We’re not sure if Erik Danielsson was casting an unholy spell on the audience at Watain’s show at the Camden Electric Ballroom. He seems like the type. He’s certainly got all the smoke and fire and stench to carry out all manner of rituals. We asked Cheryl Carter if she could resist the hexes long enough to write a review which we’re only posting now because we lost it down the back of sofa, or whatever the digital version of that excuse may be.
6 things we learnt at watching Watain in London:
1) Black metal fans are awful. Support band Coltsblood have come from seemingly nowhere and despite going from playing London’s tiny Black Heart to the Electric Ballroom within a week, many here are giving zero props for a band that deserve so much more. Sure, their brand of doomed sludge isn’t what you’d expect from a Watain opener but they’re a fine choice for anyone who wants to discover a new and exciting band. The sound mars their performance a tad, as the Ballroom is well known for, but the Liverpudlian trio are a definite prospect for the future, all slow, filthy crunches and vocals that are dredged from some kind of hell. Unfortunately, not many people seem to want to lose themselves in their abyss yet Coltsblood soldier on admirably despite one guy shouting “play some songs” – hey guy, you’re not hilarious – and then a whole group booing them as they finish. They will be back.
2) While waiting for Watain (there’s a good pun in there somewhere but it seems like a lot of effort to make it) it’s evident that although the Ballroom is undersold considerably, those that made it out on a Sunday evening are pretty damn excited. Even that guy who came dressed in a sheet with “Fuck me Jesus” scrawled on the back and has appeared to have come to the wrong event. This ain’t Ghost my man. Still, judging by the insanity that happens at the front and the amount of crowdsurfing that occurs, it’s safe to say that this crowd are completely into the proceedings. Perhaps if this was the only show on Watain’s UK trip then it would have sold out, but a compromise was likely made given they brought along a spectacular stage show. More on that later.
3) The set list is banging. Fan favourites make a welcome appearance and ‘Waters of Ain’ finally gets a live rendition, something a lot of people here have waited years to hear. Disappointingly we don’t get to hear the ballad-esque charms of The Wild Hunt’s highlight track ‘They Rode On’, but we do get a frantic ‘Malefitor’ and an absolutely furious ‘Reaping Death’. The songs are pit-inducing and the crowd push and shove for dominance over the punishing strains of ‘Sworn to the Dark’ and latest single ‘Outlaw’ which rages and gnashes like so much teeth.
4) The stage show is incredible. Fiery tridents burn for the entire set and Erik Danielsson uses torches and flames to enhance the level of magick that already runs through the songs. There’s something both dangerous and entrancing about fire and Watain certainly use that to their advantage by burning enough gas to fuel a large jet (probably). The outrageous use of fire also detracts from that well-known “Stench of Watain” which wafts and flows past the nose I waves of utter foulness. It’s not pleasant and comes from the band never changing or washing their stage gear. It’s pretty gross but a reminder that the band are in this for life.
5) Erik Danielsson is absolutely terrifying tonight. His presence lifts the band into truly other realms and his hand gestures and movements are probably casting a terrible hex on everyone present. He is one of the most passionate frontmen around, black metal or no, and he completely, irrevocably believes that his purpose on this Earth is bringing the true black metal aesthetic back to the fore. The intensity that pours from him is palpable and the crowd under his feet allow themselves to fall under that spell.
6) Watain are a band that comes across much better live than they do on record. The Wild Hunt takes a few listens to truly start to sink in and while it’s the premise of black metal to be litter harder to digest than most music out there, it’s live where the real magic happens. Riffs shine out of the darkness and Danielsson’s voice takes on a more savage tones and beats than you ever thought possible. Reactions are mixed post-show. Those stood a little further back seem to be a little let down by the band’s performance and it’s clear that Watain are an entity to be enjoyed at very close quarters. Getting into the mix is imperative when you’re dealing with a black metal act such as Watain and it’s up close that you truly feel their hell.
The Wild Hunt by Watain is out now on Century Media.