pountney)